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Give Chicken Something to Cluck About

By George Jocabs

The first humans appeared on Earth about two million years ago. By 1800, the human population rose to 1 billion.

Now, in 2022, slightly more than 220 years since 1800, the number of humans has reached almost 8 billion people. (You can see the human population increasing in real time at: https://www.worldometers. info/world-population/)

There are many more chickens in the world than humans. In fact, chickens are Earth’s most common bird. That is because humans eat more than 50 billion chickens a year: https://www.todayonline. com/world/65-billion-chickens-consumed-each-year- could-be-age-chicken.

Just in Singapore, our 5.6 million people eat about 36kgs of chickens annually, the most of any kind of meat. Pork is #2.

Here’s a quiz. How long do these 50 billion chickens live before they are slaughtered so that we can eat their meat? Please guess. Is it six years, six months, or six weeks?

If you guessed six years, you are partly correct. Chickens have a potential lifespan of six years. That means that if chickens live in nature, and they are not killed by predators or disease, they live for about 6 years.

Unfortunately, chickens do have one major predator: humans. And we humans want to eat cheap food. To keep chickens’ meat cheap, the chickens who we eat die at about six weeks (not months) of age.

Humans have a lifespan of about 80 years. Thus, chickens dying at six weeks of age is like humans dying at about 2 years of age.

How is it possible for chickens to be ready for slaughter at such a young age? According to Mr Tom Super of the U.S.’s National Chicken Council, modern production of chickens’ meat represents a great example of success and efficiency.

What do we see when we pull back the curtain on this efficiency? We see:

  1. Chickens bred to have such heavy upper bodies that their legs cannot support their bodies’ weight.

  2. Growth hormones injected into the chickens.

  3. 10s of thousands of chickens crowded together in a single windowless building.

  4. Air and water pollution from the chickens’ waste.

  5. Antibiotics injected into the chickens to reduce the risk of diseases, including pandemic diseases, such as bird flu. According to an article in the American Journal of Public Health - - 80% of antibiotics in the U.S. are used in animal agriculture, thereby increasing antibiotic resistance In humans.

Some people call chickens ‘bird brains’. This view of chickens makes it easy to treat them like objects, no better than the objects produced on a factory assembly line. You may be surprised that the research - telligent-and-sensitive-so - says that not only can chickens suffer and feel pain, they are also smart. Here are some examples of the minds of chickens at work.

  1. Chickens developsocial hierarchies. This is where we humans get the term ‘pecking order’.

  2. Chickens can recognize over 100 individual faces, including human faces.

  3. Chickens understand that recentlyhidden objects still exist, something many human babies cannot do.

  4. Hard to believe, but mother hens begin communicating with their chicks before the chicks even hatch.

Fortunately, we have so many alternatives to eating chickens. For many years, vegetarian restaurants and provision shops have offered plant-based chicken. Now, we have high-tech plant- based chicken that even more closely mimics the look, taste, aroma and mouthfeel of chicken. We also have ‘chicken’ made with fermentation, just like yogurt, kimchee and tempeh are made with fermentation to create delicious foods. Even more recently, Singapore became the world’s first country to approve the sale of chicken made from the cells of live chickens without harming those chickens. So, no need to choose; no need to sacrifice. We can enjoy our favourite chicken dishes without harming chickens. That is certainly something to cluck about!

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