Where the Chickens Have No Name

What if we quizzed servers about the factory-farmed birds too?

Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor. He has written for The Awl, The New Inquiry, and elsewhere.

Picking the chicken dish off a restaurant menu usually means choosing the most inoffensive, innocuous meal on offer. Anything made with a skinless, boneless chicken breast, in particular, is geared to please picky palates, not show off culinary talents. The ubiquity of chicken Caesars, grilled chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, and chicken, well, anything, largely divorces the poultry from the bird—so much so that some people who “don’t eat meat” will still eat chicken.

The problems with such an attitude are manifold, especially in years when chicken consumption is climbing ever higher. Americans ate 81.8 pounds of chicken per capita in 2012, compared with 61.5 pounds per capita in 1990. And with the industry angling for faster kill lines and self-inspection, the animal welfare and environmental impacts of the industrial-scale poultry farming needed to sate our appetites increasingly are left unchecked.

Does anyone consider the reality of eating chicken when picking something to eat for dinner? Clearly, if you’re consuming more than 80 pounds of it every 12 months, you don’t. And thanks to the cult of the well-raised bird, and Portlandia, we can mock the kinds of questions a concerned poultry connoisseur might ask at the locavore bistro—who really needs to know the name of the bird?

But what if the same attention to agricultural detail was exercised when quizzing a waiter about factory-farmed birds? It’d be just as absurd and decidedly more unappetizing—which is exactly the point of this bit of fact-heavy satire from Food & Water Watch. 

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