Organic Consumers Association

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Cook Organic not the Planet Campaign

If a Chicken Exists Only to Become Chicken Nuggets, Does It Really Matter How She Lived?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our CAFO's vs. Free Range page.

It's a subject that comedians have latched on to. If you are going to kill, slaughter, and eat an animal why should you be concerned about the quality of her life? This week as thousands gather in Atlanta for the International Poultry Expo, I thought it timely to write about more serious aspects of the chicken that goes into a happy meal.

Most people, when confronted with the horrific treatment at animal factories, recognize that a minimum standard of treatment should exist. For many consumers, learning about animal abuse opens a world of information about how animals are raised, processed and transported. For many people, learning about these issues inspires them to pursue options like free range, vegetarian fed, organic and local -- or if particularly serious about animal welfare, the environment and your health, become vegan.

The food you eat is the biggest socio-political decision you make each day. However, conditions and treatment of animals is not only a moral issue. Animal treatment has a direct impact on the health of American consumers.

Chickens present one of the biggest animal welfare and food safety problems. Meat and eggs from chickens raised and slaughtered under unsanitary conditions present serious risks of Salmonella or E. coli contamination. Salmonella contamination in poultry occurs most often during slaughter and processing, because live birds carry pathogens on their feathers and in their intestines that can be transferred to the carcass during slaughter.

But contamination also happens well before slaughter. Hens raised in animal factories are largely kept in unsanitary conditions. Often hens are covered in liquid manure from shallow manure scraping pits and walking amidst manure overflows on barn floors. In animal factories that use battery cages, hens are often confined in overcrowded cages with the rotting corpses of other birds or birds suffering bloody injuries. They are covered in feces from birds in overhead cages, and prone to drown in manure trenches that run underneath the cages.   
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