Thursday, October 23, 2014

Just us chickens. (What the cluck?)

Well, I took one look at this picture and thought, “Uh oh.”

Just us chickens

My first thought was that we now know why the 1957 chicken crossed the road. It was to get away from the 2005 edition.


In my mind’s eye, I could see the 2014 version, and it was the size of short-legged ostrich.

Just looking at this picture, I told myself this can’t be good, this bulked up specimen has to be pumped full of hormones. Maybe the average chicken has to be cooped up in a tiny little spot (vs. free range) to avoid ‘roid rage incidents. (Side note: the USDA bans the use of hormones, so we really wouldn’t have to worry about chicken size in the hormonal sense. Still, who could look at that picture and not ask what the cluck?)

And, then, because I’m a big believer that, most times, one word is worth a thousand pictures, I read the article, where I learned that today’s broilers got bigger because they were bred that way. Nothing artificial about it. Chicken farmers started moving away from the paltry poultry of 1957, and started focusing on the bigger the better.

Poultry scientists in Canada identically raised three different strains of chicken: the skinnymalinks 1957 chicken of my childhood, a mo’ bigger 1978 strain, and the robust 2005 Ross 308 breed. The cared for each strain in the same way:

"We fed them exactly the same things, so we did not provide hormones," lead author Dr. Martin Zuidhof, associate professor of agricultural science at the University of Alberta, told the CBC. "The only difference that was part of our study treatments was the genetics." (Source: Huffington Post.)

The result showed that:

…today's chickens are bigger simply because they were bred to be bigger.

Go back to your lives, citizens. Nothing to worry about here. That chicken may be four times larger than its peer, but it’s all okay.

Nonetheless, I do worry a bit about chickens, which just don’t seem to taste as chickeny as those scrawny sweet birds of my youth. This may just be my imagination. Or maybe it’s because my mother utilized all parts of a chicken (including – gag! – gizzards), while I’m a white meat kind of gal. So maybe her soups were more flavorful than mine because she kept all the gunk in, including stuff like bones, skin and fat. Whereas I get the boneless and skinless variety, and hack out all the fatty bits. Then I wonder why I have to sit there, saltshaker in hand…

Although the Canadian scientists assure us that there’s no problem with eating big chickens, the picture is still scary.

At least, the scientists assure us, the chickens haven’t been altered over the years to addict us, like so many fast food and bev items that have both been supersized and gunked up with “enhancers” that keep us going back to the trough bag for more.

A couple of years ago, while taking a break on the NY State Thruway, I stopped at a rest area that had – among other ghastly choices – a Roy Rogers.

I didn’t end up eating anything at this rest stop – I generally wait until I hit the Massachusetts border to have lunch, since the Mass Pike has a couple of Fresh Cities, which sure beat the Uncle Roys and Arbys that NY offers. But I did notice that they were selling a gallon-sized soda.

Say what?

Once you finish your big gulp, do you use it as an in-car toilet?

Anyway, at least with chickens there’s nothing to be afraid of.

No harm, no fowl.

Buk buk buk buk bukka it is!

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