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Jack Zaleski, Published July 21 2012

Zaleski: Chickens: dumb, dirty and mean

How is it that some people are so obsessed with the welfare of chickens? Chickens! Not a month goes by that some animal “rights” crank doesn’t try to paint big chicken operations as “factory farms” that treat their chickens badly – like keeping them in cages.

I do not understand the desire to be especially considerate of the mental and emotional state of chickens, whose sole purpose in being is to grow plump, be slaughtered and cut up in order to meet the nation’s demand for – you guessed it – chicken. That takes millions of chickens every day.

What do the self-styled chicken devotees want? Chicken condos? A chicken chapel where chickens can contemplate a chicken afterlife? Counseling as the birds await their predetermined end? Chicken exit interviews to build a data base to assess chicken psychoses?

I can see it:

Counselor: Well, you know what’s in store for you, don’t you? It’s inevitable. I’m here to help you make the transition from alive and plump to dead and fricasseed.

Chicken: No response, just that glassy glare in those mean, little black eyes.

I know something about chickens. When I was a kid I spent summers at Uncle Stan’s farm in rural Connecticut. He and Aunt Florence raised chickens. I was the hired hand (food and lodging). I was with the chickens from the time the chicks arrived, during incubation in stacks in the basement of the farmhouse and through the birds’ growth all summer until it was time to prepare them for sale from the farm’s roadside stand, along with apples, blackberries, late sweet corn and pumpkins.

Chickens are dumb, dirty and nasty. So-called free-range chickens (which my uncle’s were before the term became fashionable among the back-to-the-land/organic/eat-local elite) are especially dirty. The folks who say they taste better than “factory farm” birds don’t know how to cook chicken.

Stan and Flo had no deep feelings for their chickens, other than as a source of pretty good income. When it came time to do what had to be done, Aunt Flo wielded her knife with the skill of a samurai. There was blood and flapping and squawking, but Flo’s attitude was bloodless.

Some people have pet chickens. I don’t get that, but good for them. If a pet can be seen as a reflection of its owner, well … make your own conclusions.

Most chickens, however, are crops. They are hatched and grown for one purpose: chicken as food – indeed, one of the most versatile and popular foods on the American menu. It’s what they are for: a fate most fowl …

Offended? Tough nuggets. Don’t call, don’t write. If you want to talk about it, I can be found most Friday afternoons at the deli counter in the Osgood Hornbacher’s store in Fargo – buying the best fried chicken in town.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.