I’m Not Laughing Either …

Photo taken for NY Times piece entitled: Chicken's Attraction Is Truly Skin Deep

The photo above from a recent NY Times article entitled “Chicken’s Attraction Is Truly Skin Deep” has created quite a stir.  According the Atlantic wire, PETA’s founder, Ingrid Newkirk, isn’t laughing at the provocatively-posed chicken and was quoted as saying:  “It’s downright offensive, not just to people who care about animals but almost to everyone. It’s a plucked, beheaded, young chicken in a young pose.”

I must say, I agree with PETA.  I’m not laughing either. I eat meat, and this photo concerns me. I think I understand why it doesn’t bother others, and it traces back to some fundamental differences in how different people perceive food. In fact, I just spoke about this topic in this week’s blog article entitled, “Do You Trust Where Your Meat Comes From.” You see, in today’s food system, we’ve distanced ourselves so far from the chicken, that what we buy at the grocery store is viewed by many as a mere piece of protein. A “widget” per se…just another commodity.

The reality is that chickens are living, sentient creatures, and their lives are sacrificed to feed us. Although I personally don’t have ethical problems with that, my caveat is that the chicken deserves to be treated humanely and with dignity. This pose turns the death of a living being into a prop, and in the process shows careless disregard for life.

In man’s history on earth, there have been many times when he has disrespected life, and it has never led to anything positive. Let’s not forget where our meat comes from. Rather, let us be thankful and remember the sacrifice it has made to nourish us.

What do you think of the photo? How does it make you feel? Please help get the conversation started and share your thoughts and feelings by commenting below.

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34 thoughts on “I’m Not Laughing Either …

  1. Enjoying your blog, Bruce. As a former Minneapolitan, I always enjoy seeing wit and wisdom from the Twin Cities:) If you are looking for a tasty and healthy, non-GMO multigrain tortilla chip, try the Multigrain Chips from “Food Should Taste Good”. It’s sold at Costco, and contains flax, sunflower and sesame seeds, quinoa, non-GMO soy and stoneground corn, and brown rice. And the product tastes GREAT! Good stuff, at http://www.foodshouldtastegood.com. And no, I don’t work for the company, I run a dairy goat farm:) Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for your comment Jill. I’ll have to check out the chips you recommend. I’m not familiar with them.

      Glad you’re enjoying my blog, and super to hear a former Minneapolitan. Keep the comments coming, and if you ever have any ideas or suggestions for my blog (topics or whatever), please let me know. And as always … share, share, share my blog. After all, knowledge is power!

      Thanks again. Bruce Bradley

      • Those chips are wonderful, contain healthy ingredients, are relatively low in sodium, and were endorsed by Clean Eating Magazine. Pretty filling too! Just found your blog and am looking forward to getting to know it better. Thank you. PS–I don’t work for the company either, or the magazine–just a satisfied customer.

    • hi jill, huge fstg fan here. so relieved that the cafe at work finally restocked our supply (even though not the single serve bags like we had previously). guess i’ll just buy the larger bags and exert some self control… nice to come across you here on bruce’s site.

      to you both, keep up the great work.

      to bruce specifically, re: a different post mentioning the “we don’t use…and we don’t know what our suppliers use…proprietary” corporate response to an ingredient inquiry, i actually got one of those from mcdonald’s re: their fruit and yogurt parfait, rather my inquiry about the parfait, which they responded to with the following (about their potatoe use strangely…)

      Hello Valued Customer:

      Thank you for your interest in McDonald’s food products. We appreciate this opportunity to respond to your comments.

      First, you should know that the safety of our customers is our top priority. Although we do not own our food suppliers, as a purchaser of food products, we require our suppliers to meet or exceed all government regulations.

      For competitive reasons, we are unable to share information on our purchasing plans at this time. You may be interested to know, however, that the percentage of genetically modified (gm) potatoes produced in North America is minuscule to begin with — actually less than 4%.

      Therefore, McDonald’s has been using almost nothing but non-gm potatoes for quite some time. Our percentage is insignificant, and trending even below that as more farmers announce their planting decisions.

      We want to emphasize that we will continue to offer only the safest, highest quality products available. We would never compromise on this commitment to our customers.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald’s. We hope to have the pleasure of serving you again soon.

      Lisa
      McDonald’s Customer Response Center

      ref#:8373715

      • Well, I am disgusted to find that potatoes are now GMO…it gets harder every day to get away from GMO foods. If you care about disclosure of GMOs in your food, please participate in one of the campaigns to get the FDA or state governments to mandate labeling (www.justlabelit.org or http://www.labelgmos.org/ in California). It is exceedingly difficult and expensive to fight Monsanto, so those of us who care MUST put our support behind these organizations to establish a beachhead.

  2. Bruce,

    I am so glad to have stumbled across this blog. A friend sent it to me after reading a Q&A on grist.org.

    I feel like big food/ag operates similarly to big oil, pharma, and others. Lots of missing information and disconnect between what we consume, where it comes from, and the effects on our bodies and the environment.

    I am applying to graduate schools in the next 4 weeks. My background is geology and engineering. I would really love to study the interface between food, energy, and the environment in an attempt to evaluate and design alternative farming and distribution systems (like CSAs, for example). I would greatly appreciate if you could point me in the right direction of any academic programs that you may have stumbled across that may be trying to untangle the current ag systems for better understanding and decision making.

    HB

    • Thanks for your comment CHB. Your question is a little out of my league though, but here might want to check with the Land Stewardship Project. They are based in Lewiston, MN. If they don’t know, they might at least have a better idea of resources that can get you closer to what you’re looking for. Good luck, and thanks again for checking out my blog!

      • Thanks, Bruce.
        If you build it, they will come!
        It takes a little while to get the word out. I post a ton of this stuff on my facebook page. A couple of people commented to me how much they enjoyed your trick or treat post.
        It’s like a locomotive, or anything else; just takes a little time to get going. Keep up the fine work.
        “Do what makes you feel good”

    • I would suggest you check out North Carolina State University. I know they & some of the local State Community Colleges have programs related to Sustainable Farming. There is at least one community college which teaches programs to help folks set up there farms in a sustainable fashion. I couldn’t tell you if these sort of programs will meet the requirements you are looking for, but they might lead you to some that are.
      Good Luck!
      Good to see younger folks wanting to learn & to make changes in our national system of farming.

    • Thanks so much Kellie. And keep the comments coming. I love it! For the longest time on here I felt like I was talking to myself in an empty room. Thanks to you and all my new followers who are making this place look lived in!

  3. Bruce
    As a former food industry manager and now a college professor, I am appreciative of your blog-you are not talking to yourself. I will be posting this up in my classes to help educate the younger generation-the one that is so enamored of technology and so easily confused by advertising. A perfect example of why you need to dig deep and that large corporations do not have your best interest in mind.
    Thanks again.

  4. This picture is distasteful soft food porn that leads to the conversation of how animals are often sexualized and compartimentalized. I do realize that many people do not see this as sexism and animal exploitation. Mostly PETA followers take this approach to the consumption of meat. Everyone is not going to go vegetarian or vegan. But considering PETA’s philosophies they make a lot of sense. I myself choose to be what some have coined flextarian. Meaning I don’t feel the need to consume meat or dairy with every meal much less everyday of my life. I am so glad I found your blog have been trying to get my hands on as much information as possible before I apply to get my PHD in Public Policy. I have a burning passion for sustainable food systems. Looking forward to the book.

    • Thanks so much for your comment and compliments! Glad you are interested in the book. I have a free first chapter posted on my Facebook page. Look for the “Exclusive Book Offer” on the left hand tabs below my picture. I will also be posting a link to download the first three chapters in a couple months, shortly before my book launch, so watch my blog and or Facebook page for details!

  5. Bruce
    Interesting take- I totally agree with your “respect” comments. It used to be the same in battle- a warrior would honor the slain enemy with some kind of ceremony. We have lost touch with reality with the pose as well. I totally concur with LegalGrindWifey’s comments regarding the “soft porn” pose. I am not naive, nor am I a “prude” but this is inappropriate for selling and has crossed the line.

  6. Bruce
    Interesting take- I totally agree with your “respect” comments. It used to be the same in battle- a warrior would honor the slain enemy with some kind of ceremony. We have lost touch with reality with the pose as well. I totally concur with LegalGrindWifey’s comments regarding the “soft porn” pose. I am not naive, nor am I a “prude” but this is inappropriate for selling and has crossed the line.
    Steve

  7. Bruce – delighted to find your blog! There is so much potential in the food industry to move the dial significantly toward a more sustainable world. Your perspective is sourly needed! Lots of good people in the industry, lots of room for changing the rules of the game.
    Regarding chicken and meat in general – there’s tons of work to be done here, but I will spend my sanctity-of-life energy on humans degrading humans first. Having been a farmer for more than 40 years there are many dilemmas to eating meat, but also excellent opportunities to understand the intricacies of the natural world. Grazing on hillside pastures is an efficient way to produce edible protein from grass. Having killed many a chicken, pig and lamb I have to say there really isn’t any way to make it “nice” or “sacred.” I eat meat, I am willing to slaughter the animals I have raised with care and affection and I will never feel happy at the moment when I end a life.
    However, animals raised for the mainstream market generally don’t have a happy life and whether the meat is treated with respect seems strangely misplaced concern. Given the stunning amount of human sexuality used in marketing of all kinds, I’m focusing my concern there.

  8. I am a new sustainable farmer in oregon, lea rning as well about our food industry. On this topic I had to weigh in. we raise primarily meats for now. Our animals are precious to us. We give them the best quality of life possible and go to great lengths to ensure their overall health. We see ourselves much like zoo keepers. (it quite often is a zoo around here!). The treatment of animals in factory style productions is appalling. I have no problem taking a life to support another of using animals for good) but I have serious issue with discounting life and trading meat as a”product”.reality that most people are unaware of is simple… Every bite of meat we eat was once walking around living, breathing, thinking, feeling.

  9. I interned in a food photography studio once, I know the stuff they put of the food they photograph to make it look good and I know that after that picture was taken there were probably several fresh chickens used before it and after it. I also know that after the stuff they put on it to keep it from rotting or having the flash glare or whatever, the chicken would not be edible. I agree with you Bruce, I don’t have a problem with eating chicken or beef (I don’t eat pork because pigs are quite intelligent), chickens are sweet loyal creatures, I had three as pets. They aren’t what you would call “intelligent”, but they have feelings. I try to buy only humanely raised meat, which is hard to do when you’re only thirteen and your parents don’t exactly want to buy a twenty dollar chicken from Whole Foods.

    • Yes, humanely-raised, organic meat is definitely more expensive. But you are getting you parents to ask important questions which is awesome. Even if they don’t change their behavior right now or can’t afford to, you are making a difference. Keep it up!

      • Charlie you are very conscientious for one so young. My 7 yr old son has suddenly given up chicken because he does not like the way the cooked blood looks on a chicken leg. It has really caused me to stop and look at what I am ingesting-flesh of a living creature. We also have chickens as pets, and I could never eat one of them. So I am on a quest to ease it out of our diets completely.

    • Thanks, Ryan. Glad you are enjoying my blog! It’s always great to hear some positive feedback! Hope to see you comment some more, and if you’re interested, please learn more about my book that’s coming out in 2012!

  10. HI, I just discovered your blogs and am enjoying them greatly. This is the first I have heard of what I now call the “sexy chicken fiasco”. Honestly, the picture only bothers me if the photographers did not, after taking the pic, dress it up in herbs and spices and plop it in the oven. It looks like a perfectly good chicken. If some people want to play with their food before they eat it, I won’t judge. :-).
    Now having had my bit of fun, I have to admit I am disturbed. I feel bad for the poor chicken. I am trying to eliminate it from my diet.

  11. I just discovered your site and thank you, glad you are out there! I did want to respond to this one, tho it may get lost as it’s so “old”. I eat chicken maybe 3 – 4 times a year, at most. Chickens are so horribly abused in factory farming, probably more than any creatures if comparisons are possible. I always buy free-range eggs, but I have read those conditions may be not so great either.

    Having said that, PETA does not have my support in any way because they are so grossly sexist in their adverts. Other animals are more important to them than the treatment of human females. As far as that image of the chicken is concerned, I think it is very clever and creative. I know it may seem odd that I am sensitive to the cruelty of chickens, yet aware of the wit of the image. I don’t know that it increases looking at chickens as a commodity- if anything, it humanizes. Which makes me smile, and then- eww! How could you eat something so human and expressive? Not trying to convince anyone here. Just offering up a different view.

    Thank again- look forward to reading you.

    • Emily—Thanks for your comment and visiting my blog! I do appreciate you offering a different point of view. One additional thing to consider that I failed to mention in the post… Having worked in the food marketing / advertising world for over 15+ years, let me explain what happens at a food photo shoot. Literally dozens of product samples are brought in and reviewed all looking for a product “hero.” While it may appear that only one bird was sacrificed for this “cleverness,” my guess is that at least a couple dozen were wasted on this effort.

      Hope to see you back on my blog again sometime soon! I sincerely appreciate a thoughtful, differing point of view like yours. Thanks!