Almost everyone has been on a diet at one point or another, right? But when I talk about suggesting a plant based diet, it is not at all a diet. Even though you may experience dramatic health improvements over a short period of time, please know that if you go back to eating the way that you were before, the symptoms are likely to reappear. To experience life-long benefits, you really need to adopt life-long changes.
For the past couple of years, I have shifted my main focus to human health. But the benefits of the lifestyle choices you’re making extend far beyond yourself. It’s important to understand the impact of your choices, and to see how easy it can be to make a big difference in the world by being more mindful of what you put on your plate. It can also help cement your lifestyle choices when you realize you are taking action that affects those other than yourself. Understanding this may make the difference between making this a diet and making permanent sustainable changes.
In this country, 10 billion animals are slaughtered each year for human consumption. In recent years there has been increasing awareness about the dangers of red meat, and a gradual shift away from eating it. As a result, chickens have been showing up in greater prevalence in the standard American diet. Can anyone guess how many of the 10 billion animals we eat are chickens?…. Anyone? Anyone? OK, I’ll tell you. 9 Billion. Every year.
Most people eat chicken thinking it’s a healthier alternative but when you take away the marketing fluff, the science doesn’t support the claims. Chicken has almost the same level of cholesterol and saturated fat as red meat. And in the case of chicken wings, chicken patties, chicken nuggets, or crispy chicken filets (deep fried, with the skins, and often highly processed), it’s a far cry from a healthy choice!
The birds raised for human consumption have suffered tremendously as a result of an industry trying to meet consumer demand. They have been bred to grow to such unnatural sizes – more than 4 times larger now than in 1957. This takes a toll on their bodies, their mobility, and their immune systems. They are usually riddled with disease and the only way to keep them alive long enough to slaughter is to feed high doses of antibiotics.
Chickens usually live their entire lives in confinement from hatching to slaughter, never seeing the light of day. The unnaturally close confinement causes such stress that they have a tendency to peck at each other. In order to prevent damage to the meat, chickens are “de-beaked” when they are only a couple of hours old. This painful process leaves them deformed and often unable to eat or drink properly. Consumer demand has also forced changes in the actual production of chickens. They have been bred to be larger and larger breasted so that they can provide the white breast meat many consumers prefer. As a result, many can hardly stand. Their musculature far outweighs that which their skeletal structure was designed to support.
Those that survive de-beaking, confinement, disease, and inhumane conditions are the ones that make it to slaughter. Can anyone guess what the typical age is for chickens who are killed for meat? I’d bet anything you’ll never get this right. Ok, I’ll tell you again – six. Weeks. That’s right, the chickens served at KFC, Wegman’s, Kroger, Wendy’s, Hooters, and even Whole Foods likely lived to a ripe old age of 6 weeks. That’s barely old enough for a puppy or kitten to be weaned.
Many people have an aversion to eating lamb or veal, and rightfully so. It seems that the desire for humane treatment is often awarded to babies, regardless of the species. Thank goodness that part of us is still alive and well. It’s just that so many of us didn’t realize that every chicken on your plate is also a baby animal. Well, before now you didn’t realize that. And now?
Once we know better, we can do better! It’s ironic to note that even on Whole Foods’ own website, they advertise how well-fed their chickens are:
All our chickens are raised on strictly vegetarian feed, which means
you don’t have to worry about animal byproducts.
They want you to know that the chickens are strict vegetarians, presumably because they assume you know vegetarians are healthier! And of course you’d want your meat to come from a healthy vegetarian, right? Have you ever thought about where that thick muscular chicken breast got the protein that you’re eating it for? From the strictly vegetarian feed it was raised on!
If that’s not a head-scratcher, I don’t know what is.
If it’s protein you seek, there are excellent sources of plant-based protein that will be more than adequate. Lentils (brown, green, red, black, and yellow), quinoa, chick peas, kidney beans, black beans, cannelini beans, edamame and pinto beans are a few nice options. Of course there’s always some in brown rice, spinach, broccoli, and just about every other plant you can consume. It has been documented time and again that even body builders can get all of the protein they need on a plant-based diet.
So, to recap:
a) It’s harmful to chickens when you eat them.
b) You don’t *need* to consume them for protein.
c) Refer back to the last 7 years of this blog and you’ll find plenty of posts about how animal protein consumption contributes to chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many cancers.