In the house of the pecking quail
If you’ve never been surrounded by tens of thousands of quail, I highly recommend the experience. I had a chance to do just that during my visit to Manchester Farms for this month’s cover story. With all due respect to the noble chicken, they can’t touch the quail in terms of cuteness. The ones who pecked my shoes while I shuffled around in their house? Cute. The one that graciously posed for a photo with me? Cute. The chicks in the hatchery? If my daughters had seen them, they would have tried to smuggle some out in their pockets they were so cute.
It wasn’t my first behind-the-scenes tour of a poultry facility, and while the species of bird may change, the care given to them was the same. The houses were clean, quiet and odor-free, even with so many birds under one roof. The birds are quiet and content, and there were no signs of any injured or suffering animals.
If you’re in the poultry industry, I’m not telling you anything new. However, for the average consumer who has no such experience, they would probably be surprised about my description of a poultry house. That is why the “undercover video” of a Perdue chicken farmer who let an animal rights group show the poor conditions of his animals was met with diverse reactions.
People with no knowledge of the industry wondered how chicken companies could be so cruel. People within the industry wondered why this farmer was in business if he had so little care for the welfare of his birds. Indeed, Perdue released a statement that said, “the conditions shown in this farmer’s poultry house do not reflect Perdue’s standards for how our chickens are raised.”
It’s a shame that consumers are so willing to believe negative stories about agriculture when positive stories are so easy to find. Here is hoping that the New Year will bring more transparency to the industry, to highlight the best practices instead of the worst.
It’s never too early to think about this year’s Independent Processor of the Year Award, to be presented in the August issue. Last year’s winner, Queen City Sausage, got our program off to a great start, and we’re excited to honor another small or mid-sized processor who represents the best aspects of the meat industry. We’re looking for successful companies that excel in areas like product innovation, sustainability and community/employee welfare. If you would like to place your company under consideration for this year’s award, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Congratulations to Jerry Christy, Jay Parizek and Paul Nichols! They were the winners of our I Love Going to the Butcher giveaway, and each won a signed copy of Lee Seelig’s book. Thanks to everyone who entered, and to Lee for his generosity in providing the books.