Eating Animals, Harmonic Convergence and Deep Ponderings, Part Deux

Yesterday, I said that there were a few things that came together in a Harmonic Convergence to bring The Beloved and me around to being very conscious/conscientious eaters (at least).  The first thing was my reading Eating Animals.  Thing #2 happened a week and a half ago.  There is a wonderful event that has occurred in Raleigh for the last five years.  It is the Hen-side the Beltline Tour d’Coop.  And what that is is a self-guided tour of urban chicken coops.  It was maybe one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do.

Guess what?  Did you guys know that there are lots of folks raising chickens within a block or two of The Governor’s Mansion?  So keen!  Now, before you get the idea that a bunch of Jethro Bodines live in Raleigh and that traffic comes to a halt whenever chickens wander across the street, keep an open mind.  For the most part, all the coops are tucked away in backyards.  Most folks don’t have roosters (cocks, to you guys overseas), so noise isn’t an issue.  Every coop we saw was large enough to allow the chickens to roam and spread their wings and be chickens.  Wiring over the top of the enclosure keeps them from a) flying away and b) falling prey to Marauding Hawks.

Lots of folks might (and do) take exception to raising chickens and make rules to severely restrict how and where they can be raised.  Many people are worried about the smell.  But, the smell comes from the poo of upwards of 30,000 chickens packed so closely together in climate- and light-controlled buildings that they have to sit/stand in their own waste.  That’s called factory farming.  The only good thing about having those chickens packed in that tightly is that they are bred to have such large, succulent breasts that they can’t stand up by themselves.  Pretty horrifying, huh?  Contrast that with four or six chickens happily clucking about in an open-air 100-200sf coop.  Happy, uncrowded chickens=no smell.

Here are some pictures of happy chickens in Cool Coops:backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickens
backyard chickensAnd here was my personal revelation–as I hung out with coop after coop of happy chickens–regarding factory farmed chickens:  Even leaving aside the idea of eating factory farmed meat, I don’t want to eat eggs that come from cramped up, miserable, poo-covered chickens.  And it’s not the chickens’ fault.  They aren’t the ones that decided to live shoulder to shoulder with their chicken friends.  They aren’t the ones who decided to go beakless as some kind of Goth Chicken fashion statement.  They aren’t the ones that decided to have their whole environments totally manipulated a la The Truman Show.  Except Truman had a potty.  Nope.  People did that to them.  And they did that because we consumers stamped our itty bitty feet and Demanded Cheap and Plentiful eggs.  Even in the winter when chickens like to rest.  If The Beloved and I are two folks who choose to vote/pay for eggs from humanely raised chickens, we are also two fewer folks voting/paying for eggs-as-usual.

There you have it.  My own mini-but-no-less-paradigm-changing-for-that Harmonic Convergence.  Eating Animals and Chicken Coops.  The Beloved and I dearly want to raise chickens–we have two sets of neighbors who want to do it, too.  Unfortunately, the Rules and Covenants for our Homeowners’ Association say no animals other than dogs or cats.  But the rules also state that residents can own no more than two pets, and we have four.  So, we’re already the Bonnie and Clyde of the neighborhood.  You’ll never take us alive, Coppers!

Ahem.  As I was saying, we’d really like to raise chickens.  For the eggs, for the compost, for the bug- and weed-eating, and for the comforting clucking sound they make.  I’ll keep you Apprised.

Coming up, Part III:  How does an Egg, Cream and Cheese-Loving pastry chef manage to eat/bake in accordance with our newly crystallizing way of thinking about food.  That’s a toughie, and I’ll be back to tell you my truth as well as I can.

As always, thanks for reading, and all comments–positive and negative–are welcome.

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Comments

  1. says

    Funny thing about chicken. I saw on Anthony Bourdain’s show last night that “City Chicken” is traditionally made with veal. It was created when veal was relatively cheap and chicken was a luxury.

    That so completely blew my mind. We for the most part have no idea what life was like even two generations back.

  2. says

    The Tour d’Coop sounds like a way cool thing to do – not to mention eye-opening. The eggs thing is interesting – I try to buy free range, but I do sometimes wonder just exactly how free range they really are. Good luck with your mission to raise chickens – something I’d love to do myself!

  3. says

    These are some issues that have been on my mind, as well. Growing up, I went through phases where I didn’t want to eat, say, bone-in chicken breast, because I could see that it was, at one point, an animal. (Hambrgers were never a problem in this worldview.) I’ve gotten over it, and now my beliefs fall more along the lines of it being more respectful of the animal and the earth to use as much of it as possible, leaving as little waste as possible.

    I buy free-range when I can, and I like to think that in general, the animal-raising practices in France are a little more natural/sustainable than those in the States, but I admit to being woefully uninformed on the subject.

    We’ve recently had the option to add 6 organic, free-range eggs to our weekly CSA bag, and after the 6-week trial, we enthusiastically jumped on board. Not only do we feel better about our consumption of said eggs, but they are also fresher and tastier than the cheap eggs.

    That said, I did just buy a flat of the cheap eggs, because I have a lot of cake recipe testing to do in the next couple of weeks, and as the euro drops against the dollar, so does my income and ability to pay my student loans. I guess the conclusion I’ve come to for now is that I buy the organic/sustainable/happy foods when I can, and try not to feel too guilty about buying cheap food whenI need to. (“Need,” being, of course, a subjective term.) (I also went to four stores to find the organic flour I needed for said cake-testing.)

    But I absolutely agree with you that food shopping is a way of voting, and by buying organic, you are voting against harmful farming practices. And every vote counts.

  4. says

    We ate fresh chickens when I was growing up- my great grandmothers on both sides of my dad’s family had coops. We were not allowed to go in though, because of rattlesnakes, and they would with a pitch fork and high boots on.

    We eat from a local farm here in my neighborhood- no cramped spaces, after watching Food Inc a few other friends came on board too!

    Great post my dear friend!

  5. Michele H. says

    You do it by doing exactly what you’re doing. Ok, even better? You have good friends who’ve decided to make their own goat cheese. These friends let you visit their new goats, who are living quite the high life on an acreage. Your friends share their home-made feta, and also send you off with a gallon of goats’ milk. You sacrifice that gallon of goats’ milk to a cup of lemon juice and some sea salt (prior experiments having failed miserably), and, incredibly, discover you’ve made a pound or so of a sublime cross between ricotta and chevre. You have cheese, I’m certain the goats’ would be thrilled with your efforts, the gods are happy, etc.

    (note that I raise ducks, purely for pets…it took me two years to be able to use the eggs and not think I was, like, eating something I’d be naming in the future)

  6. says

    You do it by doing exactly what you’re doing. Ok, even better? You have good friends who’ve decided to make their own goat cheese. These friends let you visit their new goats, who are living quite the high life on an acreage. Your friends share their home-made feta, and also send you off with a gallon of goats’ milk. You sacrifice that gallon of goats’ milk to a cup of lemon juice and some sea salt (prior experiments having failed miserably), and, incredibly, discover you’ve made a pound or so of a sublime cross between ricotta and chevre. You have cheese, I’m certain the goats’ would be thrilled with your efforts, the gods are happy, etc.
    +1

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