Poultry Executive and Meatingplace.com Discuss the Bird and the New American Workforce

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Chicken is a really complicated subject for me. Not because I love or hate it. I can take it or leave it. But, things got complicated in mass comm class in college when a hippie delivered a very dramatic and persuasive speech about why we shouldn't eat chicken. She nailed it. I didn't eat the bird for two years.

I'm definitely not against the bird -- my family and I regularly feast on chicken. Just last night, in fact. But, the supply chain for any mass-produced food always fascinates me. This morning MeatingPlace.com posted an interview with a poultry executive, Tom Hensley with the Cornelia, Georgia-based Fieldale Farms Corp., which produces 3 million birds a week.

The interview highlights some important issues about the processing-side of things. When you buy your next pound of all white meat, here are a few things to consider:

1. Stunning methods make chickens "crazy" and is something I'd prefer never to witness. Hensley said that regardless of what some say about low atmospheric pressure systems (LAPs) -- a disputably "humane" method of killing chickens by depriving them of air -- chickens flap around madly the cages, resulting in 5 percent more broken wings. "And you can't afford 5 percent broken wings at $1.85 a pound."

2. Corn is really expensive and with more than 200 ethanol plants consuming the crop now, corn prices will continue to drive up food costs for everyone.

3. Hell yeah, Hensley is worried about the Humane Society. He knows his industry is in the cross hairs, but says he feels OK about how he treats his animals. "One, it is the right thing to do," said Hensley, "Two, a humanely treated animal grows better and faster and is more consistent and better for processing."

4. Finding people to work in his factories is the thing that keeps Hensley up at night, "Keeping up with a machine is hard work. It involves using muscles that these folks being hired now have never used. The Hispanic work force has declined. Now we are hiring middle-aged Americans who are not used to this type of work."

5. Hensley wants you all to eat more chicken. And maybe work out a little too.

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