Fox in the Henhouse

So, there has been this commercial from Perdue chicken that got under my skin.  You can watch it here:

Basically, it’s Jim Perdue and other “farmers” waxing romantic about great chicken and how awesome Perdue is to their birds and all the stuff they feed them.  At the end of this commercial, Frank Perdue places a statement that they “believe in a better chicken.”  


We have to believe in a better chicken because nature’s original design, before Perdue decided to throw them into CAFO-style barns and feed them only grains, were unsatisfactory chickens (Psst… chickens aren’t supposed to eat grains, corn, and soybeans.  They’re supposed to peck around a barnyard and eat bugs.  That’s right: bugs!).

Apparently though, according to Perdue, those chickens from the old days that wandered around barnyards and lived like normal, natural birds were completely out of line.

Before Perdue came along and “saved” us from those natural, normal, un-plumped-up, “sub-par” chickens, casseroles were awful.  BBQ’s sucked.  Southern fried dishes were inedible.  Don’t even think about making soup.  Forget about roasting one – it wasn’t all plumped up on an unnatural diet.  It’s just not a good chicken breast unless it’s huge.

I mean, that’s true for women’s breasts, so it’s probably true for chickens, right?

And people wonder why we are so sick – we are eating the flesh of animals that aren’t raised the way nature intended.  And we’re eating way more of it than we should.

Mr. Perdue, we don’t need bigger, better, booby chickens.  We don’t need chickens that have a slightly yellow tint to their skin because they’ve been eating grain and marigolds.  What we really need are healthy, happy, naturally raised chickens that roam freely around barnyards and peck.  That’s all.

2 thoughts on “Fox in the Henhouse

  1. So the domestic chicken is actually thought to be a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl, which itself is a member of the Pheasant family. Like many birds, Junglefowl and domesticated chickens are omnivorous–they will eat grain, seeds, insects, lizards, berries, fruit, whatever they can find. So the grain diet in and of itself is not necessarily a problem, although it’s undoubtedly better for a chicken to have access to a variety of foodstuffs in order to satisfy complex nutritional requirements.

    I believe that sustainable, ethical farming of animals and foods is really important, but I think we need to be careful about how we talk about it. Large-scale, CAFO-style barns serve a purpose, especially considering our growing population (in the ten year span between the 2000 and 2010 census periods, the US population increased by over 3 million people – that’s a lot of people). The smaller, organic, free-range, cage-free style farming model can’t possibly meet the needs of our too-quickly growing population. Do I think that dynamic needs to change? Absolutely. It would be great to change the political and economical dynamic to reward small farmers who choose ethical, sustainable methods, and to reward consumers who choose the products of those farms. But really, there will be flaws in that model, as well. Once you take something small and turn it into a large-scale project, you will uncover the problems.

    Really, the most ethical solution is single-family subsistence farming. There’s a lot more here that I need to research before I can really speak with any intelligence on the subject, but it seems to me to represent the ultimate solution in terms of locally grown, locally used farming. You grow/raise what you need, you use and/or trade it within your own neighborhood, your own local economy. My neighbor is trying to get this started right now – she installed a greenhouse that takes up the entirety of her backyard, and has already talked to me about setting up a trade system.

    I think, too, we need to change the way we converse about this. It’s not just about ethical farming methods, it’s about how we as a culture relate to food. Obviously our very American perspective is Bigger = Better, More is More, etc. etc. But if we change our relationship to food, we change the demand on our food producers, and thereby change the supply. It’s going to take a long time, for sure, and will be a struggle.

    • Rach,
      You hit the nail on the head! I’m currently reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” (which I think I mentioned on your blog), and the main theme is local, sustainable farming. While not all people can accomplish this (as in, they live in apartments or simply don’t have the time to grow/supply their own food) there can be a system in place that allows for trade and fairness.
      Yes, the population is growing, you are right – and the idea behind CAFO farming is to assist with the food needs of the nation. However, when one looks at the waste produced by these operations (both environmental and food supply wastes) it prompts the question of just how much we are really doing, in terms of good, for the food supply. It also begs the question as to whether or not we really need all this “meat” or could we live with smaller-scale operations and change our relationship with food?
      As for the chickens, yes – omnivores, definitely. And it’s been shown that chickens, in fact any animal, raised in a natural habitat is nutritionally more valuable for our consumption than that of the conventional methods currently in place. However omnivorous they are, though – there is something to be said for a naturally selected diet. Just as us humans could subsist on doughnuts and soda, it’s not the best nutritional choice and ultimately has negative consequences for our health.
      But yes, a change in how we relate to food, and a local perspective is the way to go!

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