2008-09 Gathering of Voices

Malicious McNuggets:
How the Modern Chicken Industry is McDonaldized

Francis Sauter

In any modern-day supermarket, you’ll find manufactured chicken in all shapes and sizes. Diced and sliced, canned and whole, chicken is filling a growing demand as customers shift away from red meats. Wrapped in shiny plastic, the tender white meat is appealing for many consumers. But hidden behind the superficial fabrication are unspeakable horrors.

Nearly ten billion chickens are hatched in the United States annually (“Factory Poultry” 1). Thousands of birds are crowded into massive, factory-like warehouses, with less than one half a square foot of space per bird. Such confinement densities make it impossible for birds to carry out normal behaviors so natural social order is nonexistent. Yet, companies just want to find the least amount of floor space necessary to produce the greatest return on investment. Chicks have the end of their beaks seared off to reduce injuries when stressed birds are driven to fighting. These mutilations are typically performed without anesthesia (“Factory Poultry” 1).

“Factory farms” are unsanitary and disease runs rampant. A Washington Post writer said that the “dust, feathers, and ammonia choke the air in the chicken house and fans turn it into airborne sandpaper, rubbing skin raw” (Goodman A23). Excrement is left to rot among the chickens, and the creatures are forced to inhale the stench of feces 24/7. Michael Specter of The New Yorker reported that he was “almost knocked to the ground by the overpowering smell of feces and ammonia” (Specter 52). His “eyes burned” and he could “neither see nor breathe” (Specter 52). Broilers’ lives are a horrible six-week nightmare of total darkness. Many suffer from chronic respiratory diseases, weakened immune systems, bronchitis, and “ammonia burn,” a painful eye condition (“Diagnosis of

Poultry Disease” 1). Birds often experience heat prostration, infection, and cancer. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 98% of chicken carcasses are contaminated with E. coli bacteria by the time they reach the grocery store, largely due to the filthy conditions on the farms.

Today’s broiler chickens have been genetically altered to grow twice as fast and twice as large as their historical counterparts. Hundreds of millions of birds die every year before reaching slaughter weight at six to eight weeks of age. The average breast of an eight-week old chicken is seven times heavier today than it was 25 years ago (). In the 1950s, it took 84 days to raise a five-pound chicken. Due to selective breeding and growth- promoting drugs, it now takes an average of only 45 days (“A COK Report” 2). The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture puts the growth rate in perspective: “If you grew as fast as a chicken, you’d weigh 349 pounds at age 2” (qtd. in “A COK Report” 2).

Pushed beyond their biological limits, chickens suffer crippling leg disorders, as their frail legs are not made to support their abnormally large bodies. As a result of lameness, six-week old broilers spend 76 to 86 percent of their time lying down amid putrid excrement (Weeks 1). This causes breast blisters, burns, and foot pad dermatitis (Esteviz 1). Some birds develop such obesity that they are unable to reach the water nozzles. An industry journal, Feedstuffs, explains that “broilers now grow so rapidly that the heart and lungs are not developed well enough to support the remainder of the body, resulting in congestive heart failure and tremendous death losses” (“A COK Report” 1). Two researchers wondered: “Is it more profitable to grow the biggest bird and have increased mortality due to heart attacks, ascites, and leg problems, or should birds be grown slower so that birds are smaller, but have fewer heart, lung and skeletal problems? . . . A large portion of growers’ pay is based on the pound of saleable meat produced, so simple calculations suggest that it is better to get the weight and ignore the mortality.” To put it simply, companies are willing to run the risk of health problems if it guarantees the heaviest bird possible. And they’ll do their best to keep corpulent fowl packing on the pounds. Chickens are fed immense quantities of antibiotics to keep them alive in horrific conditions; approximately 11 million pounds of antibiotics are used every year in poultry feed, whereas only 3 million pounds go towards human medicine, estimates the Union of Concerned Scientists (Hayes 1).

 Upon reaching slaughter weight, chickens are shipped to the slaughterhouse in crates stacked atop the backs of open trucks (“Factory Poultry” 2). Tens of millions of birds suffer broken legs and wings due to rough handling. During transportation, birds are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, and many are expected to die from heat stress or freeze to death. After hundreds of miles on the truck, the birds are either yanked by the handful from their cages, or cranes or forklifts lift the crates. As they are dumped onto a conveyer belt, chickens often miss the belt and fall to the ground. Slaughterhouse workers don’t have the time to rescue fallen birds; so some are crushed by machinery, while others may die of starvation or exposure weeks later (“Factory Poultry” 2).

Fully conscious birds are snapped upside-down by workers, and hung by their ankles from metal shackles along a moving rail (“Factory Poultry” 2). Many slaughter plants first stun the birds in an electrified water bath to immobilize them and therefore increase efficiency during killing. In the United States it is not mandatory to render a chicken unconscious before bleeding and scalding, so the electrical current is commonly set at one-tenth the level required to knock out the chickens. Many birds are still capable of feeling pain as they emerge from the tank. (“Factory Poultry” 2). Next, their throats are slashed, often by a mechanical blade. The blade inevitably misses the throats of struggling birds, but slaughter line speeds of up to 8,400 chickens per hour hardly permit accuracy during killing (“A COK Report” 2). Consequently, quite a few chickens are still fully conscious when they enter the boiling hot water of the scalding tank. In fact, so many birds are boiled alive that the industry nicknamed them ‘redskins’ (“Factory Poultry” 3).

As you can see, the broiler industry focuses more on the quantity of meat produced and the speed of production than the quality of the birds’ life. In other words, profits have taken priority over animal welfare. This is what George Ritzer calls “McDonaldization. In his article, “An Introduction to McDonaldization,” George Ritzer refers to a specific form of business management that is currently widely-spread throughout the United States. Such systems tend to involve a rationalized process, which means that all elements of the process are tightly managed to ensure “efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control” (Ritzer 1). According to Ritzer, although these systems amount to massive profits, there are hidden costs, including environmental damage, dehumanization of employees, reduction of choice, elevation of quantity over quality, de-personalization of services, and disenchantment. Ritzer strongly emphasizes his point that “the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society” (1).

The broiler industry clearly exemplifies McDonaldization. The sixty companies ruling the industry have created an undeniable “oligopoly” (“Factory Farming” 1), which revolves around the mantra: push for more weight, faster lines, and higher profits, and ignore the suffering of innocent chickens. Factory farming originated in the 1920s, soon after the discovery of the vitamins A and D (“Factory Farming” 1). As these vitamins were added to feed, animals no longer required exercise and sunlight for growth (“Factory Farming” 1). Disease spread rapidly through the new indoor farms, but this was quickly combated with the development of antibiotics in the 1940s (“Factory Farming” 1). Companies found they could increase productivity and reduce expenses by using assembly-line techniques. Mechanization provided speed and efficiency. But while profits soared, animals suffered incredible pain. Their treatment as living, breathing creatures abruptly terminated; after all, they were machines.

True, says my inner skeptic, but who cares? These are animals we’re talking about, not human beings. You act as if they’ll go on strike. Besides, you know very well that the modern poultry industry employs tens of thousands of workers. People need these jobs to feed their families and pay for basic necessities.

Yes, people do depend on the broiler industry for employment. Yes, people do need to provide for their families. But are they really getting the wages they deserve? During the 1990s, poultry industry profits rose over 300 percent. (“Injury” 1). Over the past five years, operating profits have more than tripled. As conglomerates prosper, their employees do not share in the good fortune. A study by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union found that real wages for workers have increased by “less than 1% over the past decade” (“Injury” 1). 71 percent of all contract poultry growers earn below poverty-level wages. Chicken catchers earn roughly $92 per day, as opposed to $107.70 a decade ago, regardless of their twelve-hour daily shifts (“Injury” 1). And working in a slaughter plant is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Illness and injury rates for poultry workers are twice those for all manufacturing. One in every five poultry workers is injured on the job. And increasing line speeds aren’t helping matters. Each worker processes an average of 190 birds per hour, up from 143 ten years ago (“Injury” 1). Making the same repetitive cutting motion 10,000 to 40,000 times a shift, workers commonly experience repetitive stress injuries, along with lacerations and amputations.

Immigrants are enticed to work at poultry plants with the promise of good jobs with decent benefits. But in reality, workers are treated very poorly. A 2000 survey by the Department of Labor found that over 60 percent of plants violated basic wage and hour laws (“Injury” 2). The survey also pointed out that over 50 percent of poultry plants illegally force workers to pay for their own safety equipment. Workers are usually denied payment for working overtime. This not only cuts into their regular wages, but also reduces their retirement benefit (“Injury” 2). On May 9, 2002, after a hefty lawsuit, twenty-five thousand poultry workers got millions in return for the off-the-clock violations of Perdue Farms (“Injury” 2). On August 7, Perdue Farms announced it would pay ten million dollars in compensation its failure to pay 60,000 workers at 18 plants for time spent administering protective gear (“Injury” 3). Tyson Foods, another poultry corporation, was charged with cheating its employees out of wages by forcing them to work overtime without pay and denying break time.

Contract poultry growers are no better off. Growers provide all of the land, buildings, equipment, utilities, and labor in raising a company’s birds to slaughter-age (“Industry” 3). To eek a living out as a chicken grower, one must first sign a firm contract, accepting the company’s terms without any personal input. Earnings of a grower are determined by calculating the weight of the market-ready birds, the weight of the feed delivered by the company, and the ratio of live birds to feed consumed (“Injury” 3). And it’s no surprise that companies often corrupt these numbers to their own advantage.

Chicken catchers put up with more than just meager salaries. They work late night shifts since birds are calmer and easier to capture during the night. Scooping up handfuls of chickens and tossing them into crates to be hauled to the slaughterhouse is not child’s play. Catchers suffer from respiratory diseases due to dust and bacteria on filthy factory farms. One researcher says: “Saturated with ammonia and thick with the dust of feed and feces, each breath feels like sandpaper against the lungs” (Nutt 1). Wherever the catchers “walk their boots kick up whirlpools of powder and when they emerge at dusk, after 10 or 12 hours, they shimmer in the pale ash that covers them head to foot” (Nutt 1). It’s no wonder their chronically ill. In addition, they are illegally considered “independent contractors,” so companies refuse to pay them for overtime or provide a safe workplace.

Farm workers face health issues as a result of bacteria, fecal matter, and toxic gas that go hand in hand with factory farming. A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that “more than half of processing plant employees and more than 40 percent of [a sample of] chicken catchers tested positive for campylobacter, which causes cramping, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever” (Nutt 1). The American Veterinary Medical Association warns that workers frequently suffer from hearing loss due to the constant loud noise of animals and machinery (Kuehn 1). High concentrations of particulates and airborne dust enhance the toxic effects of irritating gases or chemicals (“Iowa” 126). Certain mineral particulates, such as silica dioxide, can provoke pulmonary inflammatory and scarring conditions known as pneumoconiosis (“Iowa” 126). Simple dust particles can have long-term effects on the respiratory system. According to a study released in 2002 by the Iowa State University, up to 70 percent of workers in concentrated animal feeding operations are afflicted with acute bronchitis, and up to 25% are afflicted with chronic bronchitis (“Iowa” 133). These employees are often exposed to hydrogen sulfide when they work near decomposing animal wastes or breathe fumes from manure pits (“Iowa” 124). Hydrogen sulfide levels above 100 ppm are considered immediately hazardous to life and health, but “levels as high as 1,000 ppm have been reported following the perturbation of manure lagoons” (“Iowa” 124). Workers also inhale ammonia on a regular basis, which damages the upper airway epithelia, and irritates the eyes, sinuses, and skin (“Iowa” 123). Kevin Harmon, a 32-year-old chicken catcher from Virginia, told reporters: “The ammonia rises up from the manure and it takes your breath away. I used to throw up a lot; cough a lot, too. I have diarrhea all the time” (Nutt 2).

Employees at the slaughterhouse have it the worst. Although the rate of cumulative trauma injuries at slaughterhouses is 33 times higher than the national average in industry (Schlosser 173), workers rarely take time off, file a health insurance form, or fill out a workers’ compensation claim. If they do, they will likely by fired. One worker confesses: “I worry every day that I will break my hand or get hurt, but I never say anything for fear I’ll lose my job. No American would do this job. This is a shit job, for shit money” (qtd. in Clarren 1). Radio advertisements lure Mexican immigrants to meatpacking plants in the U.S. (Gardner 2). Illegal immigrants are often recruited for the job, attracted by the promise of financial security for their families. But these promises are short-lived. In one instance, a meat company actually bussed workers from the Mexico border to a homeless shelter in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The meat industry has also been caught exploiting children – hiring people in their early teens who are too young to work legally in the United States. In November 1999, the U.S. Department of Labor fined Tyson Foods, Inc., for violations of federal child labor laws that contributed to the death of a 15-year-old employed in the firm's Hempstead County, Arkansas facility and the serious injury of a 14-year-old employed in its Sedalia, Missouri facility (Mokhiber 22). The company was fined $59,274 for violations of the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act at two of its plants (Mokhiber 22).

To put this in perspective: Tyson Foods was named one of the “The Ten Worst Corporations of 1999” (Mokhiber 21). This is largely due to the fact that seven workers have been killed at Tyson facilities in the past seven months (Mokhiber 21). On August 5, 1999, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union demanded that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration launch an investigation of Tyson poultry plants across the country. The order came after James Dame, Jr. and Mike Hallum fell into an open pit of decomposing chicken parts and by-products and suffocated from the methane gas emissions at Tyson's Robards, Kentucky facility (Mokhiber 21). The Robards plant had not undergone state or federal inspection by Occupational Safety and Health agencies since January 1998. Furthermore, Tyson was found to have a high number of wage and hour law violations and workplace injuries. As the industry leader, Tyson sets the standards for working conditions in poultry plants. If Tyson continues to set a bad example, other companies may follow in its footsteps.

Union busting is another common tactic of the meatpacking industry. Illegal intimidation and harassment ensure that pro-union employees are silenced. The Human Rights Watch discovered that workers who “try to form trade unions and bargain collectively are spied on, harassed, pressured, threatened, suspended, fired, deported, or otherwise victimized for their exercise of the right to freedom of association” (“Blood” 13). Employees are also pressured to refrain from reporting work-related injuries in an effort to keep insurance costs low. Those who work with struggling animals are at constant risk of being hurt. Russell Cobb, author of “The Chicken Hangers,” elucidates the details: “The birds, weighing approximately five pounds each, fight back by pecking, biting, and scratching the hangers . . . Then, as workers finally hoist the birds unto the hooks, the chickens urinate and defecate out of desperation, often hitting the workers below” (13). Hangers often suffer debilitating injuries such as the trauma-induced ‘claw-hand,’ in which the injured fingers lock in a curled position (“Blood” 36). Employees handle frightened animals, along with knives, hooks, and heavy machinery, while line speeds increase inexorably. And to top it off, workers are rarely given time to stop and catch their breath, let alone relieve themselves. Joe Fahey, a Teamster investigator, reports his visit to an IBP meatpacking plant in Pasco, Washington: “People were crying, talking about being covered in diarrhea the entire shift because the supervisor wouldn't let them go to the bathroom” (qtd. in Olsson 2).

The frantic, fast-paced environment does not provide workers with any opportunity to ensure that they are taking proper safety precautions. Slaughterhouse worker Maria Martinez explains: “The chain goes so fast it doesn’t even give the animals enough time to die. People don’t even have time to wash their knife if it falls on the floor” (qtd. in Olsson 4). Employees are routinely forced to cut up animals that are still alive, struggling to escape. Knives inevitably slip, and injuries are everyday occurrences. A former factory nurse says she “could always tell the line speed by the number of people with lacerations coming into my office” (qtd. in Gardner 3). Fast lines speeds make it difficult for workers to prevent contamination of the animal carcasses. As one Northwest Arkansas poultry worker describes, everybody “is on top of each other, so a lot of people get cut, especially their hands. Or they stick themselves with [marinade] injection needles. Blood and flesh fall into the meat. The birds just keep going” (qtd. in “Blood” 38). Another poultry worker sums it up this way: “The lines are too fast. The speed is for machines, not for people” (qtd. in “Blood” 36). Clearly, the broiler industry is dehumanizing workers in an effort to gain higher profits.

All right, you say, but what about the fact that chicken provides a cheap, efficient source of protein for America? What about the fact that chicken consumption has more than doubled over the turn of the century, rising from 27.4 pounds per person in 1970 to 59.2 pounds per person in 2004 (Buzby 1)? What about the fact that, for many parents, McDonalds is the only financially feasible option, and Chicken McNuggets are the most convenient, kid-friendly item on the menu? What’s wrong with chicken, anyway? It’s relatively healthy, inexpensive, and tasty. And it’s the easiest way to fill your child’s belly after a hard day’s work.

The nutritional aspects of chicken come at a price these days. Modern poultry are loaded with bacteria resulting from disease, uncontrolled waste, and filthy conditions at factory farms. Fast line speeds at slaughter plants cut down on the time workers spend inspecting carcasses for contamination. Eating animal products contaminated with bacteria can result in food poisoning, which causes symptoms ranging from stomach cramps and diarrhea to organ failure and death. The Center for Science in the Public Interest compiled a report announcing that 75 million cases of food poisoning occur in the United States each year, and each year, 5,000 of these cases are fatal (“CSPI” 1). Antibiotics fed to meat birds to promote growth and fight illness may also pose a threat to human consumers. Take arsenic, for instance. Arsenic is a heavy metal, a poison that naturally occurs in trace amounts of drinking water, dust, and wood (O’Brien 2). Daily exposure to lower levels of arsenic may lead to skin, respiratory, and bladder cancers (O’Brien 2). In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency has limited arsenic in drinking water to a maximum level of 10 micrograms per liter (O’Brien 2). But arsenic has been used for decades to stave of infections in chickens and help poultry grow bigger, faster. On factory farms, chickens are fed arsenic through an antimicrobial drug known as Roxarsone (O’Brien 2). In a January 2003 study, USDA researchers confirmed that arsenic levels in chicken were four times higher than those in other meats (O’Brien 2). Not all of the arsenic the chickens ingested was being excreted through their manure. Researchers discovered that eating 2 ounces of chicken per day exposes a consumer to 3 to 5 micrograms of inorganic arsenic, the element’s most toxic form (O’Brien 2). Chicken lovers may eat up to 10 times that amount (O’Brien 2).

Arsenic is also a problem for Mother Nature. Ellen K. Silbergeld, a prominent toxicologist who won a MacArthur Foundation ‘genius grant’ in 1993, says that arsenic in chicken feed ends up contaminating ground water in areas surrounding factory farms (O’Brien 1). Arsenic in the chicken manure is broken down by sunlight. It then migrates to the soil, where it can easily taint groundwater (O’Brien 1).

Abuse of pharmaceuticals in chicken feed has also spurred the evolution of antibiotic-resistant super-bacteria. A study by Johns Hopkins University focused on antibiotic resistance, specifically fluoroquinolone-resistance in campylobacter (“Drug-Resistant” 1). Campylobacter bacteria are responsible for 2.4 million cases of food-borne illness per year in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“Drug-Resistant” 1). Study author Lance Price, a doctoral candidate and member of the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future, contended that “our use of medically important classes of antibiotics in food-animal production creates a significant public health concern. Companies that use antibiotics foster the development of drug-resistant bacteria which can spread to the human population” (qtd. in “Drug-Resistant” 1). Poultry products are a major source of campylobacter infections in humans. Danger of infection through undercooked products or cross-contamination is heightened when the pathogen is antibiotic-resistant (“Drug-Resistant” 1). Fluoroquinolones are some of the most important drugs used to treat a variety of infections. Widespread presence of the drug-resistant form of campylobacter makes the antibiotic less effective in human medicine (“Drug-Resistant” 1).

The Food and Drug Administration proposed to withdraw approval of fluoroquinolone drugs for use in poultry production in 2000. In 2002, poultry producers Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms proclaimed that they would immediately stop using fluoroquinolones to treat their flocks (“Drug-Resistant” 1). A year later, Price and his team began a survey of campylobacter isolates on uncooked chicken products from Tyson and Perdue. They also investigated products from two other companies, Eberly and Bell & Evans, who claimed that their chickens were completely antibiotic free. Ninety-six percent of the Tyson products tested and forty-three percent of the Perdue products tested were contaminated with fluoroquinolone-resistant bacteria (“Drug-Resistant” 1). On the contrary, only five percent of the Eberly products tested and thirteen percent of the Bell & Evans products tested were contaminated (“Drug-Resistant” 1). These results lead Price to believe that fluoroquinolone-resistant bacteria may persist in the commercial poultry environment for a substantial period of time, even after antibiotic use is terminated, and that “fluoroquinolone use in poultry production presents a long-term threat to people” (qtd. in “Drug-Resistant” 1).

If bacteria, hormones, and arsenic don’t take their toll on human health, dioxins certainly will. Dioxins are a group of chemical compounds that share certain chemical structures and biological characteristics (“What Are Dioxins?” 1). These compounds are members of three closely-related families: chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, chlorinated dibenzofurans, and polychlorinated biphenyls (“What Are Dioxins?” 1). Dioxins are the result of combustion processes such as commercial or municipal waste incineration. Within animals, dioxins tend to accumulate in fat. Over 95% of human exposure to dioxins occurs through dietary intake of animal fats (“What Are Dioxins?” 2). Why the worry? Well, studies have shown that exposure to high levels of dioxins has an adverse effect on health. People exposed to large amounts of dioxin often suffer from chloracne, a severe skin disease that causes acne-like lesions on the face and upper body (“What Are Dioxins?” 1). Dioxins also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration, excessive body hair, and mild liver damage (“What Are Dioxins?” 1). Some studies suggest that people exposed to high levels of dioxins over long periods of time have an increased risk of cancer (“What Are Dioxins?” 1). Low levels of dioxin exposure over many, many years might result in reproductive or developmental problems (“What Are Dioxins?” 1).

So, if commercially produced chicken meat is so horrible, what are we supposed to eat? How about free-range and organic poultry? Labels like “free-range,” “organic,” “cage-free,” and “all-natural” comfort the consumer. These reassuring words conjure up images of healthy animals roaming freely in green pastures on warm sunny afternoons, chickens clucking to one another as they scratch for seeds. In order to be labeled as “free-range,” a chicken must be provided with ‘access to open air runs’ that are ‘mainly covered with vegetation.’ Meat birds must live for at least 56 days (“Welfare” 1). Fresh grass and fresh air are great for a bird’s physical and mental health. “Free-range” sounds a whole lot better than life on a factory farm.

However, commercial free-range production falls short of the image portrayed. Non-organic “free-range” chickens can be reared in very large flocks, compromising their health and welfare (“Welfare” 1). Organically certified birds are raised in flocks of up to 9,000 (“Welfare” 5). Many non-organic “free-range” birds never see the light of day, due to the massive quantity of chickens and unsatisfactory conditions. Shelter is not required in the range area for broilers, which may further discourage them from venturing outdoors. Quarters are cramped. Stocking densities inside the chicken house may be up to 13 birds per square meter (“Welfare” 4). Organic certifiers permit ten to sixteen birds per square meter, but often allow up to twenty (“Welfare” 4). Pasture is rarely rested, so access to fresh grass is limited and disease may build up in the soil (“Welfare” 1). Research has proven that a large majority of free-range birds are free-range in name only. According to the Soil Association, a “literature review by Elm Farm Research Centre concluded that ‘many of the birds in free-range poultry production do not leave the house’” (“Welfare” 2). During some studies, the number of non-organic “free-range” birds “venturing outside at one time was as low as 12 to 15% of the flock” (“Welfare” 2).

Labels like “farm fresh” and “country fresh” are misleading- they do not mean “free-range.” Many marketers now sell meat from “corn-fed” chickens. Consumers are attracted to the yellow meat and perceived enhanced flavor. Although there are no legal standards for “corn-fed” chickens, there is a general consensus that fowl must be fed at least 50 percent corn for the fattening period (“Welfare” 2). These chickens typically live indoors for their entire lives and eat GM corn (“Welfare” 3). Most non-organic chickens bear the Red Tractor mark, indicating that they were produced under Assured Food Standards. A study by Compassion in World Farming found that Red Tractor chicken standards “fulfilled only 5 out of 13 animal welfare criteria” (“Welfare” 3).

So packaging is clearly an illusion, a hyper-reality. There is a thick curtain between the consumer and the life of the broiler chicken. We have lost contact with how our food is produced. We have forgotten that there is a life attached to the slab of tender white meat we see in the grocery store. We have forgotten the blood, the gore, the guts, the unpleasant things that connect to our meals. We have forgotten to look out for the welfare of the innocent creature behind our McNuggets, the welfare of the people who manufacture our chicken, the welfare of our own bodies. And this is all the result of the McDonaldization of the poultry industry. By emphasizing control, calculability, predictability, and efficiency, his form of business management has gradually drawn our attention away from the more pressing matters at hand. If this is how we treat our animals, how we treat employees, how we treat ourselves, how will we treat other people? How will society behave as a whole? Will we overcome this lasting “oligopoly” (“Factory Farms” 1), or will our form of existence become a McDonalds of sorts? Will we hear the last pleading cluck for mercy, or will all living creatures turn into machines?

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