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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Strategic CSR - Chickens

As noted in the article in the first url below, and in previous Newsletters (see Strategic CSR – Anthropocene, Strategic CSR – Extinction, and Strategic CSR - Plastic), scientists have determined that we are now in a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene:
"The 11,700 or so years following the last major ice age are collectively called the Holocene, a geological chapter in earth's biography that includes the development of all human civilization. Some experts argue that humans have fundamentally altered the earth's biosphere to the point where we now live in a new age called the Anthropocene, an amalgamation of the Greek words for 'new' and 'human'. Copernicus was wrong: the earth doesn't revolve around the sun anymore. It revolves around us."
Previously, it was reported that the start of this period was pegged to the 1950s, and the main indicators were the layers of atomic dust (from the open-air nuclear weapons tests that took place at the time) and plastic (from the development and widespread use of that wonderfully adaptable, but environmentally problematic, material). The article also mentions the spread of concrete as an indicator of human domination of the planet. Now, however, another indicator that began around the same time has been identified – the factory-farmed chicken:
"In 2016, the world consumed almost 66 billion chickens. To put that number in perspective, we slaughtered 1.5 billion pigs, 550 million sheep, 460 million goats, and 300 million cattle that same year. About nine out of every 10 terrestrial animals slaughtered for food globally are chickens. And that looks like it may only increase as chicken consumption is growing – especially in developing countries – faster than the consumption of any other land animal."
In particular, it is the bones that are left behind after we eat these chickens that will leave a marker for future beings to know we were here. And we eat so many of them:
"In the wild, bird carcasses either decay or are scavenged by predators. Chicken bones, on the other hand, are discarded in landfills where anaerobic activity tends to mummify more than decay. We may see our appetite for 66 billion chickens a year crystalized in the fossil record long into the future."
To repeat, that is 66 billion chickens a year! The domesticated chicken just might be one of the most successful animal ever in terms of its overwhelming dominance:
"Our planet is covered with chickens. If you took a snapshot of all the birds alive on the planet at this very moment, domesticated poultry – mostly chickens – would have a total biomass about three times greater than all wild bird species combined."
This bird is definitely not natural, but is very much the product of modern science:
"The modern chicken has been bred into an entirely new animal that looks very little like its wild counterpart. Through breeding techniques and feed manipulation, farmed chickens quadrupled in size between the mid-1950s to the mid-2000s. In order to keep them from getting deathly ill and to accelerate growth, chickens are fed antibiotics prophylactically to the tune of half a million pounds a year in America. About 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US and over half sold around the world are fed to farmed animals, accelerating antibiotic-resistance in bacteria – a public health crisis already killing at least 700,000 people across the globe annually."
For an indication of the extent to which chickens are, today, manufactured (rather than natural), see this graphic taken from the article in the second url below, showing the size of a 56 day old chicken in 1957, 1978, and 2005:
For additional commentary on the domestic chicken, see the great segment John Oliver did on this wonder of modern science:
Take care
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Why your chicken wings means we've entered a new epoch
By Max Elder
January 10, 2019
The Guardian
Ruling the roost
January 19, 2019
The Economist
Late Edition – Final