Natural, Vegetarian and Other Chicken Labels
If you’ve browsed comment sections and other online forums you’ve probably seen claims for all natural chicken. Vegetarian chicken. Hormone free chicken. Usually it’s wrapped up in a description of cruelty free. Except natural, vegetarian and chicken is not cruelty free. It distorts the very being of the chicken. Demanding we let chickens be natural AND expect them to be vegetarian is not possible. Chickens are omnivores.
So often it seems people want to label things. Some take three sentences to describe breakfast. You’ve seen it – “I had Vanilla French Toast with home cured bacon and hash browns topped with goat cheese. Then there was two scrambled eggs with…” Not everything needs details! Hashbrowns with bacon and French toast. Easy. Simple.
It seems people like simple until it comes to food. Then let’s make it complicated and complain we don’t understand. A comment section brought up vegetarian chicken – again. That’s humane? It’s humane to alter an animal’s diet and demand they survive on something not natural to their world? Of course domestication greatly alters an animal’s life also. But where is the line drawn? Like those who don’t like rabbits in cages because it’s unnatural so insist the rabbit lives in the house. Hello! I’ve never seen a rabbit subdivision! Have you? Is it near the vegetarian chickens or perhaps Protein Anonymous meetings?
I don’t think chickens and rabbits ponder these things. If you’ve ever seen a mouse run across the chicken pen it’ll forever erase images of vegetarian chickens. It’ll also make you glad chickens aren’t the size of ostrich because we’d be on the menu folks!
Here’s a little-known chore: 4. Keeping animal protein in the chicken yard once a week during the winter. One of the first man-sized chores for farm boys was providing some dead critter for the laying flock to eat in the winter when the grasshoppers and crickets were dormant. Since chickens are omnivores, they need animal protein, and that’s hard to come by during the cold winter months. Consequently, young boys had the chore of acquiring something for the chickens. Usually a squirrel, skunk, possum, raccoon, rabbit – something small. This required shooting or trapping, and is one reason why handbooks for boys written during the 1800s and early 1900s were dominated by homemade trapping devices. Often these boys were not yet old enough to carry guns, so they had to be ingenious at acquiring varmints some other way. – Joel Salatin “Folks This Ain’t Normal”
So often we hear a version of how things used to be. It often isn’t what it used to be, or is a rose colored glasses version of what it used to be. Agriculture today is because of solving the issues present in those idyllic times. For some reason I and others say things, and it’s discounted. Joel Salatin says the same thing and it’s worshipped. While Mr. Salatin has quite a following, I’m pretty sure that he likely puts his pants on the same way in the morning. I’m pretty sure that for the carefully engineered following, he’s keenly aware of marketing.
The fact remains – chickens are not vegetarian. I would not want a “grass fed” chicken as that’s not something that chickens do well with. Chickens aren’t grazers. Yes they will eat grass. And seeds. And grain. And small animals. And bugs. And larvae. And whatever else they can swallow to subsist on.
While California consumers wait for the reality of their Prop 2 demands, I’m waiting to see how high eggs will go. I wonder how far beyond $4 some will actually pay. I’m planning for 2015 – and there won’t be vegetarian, grass fed chickens on it. Sorry.
Healthy, happy layers yes. Meat birds, yes. Come see us. Just don’t expect fancy explanations beyond the basic transparency we’ve always done.