Debate over how to deal with old chickens
Concerns over the welfare of old laying hens in
Northern California has prompted an investigation into alternative ways to deal
with the hens once they are too old to lay eggs, but the costs of alternative
approaches are proving prohibitive.
In the region, old laying hens are turned into compost at a rate of a
half-million hens a year, but some people are concerned that the hens are not
properly euthanised and may suffer as a result.
A food bank proposed making sausage to feed the poor. A reptile enthusiast
suggested using them as food for large exotic pets like pythons and alligators.
And an industry group said in the future they could be used as fuel for power
Californian farmers, however, say that composting is the only affordable
option at present.
The egg-laying birds have only a pound of usable meat, compared to the
5-pound chickens typically raised for eating. Slaughtering the chickens, even to
transport them unprocessed and frozen whole, would likely cost more than
composting them, said Petaluma egg farmer Arnie Reibli.
According to Rich Matteis, head of the Pacific Egg and Poultry
, spent hens could one day be used as fuel to generate
electricity, using a new European technology that can be used to turn dead cows
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