Chicken - The Dangerous Transformation of America 's Favorite Food.
"I used to eat chicken without much thought about where it came from, or how and by whom it was raised and processed. Life was much easier then." So states Steve Striffler at the beginning of his book Chicken, The Dangerous Transformation of America 's Favorite Food.
Similar thoughts are beginning to resonate in the minds of millions of people living in the developed world, who like Steve Striffler, have no particular interest in animal rights. In fact, Chicken, apparently the only recent book to deal exclusively with birds reared for the broiler industry, is just one response among many to the growing public interest in how their food is produced.
Striffler provides the reader with a fascinating account of today's broiler chicken industry. It lays bare the facts about how the highly processed, branded and elaborately packaged chicken products are produced and marketed as part of a fast food industry with an annual outlay of $33 billion to spend to promote its products.
In 1928 Herbert Hoover promised impoverished Americans "a chicken in every pot". By the 1970s the health effects of eating red meat were coming under question. People were turning to chicken as a health food. With the development of chicken nuggets and other processed chicken products in the 1980s, chicken has become unhealthy for all concerned, whether they are workers, farmers or consumers. "Six chicken nuggets contain the same amount of fat (21 grams) as a fat-filled double cheeseburger with condiments and vegetables. Order a chicken fillet sandwich and you get about one-third more fat than that same burger."
The result is a disaster of titanic proportions. "Nearly two out of every three Americans (130 million) are overweight, and almost one-third (60 million) are obese, an epidemic that has implications for heart disease, cancer, stress diabetes, and a wide range of other serious health problems".
What seems most shameful (to me, as an ethical vegan) is the fact that Government, supposedly set up "by the people, for the people" also pumps $20-billion a year into promoting unhealthy products, with only a tiny portion of outlays going to promote grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Steve Striffler could be categorized as a subtle reformer. His book sets out the fundamentals of a system in which there are no villains or good guys, simply problems of worker injustice, poverty, poor public health, and environmental degradation, all of which can and must be addressed.
For those readers who share a passion for reform, whether it be in the field of labour relations, environmental degradation, human rights, and yes, even animal rights, Striffler has provided a wealth of references for further study most of which is easily accessed on the Net.
THE SIERRA CLUB, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, VERSUS "BIG CHICKEN"
For example, The Sierra Club's Rap Sheet on Factory Farming, and the 2005 Human Rights Watch report on the meat and poultry industry make fascinating reading, neither of which pulls any punches as this quote from the latter suggests: "Nearly every worker interviewed for this report bore physical signs of a serious injury suffered while working in a meat or poultry plant. Automated lines carrying dead animals and their parts for disassembly move too fast for worker safety. .. They often receive little training .not always given the safety equipment they need. They are forced to work long overtime hours under pain of dismissal if they refuse. Meat and poultry industry employers set up the workplaces and practices that create these dangers, but they treat the resulting mayhem as a normal, natural part of the production process, not as what it is - repeated violations of international human rights standards".
INSIDE A POULTRY PLANT OR WHAT THE INDUSTRY OMITS TO TELL YOU
While researching this book,...