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18-09-13 How Chicken is Killing the Planet

18-09-13 How Chicken is Killing the Planet

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Published by William J Greenberg
despite all of the problems with our chicken system, the momentum is moving against regulation instead of toward more of it. As Tom Philpott reported for Mother Jones [15], the Obama administration wants to simultaneously speed up slaughter lines and cut three-quarters of their inspectors. While the USDA currently requires four inspectors at any line killing up to 140 birds per minute, it has proposed cutting three of those inspectors while upping the chickens killed per minute limit to 175. This announcement came on the heels of another major shift in American poultry policy: Not only will we allow the shipment of chicken cadavers to China for processing, but the USDA has now OK’d the import of the resulting chicken products back home.
despite all of the problems with our chicken system, the momentum is moving against regulation instead of toward more of it. As Tom Philpott reported for Mother Jones [15], the Obama administration wants to simultaneously speed up slaughter lines and cut three-quarters of their inspectors. While the USDA currently requires four inspectors at any line killing up to 140 birds per minute, it has proposed cutting three of those inspectors while upping the chickens killed per minute limit to 175. This announcement came on the heels of another major shift in American poultry policy: Not only will we allow the shipment of chicken cadavers to China for processing, but the USDA has now OK’d the import of the resulting chicken products back home.

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Sep 20, 2013
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Home> How Chicken Is Killing the Planet
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By 
 
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How Chicken Is Killing the Planet
September 18, 2013
|Earlier this month, while you were busy sneaking out of your empty office,hoping nobody would notice your starting the holiday weekend early, theUSDA was also doing something it was hoping nobody would notice. Itwasgreen-lighting the sale of Chinese processed American chicken 
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, “U.S. officials have given the thumbs-up to four Chinesepoultry plants, paving the way for the country to send processed chicken to American markets.” But while, “at first, China will only be able to processchicken that has been slaughtered in the U.S. or other certified countries,” thatshould not be a comfort to fans of the McNugget, Campbell’s chicken soup, or any other processed chicken product.To start, that a chicken was born and bred on U.S. soil is no guarantee of itsquality. It is, however, a good indicator of several other things, starting withthe bird’s short, miserable life. The vast majority of the almost 300 million egg-laying hens raised in the U.S. every year are kept in cages too small for themto spread their wings, and thispractice is beginning to take hold in raising our 8 billion broilers 
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(the ones we eat) as well. The broilers are fed adiet ladenwith arsenic 
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, while egg-laying hens are often packed intobarns so full of birds, feathers and feces, that, as we learned last month,anemployee could literally get shot in one without anyone even noticing 
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. Don’t be comforted by the fact that chicken was processed in the U.S. either.Between slaughter and nugget-ization, chicken carcasses endure a host of 
 
perversions, making chicken less of a food and more of a food-like substance.They are injected with saltwater solutions to add weight and taste. Their bodies are mechanically separated through a processed called “ AdvancedMeat Recovery 
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,” stripping the meat off leftover bones and turning it intothepoultry version of pink slime 
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. The resulting goop will be washed in ammoniato kill its bacteria population. It will then be cooked into something tasty andsold to you, the unwitting customer. And yes, this process does actuallyimpact the food on your plate: According to a2009 USDA study 
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, 87 percentof chicken cadavers test positive for E. coli, feces’ favorite bacteria, just beforethey are packaged and sent to a store near you.But Big Chicken doesn’t just exploit the animals – the environment and itsemployees suffer as well. According to a2011 Pew study 
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, modern-daychicken farming pollutes the water, the air and the soil. Chicken manure findsits way into everything nearby, oversaturating the land and water withphosphorous and nitrogen, depleting them of oxygen and killing aquatic life.Industry tycoons Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms have bothbeenaccused 
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of outsourcing their labor, turning “what were once good-paying positions” into “near-poverty-level jobs.” Perdue defended its practicesto Salon, noting that it “was among the last of the poultry companies” tooutsource, and that “affected associates were able to apply for positionselsewhere” within the company. Tyson offered a similar response, adding thatoutsourcing certain positions is “common practice in the poultry industry.”It’s worth remembering that these jobs still leave a lot to be desired. A recentstudy 
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by the Southern Poverty Law Center concluded that theindustry regularly sacrifices its workers’ health and safety in the name of increased factory floor “efficiency.” According to the SPLC, “the U.S.Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported an injury rate of 5.9percent for poultry processing workers in 2010, a rate that is more than 50percent higher than the 3.8 percent injury rate for all U.S. Workers.” The U.S.Poultry & Egg Association and National Chicken Council answered theSPLC’s study with its ownfive-page report 
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, noting that overall, injuries andillnesses have dropped 74 percent over the past 20 years, and concluding,“While the past 25 years has seen a dramatic decrease in the numbers andrates [of] injury and illnesses occurring in the industry, the poultry industry willcontinue to seek new and innovative ways to protect our workforce.”But despite all of the problems with our chicken system, the momentum ismoving against regulation instead of toward more of it. AsTom Philpottreported for Mother Jones 
[15]
, the Obama administration wants to
 
simultaneously speed up slaughter lines and cut three-quarters of their inspectors. While the USDA currently requires four inspectors at any linekilling up to 140 birds per minute, it has proposed cutting three of thoseinspectors while upping the chickens killed per minute limit to 175. Thisannouncement came on the heels of another major shift in American poultrypolicy: Not only will we allow the shipment of chicken cadavers to China for processing, but the USDA has now OK’d the import of the resulting chickenproducts back home.This change in the chicken market will almost certainly exacerbate thatmarket’s problems, not solve them. Meat is already theNo. 1 contributor  
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toclimate change. Don’t expect shipping slaughtered chickens 7,000 miles toChina and then bringing them back as processed food to lower that carbonfootprint. And, of course, the Chinese poultry industry has its own dirtylaundry, including a current bird flu outbreak,believed 
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to have “evolvedfrom migratory birds via waterfowl to poultry and into people,” and alreadyresponsible for 44 deaths; the sale of 46-year-old chicken feet 
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;and exportingtainted dog treats 
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, sickening nearly a thousand Americanpets.Even if the Chinese facilities were subject toU.S. poultry farm inspectionprocesses 
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, consumers still could not be guaranteed the products’ safety.But the Chinese factories turning American-raised chickens into American-sold chicken nuggets won’t even have that. According to the New YorkTimes,no USDA officials will be on site 
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– the processors will simply self-verify the source of the poultry being processed. “And because the poultry willbe processed,” the Times continues, “it will not require country-of-originlabeling.” While Tom Super of the National Chicken Council assured me thatChinese products will be “subject to increased inspection upon entry into theUnited States” and a failure to meet U.S. safety standards will result in arevocation of China’s eligibility to export to the U.S., it is unclear how, withouton-site inspectors, the chicken industry will reduce the risk of, for example,cross-contamination with China’s own poultry supply. (Not all of Big Chickenis jumping on the China bandwagon – Perdue has “no plans” to move itsprocessing off USDA-inspected facilities.)The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food-borneillnesses sickenapproximately 48 million people each year  
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, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest puts chicken in theNo. 1 spot of its “RiskyMeat” list 
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. While Super notes that 99 percent of the chicken consumed inthe U.S. is “hatched, raised and processed” here, and “we don’t expect that to

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