Food, Inc.

We recently watched "Food, Inc." Many of you have already seen Food, Inc., and if you haven’t seen it yet we highly recommend it. They take you inside the chicken houses, feed lots, and poultry and beef processing plants and give a behind the scenes view of where food comes from and how it is processed. They give you an inside view of how some of the large multinational companies are bullying farmers into submission to their program. You will see why I said "I’ll NEVER raise chickens" after working on a farm when I was in college where I took care of 75,000 broiler chickens in the big factory farm "jail" chicken house.

We saw Food, Inc. the week before the latest egg salmonella scare occurred with the 500,000,000 egg recall. When I saw the processing plants with the conveyors, shackle lines, pipes, etc. that move raw meat and other food ingredients from one place to another, I was amazed that there has not been a lot more food poisoning. For example: it would be difficult, on a daily basis, to completely clean a big long belt conveyor that carries raw hamburger. There are rollers and other contact points under the conveyor that carry the conveyor belt back to the starting end of the conveyor that would be difficult to completely clean. It is a totally different situation than a small butcher shop where it is relatively easy to clean down the tables and small machines at the end of the day. Because of the difficulty of totally cleaning up the big processing plants, they have to use irradiation, ammonia, and other chemicals with names that we can hardly pronounce to control bacteria from growing in the final food product.

The chicken houses are very similar to the ones I worked in when I was in college. The chickens walk a short distance to the feeder, or a short distance to the waterer and then they plop down. There are so many birds packed together. Every day I walked through the chicken houses and picked up the dead chickens just like the lady does. What you can’t experience in the movie is the strong ammonia smell inside the chicken house from the manure nor do you experience all the manure dust that is continually in the air. My one uncle developed a bad cough from breathing all that dust in his chicken house. He finally had to sell his farm because of his health.

One of the newer changes in most chicken houses today is the windows have been closed up and the chickens never see sunlight. They are dark tunnel houses with controlled lighting so that the chickens can be stimulated to eat more. The chickens never know when it is day or night.

Chickens can be controlled very easily with light. When I worked in the factory farm chicken house, it was fun to play with the dimmer switch. When I turned the lights up the chickens got up and started eating, then when I turned the lights down the chickens sat down. I could make the whole sea of chickens move up and down at will with the lights. The poor chickens never see sunlight!

Another characteristic of confinement raised chickens, and this includes chickens raised in confinement in small chicken tractor pens on pasture is that their legs have difficulty holding them up. They plop down rather than gently sit down. This is mentioned in the movie. When I saw a chicken plop down in Food Inc. I suddenly realized it is not as much a characteristic of our chickens any more, even though we have the same breed of chicken. It is not a breed problem, it is how they are raised. Our chickens get lots of exercise and have strong healthy leg muscles that can support their body. They are not the flabby, weak muscled, couch potato, lazy chickens that people buy in the grocery stores and restaurants. We are what we eat and I wonder how much the way the meat is raised affects the person who eats it to be flabby, weak muscled, lazy, etc.

Our broiler chickens getting plenty of exercise and sunshine and a fresh "salad bar" pasture.

The laying hens eagerly going out to the pasture in the morning.

One point in Food, Inc. that was misunderstood by at least one person is that they said that there are 13 main slaughter houses in the US that process the majority of the beef. That does not mean that there are only 13 slaughter houses in the US. There are still many small butcher shops left. We get our lamb processed at Horst Meats, a small family owned USDA butcher shop that is located on their farm near Hagerstown, Maryland. Our butcher is a relative and we feel confident that we get back the same lambs that we take in. When you purchase pasture finished lamb from us you are supporting not only our farm but also a local small butcher shop that is not part of the factory food industry.

What Food, Inc. does not have time to address is where the other half of the food that the US consumes comes from. Almost half of the food consumed in the US comes from other countries. What are their processing plants like? How do they control food borne bacteria? Are the methods USDA approved? What are the working conditions of the employees like? When we eat at a restaurant, or buy food in the grocery store (organic or conventional), what practices and growing methods are we actually supporting overseas with our food dollars? Is the food really fit to eat? What is the environmental impact in those countries?

When you buy local from us at Jehovah-Jireh Farm, you can meet the farmers, you can see where your food comes from and how it was raised, and you can taste the difference.

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