Ongoing plight of pigs and chickens—

Mark Bittman -- New York Times

After 401 days of blogging about “the big picture” of what we eat and the impact that it has on our world, one of my most-referenced journalists is Mark Bittman of the New York Times. Like me, Mark fully understands the big picture. Unlike me, he’s chosen not to become an activist to bring about rapid change. But, his routine articles are making a difference.

In the past week, Mark has published one article about pigs and their gestation crates and one about chicken and their best hope for ending the suffering of over 8 billion a year in just the United States. The answer, according to Mark, is fake chicken. They’re doing such a great job of making “chicken” out of soy these days, that they fooled Mark almost every time in a series of taste-tests.

Of course, I have my concerns about fake chickens, fake eggs, fake hamburgers or anything fake for that matter. Two concerns:

This is how we raise the real thing---over 8 billion "broilers" in just the USA each year.

  1. Not as healthy as whole plants. Fake meats and cheeses are highly processed and typically contain way too much sodium.
  2. Just get over it, already. How can you possibly free yourself to fully enjoy the tasteful bounty of flavors and textures of the natural foods for our species—if we continue to try to make “cheesy” imitations of the animal-based foods for which we weren’t designed?

On the other hand, Mark is showing people how they can have their chicken and eat it too. They can free themselves of the guilt of complicity involving the horrid treatment of roughly 50 billion “broilers” worldwide AND they can still have their chicken wraps, nuggets and the essential “chicken soup” for when they get sick.

So how are these fake chickens made? Ever seen an extrusion process in an aluminum factory? While there is a 5-minute video of Mark in the New York Times article, here is a one-minute version of essentially the same process. I will have to admit that it’s a HUGE improvement over the hormones, antibiotics, torture and feces associated with the traditional chicken “manufacturing” process.

Back to Mr. Bittman. I like the way he wrapped up the article—touching on the big picture impact of raising all those billions of factory animals. From the article:

I don’t believe chickens have souls, but it’s obvious they have real lives, consciousness and feeling, and they’re capable of suffering, so any reduction in the number killed each year would be good. If that’s too touchy-feely for you, how’s this? Producers have difficulty efficiently dealing with the manure, wastewater and post-slaughter residue that result from raising animals industrially; chickens, for example, produce about as much waste as their intake of feed.

Then there’s the antibiotic issue: roughly 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in this country are given to animals, which has increased the number of antibiotic-resistant diseases as well as the presence of arsenic in the soil and our food.

The health issues: Nearly every test of supermarket chicken finds high percentages — sometimes as high as two out of three samples — of staph, salmonella, campylobacter, listeria or the disease-causing antibiotic-resistant bacteria called MRSA.

The USDA on the bandwagon? Even the Department of Agriculture is now on the side of plant-based diets. Its “Dietary Guidelines” say “vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes.”

And almost all unbiased people agree that less meat is better than more: for our health, for the environment and certainly for the animals treated as widgets.

Pregnant sows may say goodbye to these gestation crates within the next five years.

Then, there’s the pigs. Since that Chipotle Grill video, there’s been quite a bit of news lately about the huge food companies’  actions to force food producers to eliminate the use of “gestation crates” for sows within the next three to five years.

As if that is going to reduce the overall suffering in factory farms by more than a fraction—sounds a lot like lip service to me. The article led off with news about Compass Group, USA:

The Charlotte-based U.S. branch of the company runs roughly 10,000 dining facilities at hospitals, senior living centers, schools, colleges and universities, corporate offices and entertainment and sports venues around the country, and purchases around 38 million pounds of pork every year.

How about that? Compass buys 38 million pounds of pork every year and much of it is served to patients in hospitals across the land. The serving of disease-promoting foods in hospitals is pretty clever marketing—raising the odds of keeping all those “disease care” facilities full of people. Now everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon; from the article:

Last month, McDonald’s announced that it is requiring all of its pork suppliers to submit plans for phasing out gestation crates by May, at which point the company will likely set a timeline for eliminating the crates from its U.S supply chain (2017 would be a reasonable guess).  Compass-owned Bon Appétit Management Company also committed last month to eliminate gestation crates(and hen battery cages) by 2015, while Smithfield, Cargill and Hormel are all making efforts to reduce their use of the crates as well.

So do you think these actions are going to do any good? Take a look at this short (less than 3 minutes) video and get a first-hand look at what continues to happen to pigs who never see the inside of gestation crate.

When do we end the madness, give the poor suffering animals a break and start taking charge of our own health by making an ultra-simple lifestyle switch to eating whole plants? For your convenience, the two articles:

Finally, Fake Chicken Worth Eating –

Article about the Gestation Crates –

Thanks Mark, for helping to move us in the right direction.

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

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—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at

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About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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9 Responses to Ongoing plight of pigs and chickens—

  1. genxgemini says:

    Oh my god. I finally watched the YouTube video (that you’ve posted before) linked above showing how pigs are treated in these factory farms. I had to start closing my eyes, and I burst into tears. This is even worse than I imagined. It was hard to watch but I’m glad I did. Thank you for sharing.

  2. genxgemini says:

    “Just get over it, already. How can you possibly free yourself to fully enjoy the tasteful bounty of flavors and textures of the natural foods for our species—if we continue to try to make “cheesy” imitations of the animal-based foods for which we weren’t designed?”


  3. Anne says:

    I see both sides of the discussion. Having said that the fake products are terrible and not healthy.
    I really think that most of those products are loaded with isolated soy protein and everyone should avoid that.

  4. Michelle says:

    Fake meats, though not the healthiest of food choices, are better choices than real meats. They can open a window to plant-based nutrition for the veg curious, and help make a plant-based diet more accessible. Did you have any confusion regarding what to cook when you were just starting out? This is where the fake meats can help. And then, as that person, that family, ventures further into plant-based nutrition, the fake meats fall away… They have a place as transition foods for some people. Not everyone can just jump in 100% and succeed. Remember the big picture, and don’t alienate the people who are open to making changes, just not sure how to proceed…

    • Lisa says:

      On the flip side of that, someone venturing into a vegetarian diet could try the fake meat (not knowing how to proceed) and be completely turned off by it and think those of us eating plant-based must be nuts to like the fake stuff. And I don’t think we’re alienating anyone who does eat it (as I don’t want to be aliented for not eating meat and dairy), just voicing our opinions that it’s not for us and that there are much better choices out there. But you’re right, it is better than the alternative, for sure. So many people are making the transition harder than it is. The beauty of a plant based diet is that is so very simple and there is an enormous variety to choose from.

  5. Fake chicken; fake pork; fake beef; how about fake broccoli?

    Real people don’t eat “fake.” Fake people eat plants.

    An oxymoron:

    “Raise animals humanely.” And then slaughter them for human consumption.

    How is that humane?

    Sal Liggieri

  6. huracan says:

    I’m with Lisa: Yuck! to all the fake stuff! Do it the right way – eat plants.

  7. Bill K. says:


    When I was last in Chicago I ate at a Native Foods restaurant and tried some of their “fake” chicken. It was a good replacement for actual chicken but I agree with you that it is still far from healthy. But maybe it will get people to the first plateau.


  8. Lisa says:

    Eliminating the gestation crates doesn’t mean the pigs will stop suffering and suddenly have happy lives. In terms of not being crated, it may be better, but they could and probably will be crammed in such tight quarters (like the “cage-free” chickens) that they literally trample on and kill the each other. Removing the crates is a start, but it is not nearly enough to stop the suffering. The big factory animal farms are going to have to be shut down. People are going to have to either stop eating meat altogether (the much preferred choice) or have extreme small amounts. Those who just can’t let go of meat must insist it come from local, sustainable farmers who are treating animals humanely.
    As for that fake chicken, yuck! I’ve seen tofu shaped to look just like a chicken leg, and it’s disgusting to think of eating a chicken leg – that’s part of the reason I stopped eating meat. The thought of eating another being’s leg is just wrong and completely unnecessary. Why would I want to pretend to eat it?

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