Free range

Happy House Korean BBQ
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le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Happy New Year. I was lying in bed one night toward the end of the old one with the lights on and my eyes open, thinking about the usual: death, emptiness, and whether or not dildos ever really break off inside people and get lost. Weirdo the Cat jumped onto my pillow, pawed my hair, sniffed my ear, sat there staring at me, and was all, like, "Meow."

Meanwhile in the coop, four little chickens huddled together for warmth — or, check that, three chickens huddled together for warmth and the fourth was off by herself in a nest, eyes wide open, thinking about death and dildos as if her sole purpose in life were to remind the chicken farmer of the chicken farmer. There's one in every flock, usually at the punk end of the pecking order, and in case you were wondering, they're the hardest to kill and the easiest to eat.

They were protesting outside KFC — people, not chickens. It was PETA, not CETA, I'm sure. Placards complained of poor working conditions for factory farmer chickens, something about broken wings and sawed-off beaks. I smiled and waved, honked my horn, and renewed my commitment never to eat at KFC, because Popeye's is 10 times better.

Broken wings. Sawed-off beaks ... Your chicken farmer shudders at the thought, but what really tears her up inside, besides death and dildos ... I'll take you back to bed in a moment, don't worry. Or do, but please bear with me: it's New Year's, a time for bitching and moaning and, yeah, moaning. And bucking, but we'll get back in bed, I promise; it's just that you see these small-farm happy homeschooled organic free-range egg cartons that say "vegetarian diet" ...

Are you kidding me? What greater cruelty can there be than to deny an animal its favorite thing in the world to eat? And if you're a chicken, uh, that ain't tofu. Hello. It's not even salad or corn or grass. I'm sorry to have to be the one to inform you that chickens' favorite food is pork. The other white meat. In fact, one reason they debeak the poor things is because they are not above eating the original white meat, or in other words, one another.

What turns chickens into cannibals? Lack of animal protein. Stress. General anxiety disorder, often accompanied by feelings of worthlessness, meaninglessness, and, in short, baconlessness.

You do the math.

Anyone who has ever seen a chicken light into a pork chop will join me, I trust, in boycotting vegetarian-diet chicken farming. There. I have taken my stand for '08. PETA, I hope, will picket Rainbow Grocery and Whole Foods, a.k.a. Whole Paycheck. And by the way, to answer yet another rhetorical question, the only thing less ethical than denying an animal its favorite food is to then not put that poor animal out of its misery and onto my plate, where it wants to be and belongs. Trust me.

You already know about "free range," right? That the joke is on us? Just because you open a chicken's door for an hour or two a day, that doesn't mean it will ever go outside and play. I swear, I had my chicken door open all day every day for a week before they ventured from the safe familiarity of the coop into beautiful Sonoma County, and then I had to lure them out, finally, with ham sandwiches.

So: Free-range chicken ? free-range chicken. Happy chicken ? vegetarian chicken. And a true free-range chicken can't possibly be truly vegetarian anyway, because if it's outside and can't find pork chops, it will certainly scare up roly-polies, spiders, worms, locusts, cicadas, mice, centipedes, a dead hummingbird ...

The other day I saw a tiny line of beetles marching in a line outside my chicken coop door with little BETA placards. I smiled and waved and honked my horn.

Grasshoppers, caterpillars, brick bugs, moths, larvae, ticks, termites, ants, earwigs. Hold on a second, I need more lube.

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