While my physical therapist was pummeling me the other day, she said “So I met someone else who has chickens.”
She said this in precisely the same tone of voice you would use if you were saying “As hard as this is to believe, I think I just met another person as crazy as you.”
She went on to describe the conversation with the gentleman, a physician, who could not stop talking about his chickens. Sound familiar? “He kept telling me about how they follow him around,” she said.
I miss my chickens. There is something about the daily interaction with a flock of hens that settles satisfyingly deep within you in much the same way as it does to sit in front of a fire. There’s a primal feel to it. The sound when they ruffle their feathers; the way they greet you with soothing low peeps that have nothing to do with food or fear or anything but saying hello to you because they recognize you as their keeper.
Right now they are greeting different keepers, while Tammy, Tom and family wrangle the CA critters in our absence:
My physical therapist remains unpersuaded about chickens and a bit wary of those who keep them. But there is no denying that chickens are having a moment. Polloplayer correspondent Tina has been updating me on the latest in poultry epiphanies coming, by the way, not from Backyard Farming or Homesteading Weekly, but from the decidedly urban New York Times.
Tina recently forwarded me a piece by eminent Times reporter Nicholas Kristof entitled Are Chicks Brighter than Babies?
The title of his piece refers to some research he includes regarding the ability of chickens to count, differentiate and multitask. I already knew that. Hey, my hens can do all that with their, um, wings tied behind their backs.
What really struck me, though, about Kristof’s piece, was his recollection of growing up on a farm in Oregon where he observed the stolid fidelity of mated geese.
Like swans, a mated pair of geese stay together through thick and thin, including, as Kristoff relates, courageous attempts to rescue a mate from the chopping block. It is touching, and it is thought-provoking. Like me, Kristof eats meat, but he is troubled by the conditions under which commercial poultry are kept. I know, I’ve harped on this before, but there may be new reasons for concern – on a different continent.
Last August, the USDA announced that four Chinese facilities would be allowed to process poultry raised and slaughtered in the United States, Chile or Canada, and then export the cooked poultry products back into the United States. You may want to read that statement over a few times, because at the very least, it involves a dizzying number of frequent-flier miles for the poultry involved and it most certainly does not give one the impression that what ends up on your plate is “farm fresh”.
This might be a good moment to mention that the avian flu epidemics that scare the wits out of contagion-wary folks tend to originate in Asia and are directly linked to the conditions under which fowl are maintained there. Or to bring up the fact that the deaths of 500 pet dogs in the U.S. this year have been linked to jerky treats made of chicken and imported from China. You don’t have to look far to find news reports that China is considered to be a country “notorious” for avian influenza and food-borne illnesses.”
The August announcement raised a ripple of concern because it was seen as a “preliminary step toward eventually allowing China to export its own raw poultry into this country” and sure enough, on November 10 it was reported that U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his concern over “USDA plans to green-light poultry raised and slaughtered in China.”
Questions come to mind. Do we not have enough chicken here in the U.S. to satisfy our need for nuggets? Daily Finance reports that the move to allow Chinese poultry exports is tied to a scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours deal whereby “China may agree to open its markets to U.S. beef.” So let me get this straight. The Chinese will get to enjoy juicy U.S. steaks while, in exchange, we get chicken from the country where there was a recent bust for an attempt to smuggle 46-year-old “expired” chicken feet. No, I am not creative enough to make this up; it was in The Huffington Post.
All I can say is that this is not what I generally have in mind when I order Asian Chicken Salad. You know the drill: write your Congressperson and contact the USDA.
On a happier chicken note, our family friend Hannah Allen is currently the featured artist at Emerson Hospital in Sudbury, MA. Among her paintings on display is this beauty. I love it!