Just wondering

Sometimes I get to wondering about things.

chickenLike chicken breasts. And what, exactly, is the difference between these two? Besides the obvious: one is boneless, skinless and $1.99 per pound; the other has skin and ribs, and is $4.49 per pound.

Are the more expensive chickens healthier? I mean, seeing as how they were raised solely on veggies — that the chicken grower can trace back to the farm, no less — and given no antibiotics, growth stimulants, animal by-products or hormones?

Of course, hormones and growth stimulants aren’t allowed in poultry, anyway. And having raised chickens, I know they’re ruthless little carnivores, happily devouring insects, worms and whatever finds its way into their enclosure — even their own eggs. So I’m not convinced a vegetarian diet is superior, and it’s certainly not “natural.”

Were the more expensive chickens happier before they died? I mean, since they were raised in a Whole Foods Step 2 “enriched environment” that requires “good quality bedding (which promotes good health and welfare and allows birds to dustbathe), a maximum transport time of eight hours and enrichments that encourage behavior that’s natural to them, such as pecking, perching and foraging.” (Just as long as they don’t eat non-vegetarian bugs…)

Like many other people who love animals, even though we eat them, I don’t like to think the meat I’m consuming suffered while during its incaration as a chicken, lamb, cow or pig. So the marketers appeal to us with kind, humane claims like “free range, cage-free, enriched environment.”

But then I read an article about the down side of cage-free chickens. As Popular Science reported:

In mature flocks, up to 86 percent of chickens may be silently suffering from broken breast (“keel”) bones from crashing into other birds, or misjudging the distance between two perches.

The potential solutions will likely range from food additives that strengthen the chickens’ bones, to redesigning their housing systems. Breeding and genetic engineering may even be proposed as solutions.

Hmmm. Would the anti-GMO activists accept a genetically-engineered chicken if it meant a better quality of life?

How did food get so complicated? Who do I, the consumer, trust? Should I just be grateful that I have so many choices, and the money to exercise them?

My wonderings about food animals got me wondering about companion animals, and the people who shouldn’t have them. My Yahoo news feed sends me a steady stream of stories that make it clear Americans now have precious little tolerance for animal abuse. Which is a good thing, because guys who abuse animals are also likely to abuse their wife and kids.  Increasing numbers of people — typically men — are being sent to jail for harming their pets. How, I wondered, do the other prisononers treat a guy who punched a puppy in the face because it chewed his shoe, strangled a dog because it barfed in his car? Do they mete out not so divine retribution? Or welcome the creep into their fold?

Then I got to wondering about energy, and our quest for a source that’s clean and green, so we can consume it with gleeful oblivion, and no guilt. This typically leads to cries of “harness the sun and the wind!”

mojave-lead
Mojave desert solar project

Except the huge solar projects in the Mojave desert are frying bats and birds — an estimated 6,000 birds per year. In fact, it happens so frequently along this migratory flyway that there’s a horrible name for it: “streamers.” As the Los Angeles Times reported:

A macabre fireworks show unfolds each day along I-15 west of Las Vegas, as birds fly into concentrated beams of sunlight and are instantly incinerated, leaving wisps of white smoke against the blue desert sky.

In addition, coyotes eat dozens of road runners trapped  along the outside of a perimeter fence that was designed to prevent federally threatened desert tortoises from wandering onto the property.

Then there’s wind power’s dirty little secret, as reported by Bloomberg:

Wind turbines were planted along a strip of Mexico’s southern coast to make the country’s power industry cleaner. Now they’re spilling oil. Much of the power produced by the wind turbines is sent to Mexico’s biggest companies, like Cemex SAB and Wal-Mart’s Mexico branch, known as Walmex, which get tax incentives in return for using renewable energy.

So is it worth burning up birds in mid-flight to keep the phony glitz and glitter of Vegas ablaze; to have oil spilled on Mexican ag land to provide tax breaks to Wal-Mart and a mutinational cement corporation?

How did energy get so complicated? Is it all a series of trade-offs? When will we face the fact that there is no free energy lunch, even with the so-called “renewables?”

Or should I just be grateful that I have so many energy choices, and the money to exercise them?

And then I wondered, does anyone else wonder about these things, too?

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