From Coop to Kitchen: The Custody Plan For a Chicken

Lately, I have taken a slight, but very real, interest in food.  While I am more the baker sort (as I tend to flee from the inevitable responsibilities of having to cook full-on meals and usually opt to dazzle my friends and family with a delectable homemade cheesecake), it is often fascinating and quite rewarding to learn how to make things for myself instead of having to rely on some bagged and random product at the local grocery store.  

Because of this newfound interest, I was originally going to write about my dysfunctional relationship with food and the unhealthy obsession I have with certain aspects of eating it and what it does to my body.  My issues with anxiety attacks, sleeplessness, constant nausea, and emetophobia are being confronted now because I want to learn how to gain some control over these neurotic little quirks of mine.  I finally decided the only way to control some of what my brain/body does is to control what goes into it. But this post took a turn I wasn’t expecting, maybe because I’m not ready to publicly confront my body issues just yet, but I’m quite pleased with the informative bits I have here because it helps all of us gain some control over what goes into our bodies.

*******************

This all starts with a chicken and ends with a chicken.  The same chicken, in case you were wondering (because I’m sure your first thought was I hope it’s the same chicken! instead of why the hell is she all of a sudden talking about a chicken? because that’s usually how chicken stories go…).  This story has nothing to do with any particular chicken, only every single chicken you eat.  And for good measure, I will mention the chicken’s egg once or twice just to make sure you’re paying attention because the egg does play an important role in this story about the chicken.

I know what you’re probably thinking by now:
A) Chicken
B) Egg
C) Nobody really knows which came first.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to get all philosophical up in this bitch.  It just happens that I read something the other day that really struck me as overly confusing in what should be a simple process of monitoring the safety of my food.  It also just happens that my example is of a chicken and all of its poorly equipped agency babysitters.  Granted, the United States government is in charge of it and all, but…oh, there’s your problem.

I know what you’re probably thinking by now:
A) Federal Government
B) Unaccountability
C) Chicken
D) Egg
E) The Federal Government would probably blame the chicken or the egg but doesn’t know which came first so nobody can be held accountable. Certainly not the Federal Government. Psssh, that’s just silly.

Anyway, while I was taking care of the neighbor’s dogs last week, I swiped a few Southern Living, Good Housekeeping, and Better Homes & Garden magazines from her coffee table for the sole purpose of copying recipes involving LOTS O’ BOURBON. It is the holidays, after all. Anyway, while thumbing through one in particular – October 2011’s Good Housekeeping – I came across an article titled “Why Your Food Isn’t Safe” by Madeline Drexler.  Across from the title page was a collage of faces, people of all ages, all races, and from every part of the country who had all died from contaminated food – food that was approved by the government for human consumption.  Spinach, hamburger meat, peanut butter…harmless foods, most of the time, but they are the second, third, and fifth most likely foods to be contaminated, in that order. Take a minute to think about how often you eat those foods.

It gets worse. 

The food that causes the most illnesses in this country?  Yep, the chicken.  Or poultry, to be more exact.  But we’ll keep up with the chicken because there is so much more going on in our little food chain that affects you and nearly everything you eat. You probably just don’t know about it and, quite frankly, neither did I. So I wanted to share it with you.

EGG!  (I told you I’d throw it in every once in awhile to see if you’re paying attention…remember, the egg plays an important role)

From coop to kitchen, here is what your chicken’s (or egg’s) custody plan looks like:

  • A full-bodied, living (or dead) chicken falls under the watchful eyes of the USDA.
  • Egg substitutes, such as Egg Beaters, belong to the FDA.
  • Once you mix anything with liquid egg whites, that product is taken over by the USDA’s FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service). I’d never heard of them before but if their organization’s name is any indication, shouldn’t they be involved in everything I eat? I think that’s a valid question.
  • EGG! (there I go again…) The FDA inspects the quality and health of the egg shell but the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service makes the decisions about quality and size.
  • Finally, since this chicken is feeding us, what’s feeding the chicken? That’s controlled by the FDA.

All this…for a chicken?

Here’s some more for you – the USDA regulates cows, pepperoni pizza, and catfish while the FDA regulates milk, cheese pizza, and tuna.

No wonder the cows are going mad! Ha…bad joke.

I know what you’re probably thinking by now:
A) FDA
B) USDA
C) FSIS
D) Who’s in charge here?

Good luck answering that question.  In the meantime, chew on some of these annual numbers:

  • 48 million Americans contract food poisoning (that’s one in six…ONE IN SIX!)
  • 128,000 adults and children are hospitalized
  • 3,000 of them die
  • Approximately 1,000 disease outbreaks are recognized by the CDC

I can recall only three recent outbreaks.  Why wasn’t I notified of the other roughly 997?

Not all of the above numbers can be attributed to our dear friend, the chicken.  The usual suspects also consist of grains, mollusks, dairy products, and cucumbers, just to name a few more.  But if I researched anymore of that I’d probably never eat again.

* I searched for images with the keywords USDA Chicken and was bombarded with pictures of dog food, dog stew, and other canine snacks. I’m just sayin’…

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