Are we just playing a big game of chicken?

So, time to ponder. Some day when future humans or another species dig back through time, what will they find to “determine who we were and how we shaped our world.”

Yes, they will find “plastics and concrete … and radiation signatures in the rocks from nuclear tests.” Amazingly, what may be most plentiful though will be chicken bones.

“65 billion or so chickens [are] consumed each year.” At any given time, “there are about 23 billion chickens on Earth … ten times more than any other bird.” “The combined mass of those 23 billion chickens is greater than that of all the other birds on Earth.”

Beyond the incredible numbers is the equally incredible genetic and physical transformation of the chicken itself. Largely since the 1950’s, the “modern broiler chicken” has been bred and mutated to “eat insatiably” and “gain weight rapidly.” It grows so quickly, it is “subject to numerous bone ailments” and now is entirely dependent on human technology and factory farming to survive … which it does not for very long as chickens on average are sent to slaughter after only 5 to 9 weeks.

Depending on whether you work for or in the chicken industry, support animal welfare, or just don’t care, there are a range of opinions of what exactly this means, and what it says about human beings and the environment we have created.

But in that hazy future after humans perhaps are long gone, “the lasting sign of how we changed the living world, will be the broiler chicken.”

Read the article (James Gorman, New York Times, December 11, 2018).

For more information about human-caused impacts on the Earth, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database


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