Burger King is now owned by a venture capital firm from Brazil. About a month ago, they started making radical menu changes, a subject probably of little interest.
Today’s news – I thought I was hearing an Onion News spoof at first – is that Burger King is going to only use “Free Range” chickens and eggs, and pork that is raised more humanely.
This appears to be in part due to the effort of the Humane Society of the United States. Just yesterday while testing, I was hearing a local show talking about the fraud called the HSUS – it’s a political lobbying group that has nothing to do with making sure Fido is treated well in the local pet shelter. HSUS deliberately chose the name to create that confusion of what their political agenda is.
What “Free Range” means…. most chickens today are raised in cages. What happens to a baby chicken depends on its sex. After being hatched, most of the male chickens are immediately killed. A male chicken may be castrated and turned into a “Capon”, which causes it to grow up big, fat and juicy rather than thin and stringy and tough from running after the hens, but capons are a somewhat unusual food item.
The females (Pullets) head one of two paths (based on the genetics of the chicken) – to become a “broiler” (American term) which means in 7 or 8 weeks, they are slaughtered and show up at KFC.
The other path are hen layers – a hen has an exact number of eggs it can possibly lay in its lifetime. The hens won’t start laying for 4-6 months. Under ideal conditions, they’ll lay one egg a day. Once they have laid those eggs, there is no point to continuing to feed the hen – but at a year and half of age, it is too tough to use as fried chicken – it is sold as a baking hen (not to be confused with a Roaster, which is a just a young hen allowed to grow a bit larger, but slaughtered before it starts laying eggs).
You probably have heard the term “Pecking Order”. That’s not an abstract term – if you allow hens to roam freely “true free range”, the hens spend the day pecking each other, setting up a chain of dominance of which hen is the most important hen. When hens peck at each other, they get open wounds that can become infected. Generally, the sharp part of the beaks are cut off to prevent the pecking.
In “Farm Production”, hens are kept in cages away from each other. There is no pecking order as the only contact hens have with each other is through the holes in the cage next to them. Eggs are gathered from the cages and the hens are basically eating machines until their egg count hits its maximum or they otherwise become unproductive.
A small portion of the hen population are those used to lay eggs not for food, but to lay fertile eggs. In “Farm Production”, this is not random. Over generations, chickens have been measured to see which ones produced the best meat for the lowest amount of feed or the most eggs the fastest. Only those genetics are passed on. It’s Social Darwinism with humans controlling the process.
The further away we get away from understanding the reality of what food is and how it is raised, the more people will be ruled by their emotions and pursue silly ideas like that hens pecking each other and killing the weak chickens and spreading infections to each other is more “humane” than living in a cage.