There’s a project I’ve been watching on Kickstarter and I’m a little surprised it hasn’t gotten more traction, so I thought I’d call it out. TL;DR: You know those wallet cards and apps that help you make good choices about buying seafood: what’s endangered, what’s overfished, what’s responsible to eat? This effort, BuyingPoultry.com, hopes to do the same for chicken — but it’s only halfway to its goal.
The planned database and app are the creation of an existing nonprofit, FarmForward, which advocates for higher welfare standards in livestock raising. The FarmForward folks consider poultry “the next big thing in animal welfare.” Here’s what they say:
What the Hummer is to fuel efficiency, poultry is to animal welfare. No food in the nation produces more suffering than poultry. Factory farming had its beginnings in the poultry industry in the 1920s, and no other industry has been so altered by its methods and logic.
To make matters worse, birds raised for meat have absolutely no protection under the law. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act is the only piece of federal legislation that offers protection to farmed animals at slaughter, and chickens and turkeys are formally excluded from the law. As a result, it’s legal — in fact it is the rule — to paralyze birds and slaughter them while they are still conscious (cows and pigs must be rendered unconscious before slaughter). This is true of free range, organic, and even pastured birds.
It’s also perfectly legal to starve birds, cut off their sensitive beaks, and confine them for their entire lives in spaces so small they can never stretch their wings. And there are currently no laws in place to prevent corporations from genetically engineering birds any way they like — regardless of the cost to the animals’ wellbeing.
If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that the scientific literature shows poultry carries more antibiotic-resistant bacteria than any other meat tested by governments; is accused of spreading highly drug-resistant infections; and faces unique challenges in creating more humane alternatives. In fact, the last Kickstarter project I highlighted here, the film Food Patriots (which got funded!), was inspired by an antibiotic-resistant infection that the filmmakers’ son contracted by eating chicken.
The BuyingPoultry project aims to build a free, easily accessible mobile database that will list every poultry producer and welfare standard, and help consumers understand what those marketing terms that get so freely tossed about — organic, free-range, pastured, high-welfare — really mean.
If you’re confused about what to do when you buy poultry, this could help. It’s worth a look.
Here’s their Kickstarter trailer, and below it, their celebrity endorsement: author Jonathan Safran Foer. (Dinner with him in Brooklyn is one of their biggest Kickstarter rewards.)
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