The life of a factory farmed chicken.

Process this.

Personally, I think if any one actually took the time to learn the truth about where their food comes from, they would stop eating meat. Not everybody, but most, stay willfully ignorant of what goes on in the factory farming community because they love their meat. I don’t blame them, really, I wish I could go into a KFC and pick up a Double Down sandwich and get my grease on, but I can’t.

So, here is the life (and death) of a factory farmed chicken. Before I start I belive it is paramount for me to explain that I’m not trying to shock anyone out of giving up there Big Macs. The way some organizations get the message across (through shock value) is more likely to be akin to guerrilla warfare. These are just facts, that’s all.*

Birth — The fertilized eggs are taken from the hens and put under heat lamps where they stay until they hatch. From there they are taken to be sexed. The process is exactly what it sounds to be, a worker takes each baby chick and check their junk. Females go to one area while the males go to another. The female chicks go off to a separate room where the huddle under more heat lamps for about six weeks until they are matured.

Now, there are two types of chickens bred in North America, Broilers (which are for eating) andLayers (which are for eggs). The Broilers  were created in California by a farmer who bred Cornish game hens with chickens to give them a meatier figure, thus increasing the output of eatable chicken. Layers are closer to, what you can call, the “traditional” genus of chicken. Broilers and Layers are all female.

The male chicks aren’t fit to eat (because the don’t “fatten up” as quickly) and will never lay eggs so they are useless and discarded.  Sometimes they are thrown into a grinder, or  an electrocuted bath, but usually they are just thrown in the garbage can where the weight of the more and more chicks, crush a suffocate the ones at the bottom.  Once the can is full, the bags are tied and stored where the rest of the chicks suffocate and die. The remains of the chicks are process and fed back to the adult chickens, or other farm animals.

Life — Imagine you are in a cage that is so small, you cannot lie down, or even stand up in. This is the home a Layer. Somewhere between 30,000 and 200,000 birds are packed into a single warehouse in these cage. Usually, they stack the cages up to about 18 feet high. Some chickens go insane and started to peck at each other, so to curb this, the chickens are de-beaked with a hot-knife press.

For free-range chickens, imagine the same thing without cages and a concrete floor. They can move about as the like but usually get trampled when it’s time to feed. Also, in order to be classified as free-range, the chickens must have “access to the outside” which is usually a window with an immovable screen.

Farmers manipulate the lights in these warehouses to trick the birds into thinking that it is spring, all year. So, the chickens produce copious amounts of eggs to prepare for their mates that never come. They will produce eggs until exhaustion or until the end of next spring when the are killed. Since a chicken produces the most eggs in its first year of maturity, it is more cost effective to kill it and start a new batch of Layers.

Death — Once the Layers have made it through there season, the meet the same fate as the Broilers. It’s an automated system where the chickens are hung upside down on hooks that take them through processing. They are dipped into an electrocuted bath that stun the birds before the enter the automated slaughter machine where their necks are cut. Sometimes though, the machine doesn’t get the job done, so there is a “back-up killer” that does the ones the machine missed, by hand.

Post Mortem — After the chicken is bled out, and the feathers plucked, they pass an inspector. He’s a health inspector for the government and the reason I say the chickens pass him is because they are on a conveyor belt and the inspector has an average of two seconds to check each bird for any deformities (tumors, sores).

Once they have gone passed the inspector the carcasses are then hung up again an submerged in a cold water bath. Here the chickens gain 10 per cent more weight through the absorption of water. The heavier the meat, the more it will cost, the more they make. This communal bath is shared by all the chickens, even the ones that get passed the inspector. So imagine all these disease ridden chickens hanging out together in a  chilly jacuzzi. Because of all the antibiotics and hormones pumped into these chickens, a lot of them develop cancerous tumors and bloody defects. And although a process of air cooling these chickens has been invented in the last ten years, most chicken corporation refuse the process because it negates the aforementioned 10 per cent weight gain.

I hope I’ve educated some people on their potatoes’ companions. This is really just food for thought.

*A lot of this information comes from Jonathon Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. He spent three years touring these factory farms and recorded what he saw and discussed.  Also, these are American Statistics, so Canadian standards may be deviated, slightly.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Daryl Barnhart on May 28, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    What about organic chicken?


  2. Posted by Chris Carr on May 28, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Unfortunately, like the term “free-range”, organic means little to nothing also in the factory farming community. Organic can usually it the description of vegetarian-fed poultry, which is a step in the right direction, but they are still treated as an inventory.

    Truly organic products are awesome, but it’s hard (especially with meat) to insure that they are actually organic because the terms that identify “organic” aren’t federally governed. Just think when some tells you it’s organic, that dogshit is organic too.

    hope that’s a good enough answer.


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