Monday, May 21, 2012

The Facts

(on chicken and our eating of it)

These facts relate to our own family's consumption of chicken. YOUR facts might well be (most likely be) completely different. *Vegetarians proceed with caution.*

1. We are a meat eating family and as a result, include chicken in our diets.

2. We eat chicken on average, about once a week. Roast chicken is about once a month.

3. Buying chicken, packaged, wrapped and neatly labelled in the supermarket does not make my heart sing.

4. I wonder when buying such chicken, upon looking at the free-range label picturing grassy fields..just where are those free range birds? Are they behind the photographer, stuck back up in the barn, aimlessly searching for the 'free range exit door' to those tempting grassy fields?


5. I consistently make a whole chicken last for three meals to feed a family of five. Meal one - roast with vegetables, meal two - a pie or casserole with the leftover meat/veggies plus extra vegetables added, if needed. Meal three - a soup made with the stock from the saved bones.

6. When buying chicken from the supermarket in portion form, I wonder what has happened to the rest of the bird. Thighs and breast do not a chicken make!

7. The enormous size of chicken breasts concerns and often alarms me. Sometimes I have to cut them in three (always at least twice) just to get a thin enough piece for a schnitzel. Was this always the case?

8. We are eating less chicken now than two or three years ago, due to my concerns about how they have been raised/fed. This saddens me as we really do enjoy it (or did) as a meal, plus it is so very versatile and a very kid friendly 'meat'.

9. Relating back to my thoughts on food security, along with concerns about buying chicken in an ethical way and a desire to be more connected to my food, I have been spending the past week working on a hair brained scheme. Perhaps my most hairiest brained scheme of all to date! And that my friend, Is an Absolute Fact!

20 comments:

  1. We felt much the same ,Christine and wondered all the same things. First we got some meat chickens , but the breeding in them was so strong that in just 6 weeks they were giant and were waddling around ....then I got attached to them and when we went to put them in the oven they were as big as a turkey,
    Then we found an ethical supplier nearby ...we know how the chickens are cared for etc. but at the same time they are the same breed , so I think that this doesn't sit right with me either as I know that they don't get to live long and they are too big to support their own little legs.
    I am thinking rhode island reds...good meat chicken/good egg layer- lives a normal life.
    Can't wait to see what you are up to and I bet it isn't crazy or hare brained!

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  2. My dream of living on some land...would be to raise meat birds, and send them off for processing and have my birds come back to me on a foam tray...instead of me buying them from the supermarket on a foam tray.
    I could not dress the birds myself, I know that....for now we buy our chicken, free range from our local butcher or the chicken shop which sells free range hormone free birds. Have you ever noticed that free range chicken from a chicken shop smells different to the chicken you would buy, say from coles....the coles chicken does not smell at all....weird.

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  3. We’ve butchered one of our own chickens, a Rhode Island Red. You would be surprised (and a little disappointed) at how little meat is on it. I’ve been talking to my butcher, he shares my bewilderment about the chicken breasts he sells, although it wouldn’t viable for him to change suppliers at least is doesn’t come on a period pad... He has given me some ideas about breeds to try or cross and to raise our own meat chickens. We don’t eat a lot of chicken, same reasons as you describe above. Like you I see the value of the whole chicken and the many meals it supplies. But to be very sure that the peace of meat on you’re plate had a good life would mean raising and killing your own, a step I’m not sure I could take, yet.
    I’m looking forward to see what kind of scheme you’ll come up with!

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  4. Yes definitely feel the same. I buy free range from the supermarket but wonder are they really. Big companies do have a habit of stretching the truth.

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  5. We are moving towards organic foods in our house, it's a slow process as it takes some time to make the switch. However I can't really afford the organic meat so we eat less of better quality meat. The first move is reducing the amount of processed food and stick with the basics.

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  6. For the most part, commercial 'free range' means more 'cage free'. Feed is electronically controlled based on the weight of the birds. So they are usually kept in the barn and there is usually a pad in the 'yard' that is really a scale. As the birds hop on and off they are weighed and the feed adjusted.

    There is a big difference between a meat bird and a layer (or even dual purpose). Meat birds have been bred to have certain qualities, one of which is fast growth. Also, feed is a big difference between commercially raised and home free range. It's the same with the pigs my husband raises. The ones raised outside take a YEAR to grow to market size and are usually smaller with less meat. Ours are raised in large pens in the barn (CQA requirement) and my husband carefully manages their feed (dry sow feed, sow feed, starter feed etc). Our pigs are market weight (260+lb) in 6 months. We don't feed antibiotics or hormones. It's just how they have been bred to grow when fed properly.

    I don't know what the chicken rules are where you live. But if you can get Canadian chicken, it's been raised without hormones since the 60's. They DO often feed antibiotics, but they are a different kind than people use and low dose.

    Good luck with your plan.

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  7. We just had the Lilydale tonight, was a bit past the useby date but couldn't bare to throw it out. I think the new scheme will be great, hopefully a little less traumatic than Kate with her sheep.

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  8. I just LOVE hair brained schemes. It's one of my specialities! Just ask my husband. Tell me...tell me....tell me!

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  9. Do any of your farmers markets sell locally &my humanely raised meat? That's what I do to avoid any factory farming. And minimal meat consumption as well -(we're not supposed to have meat daily, it's a western myth.

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    1. Actually ecogrrl, it's not a 'western myth'. It all depends on the job you do. If you sit around on your bum in an office all day, then yes I can see you getting by with 'minimal meat consumption'. But I can tell you that folks that work hard for their living NEED meat at least once a day. If I serve a lunch without meat, then my husband is ready to fall over from hunger by 2:30. Even eggs don't provide enough energy.

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    2. Not to mention he would think you were starving him to death. Many in my family were farmers, 30, 40 years ago, and yes big meaty meals were served. And they all lived into their late 80's and 90's. As a farmer you are certainly burning off three, four thousand calories or more a day.

      blessings, jilly

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    3. Yep, that is exactly what I would hear Jilly :)

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  10. I believe what we find at the stores is what "we" the consumers have demanded in a way. Especially here in the States, we want bigger and better. It has been that way for years. Now we what "free-range", healthier etc. Honestly, I do not think too many big companies are suddenly offering free range anything. It would cost them millions to suddenly change their "farms" and factories to make us happy.

    Buying locally is probably your best bet.

    blessings, jilly

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    1. You hit the nail on the head Jilly. Farmers and the 'big guys' produce what the consumers want/buy. For example, farmers spray their apples to keep them scab-free because the consumer wants to buy 'perfect' looking apples. Pesticides and herbicides were developed because consumers want really cheap food and farmers needed a way to get as much yield as possible (because they are paid less).

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  11. Buying any and all food concerns me now. I don't believe food companies can be expected to do the right thing by consumers anymore, only their bottom line. And this saddens me.

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  12. Hi - Even though I've just posted a chicken recipe on my blog, like you, we are eating less chicken these days for the reasons you've outlined. Then again, all meat has its environmental/ethical concerns. The omnivores dilemma.

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  13. Raising meat chickens can be a messy business as they are cannibals and the stronger birds can start to peck and eat the weaker ones. I'm only speaking from 2nd-hand experience here though as I watched this happen to a friends meat chickens. Eventually they gave up.
    I commend you on making one whole chicken last a family of 5 for three meals. Well done. I use it for two, a roast and then use the carcass for soup. Any meat left after the roast is usually make into sandwiches for lunch the next day but only for one or two people. I'm going to try your chicken pie method.

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    Replies
    1. Any chickens can become cannibalistic. The secret is to feed them enough and get rid of any offenders before the others join in.

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  14. I can't wait to find out what you're up to. I hope you're going to raise your own chickens for meat, and not the meat chickens that can hardly walk after a few weeks of age, some real heritage breed chickens (for example sussex are a big breed that was traditional used for meat). Actually only last night we ate one of our home bred (Rhode Is Red x White Leghorn roosters) and he was very tasty. I have enough meat for at least 3 meals each for the two of us, and am currently making stock from the bones in the slow cooker. I can't eat bought chicken meat now, it is tasteless, texture-less and makes me ask too many questions about how it really lived. If you really want lots of meat, try turkeys, we can't finishing eating one in a week, just too big! We only eat chicken about once a month, but that's only because we have so much beef in the freezer from our home killed steers :)

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  15. I can remember my dad slaughtering a chicken for the Sunday roast. That was way back when, but I seem to remember some tasty dinners. I am waiting to see what you have planned.

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Hi there, so nice of you to stop by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love hearing what you are up to. Christine x

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