I've been reading a Jonathan Safran Foer vegetarian polemic book like a good conscientious carnivore. I try to read things I disagree with. He's making a lot of good points about food production ethics, points I can and do appreciate. But I'm a good foodie and I have my ethical sourcing so its little skin of my back. The only thing that has me shaken slightly is talk about the meat chicken. The Cornish-rock variety to be specific. They're sort of a mutant. They eat incessantly, grow to full size in eight week, and balloon so larger that they're unable to mate. Deborah at Antiquity Oaks raised a few along side her heritage breeds. Not only did they grow super fast but their liver and gallbladder were flippin' giant by comparison to a heritage of the same weight (but 44 weeks older). What do you think these newfangled breeds are doing to us? What is our ethical obligation in regards to such a creatures?
My brother invited me to speak up here. I'm living on a farm, training to be an organic farmer and we will be slaughtering some "non-heritage" chickens next Monday. They are huge, meaty birds at the age of 8 weeks (most chickens, I can lift with one arm, these babies need a two-handed grip...) and they can barely propel themselves around. I'll look at their organs and report what I see. Their feed is a soy-based feed, which a lot of respectful farmers are starting to avoid. As a group of 13 "greenhorns", most of us carnivores, we have decided not to raise this breed again. After reading the above blogs, I'm starting to dread eating them.
I will choose heritage breeds for my own operations--mostly because they thrive better on pasturing.
The one positive about raising these birds is that I need to carry the 50 pound sack of feed more often.
I don't think they are harmful to our health as long as they are pastured. They're just bred to be huge and I don't think that could harm us. It's not nice for these animals though. Joel Salatin wrote an interesting chapter in his book about Pastured Poultry. He chose to use these birds too because he would be unable to compete if he used other, "heritage" breeds. He decided to fight their deficiencies with good nutrition and good management. His birds are healthy and do just fine on their own out on the pastures.
As long as it is possible to raise these animals in a ethically/morally acceptable way, I see no problem there.
It's different if the breeds were unable to live outside like some of the newer pig breeds. Those HAVE TO be kept inside which results in a lot or problems.
I try to get my eggs from chickens we keep and from chickens from a lady down the road who has extra. We both have a variety of kinds of chickens. THe eggs are all different, either brown or white and some a bit bigger than others. Some chickens are bigger than others but all seem healthy. As far as taste, I haven't noticed any diffs.
One issue is what the chickens eat. I suspect diet might be more important than breed as far as health is concerned. A chicken eating a natural diet might not get so fat as one all penned up and fed all kinds of crap.