I was in a rush, and I needed a bit of chicken. Not a lot of chicken because we are mostly Vegan . (And at this point all the REAL VEGANS, shake their heads at the word “mostly.”). So without checking the weight of the packaged chicken at the meat counter, I picked up a pack of two breasts… some meat; not a lot of meat… one breast for stir-fry and the other for something or other.
Arriving home, I tore the plastic wrap off the Styrofoam at which point I blinked and recoiled. I was looking at the largest chicken breasts ever. Humped up like Silicone enhanced boobs, the breasts were Mary Shelley scary. Not that I hadn’t read about breeding for bigger breasts, but reading and watching documentaries is far removed from actually having a Fraken-chicken breast in my very own kitchen.
If you are looking for fast-growing, meaty chicks, Cornish-Rock-Cross-chickens are the birds to raise. Imagine being able to raise a five-pound bird in only seven weeks! Seven weeks to the table! You can’t do that with broccoli or cabbage.
The downside is that you just may have a bird that grows faster than its feathers. Partially naked birds are not attractive. Do the chickens in the photo to the right look like anything you would like to eat?
Unfortunately, this home kitchen experience prefaced (and set the tone for) my watching Frontline’s May 12th documentary: “The Trouble with Chicken.”
If you missed the televised show, you can stream past shows on your computer. See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline. All of us have probably had Salmonella at one time or another, but the newer tougher and stronger antibiotic resistant Salmonella Heidelberg sends you to the hospital rather than the bathroom.
You need to watch the documentary yourself, but a couple of highlights caught my attention.
Regarding food safety and United States Department of Agriculture inspections, only one inspector is assigned to every packing plant regardless of the number of birds processed. The USDA’s initial response to the increase in Salmonella in the 60s was to blame hygienically careless women in their kitchens rather than to fault corporate processing plants. (Which is partially true, but dodges the bullet.)
According to Frontline, one-in-four chickens tests positive for Salmonella. The number of Salmonella cases is fewer, but the Heidelberg strain is resistant to treatment and may result in death. Careless housewives may share some guilt by serving partially cooked meat or through cross-contamination via contaminated cutting boards, but we need increased oversight and testing within processing plants. Also, the USDA should have the power of re-call. Relying on corporate oversight is wishful thinking.
It is hard to know what to do. I could start raising my own chickens; I could eat my neighbor’s free-range chickens; or I could go Vegan.
Place your bets now.