Like a Headless Chicken

March 5, 2012

Torah Kachur

Do chickens really run around with their head cut off?  Yes.  Is it worth seeing if there is a video on YouTube?  I strongly suggest against it.


The most famous headless chicken, actually the only famous headless chicken, was Mike (1945-1947).  Mike the Headless Chicken went from being a potential menu item to earning $4500 a month in traveling sideshows.  Mike was a poor unknown chicken until is lord and master Lloyd Olsen was ordered by his wife to go get dinner - a botched decapitation left Mike with his jugular vein intact and part of an ear, and, most importantly, most of his brainstem.  This allowed Mike to be a pretty regular chicken, besides having to fed and hydrated by syringe.  The brainstem controls most of the basic bodily functions including homeostasis, breathing rate and generally keeping you alive. 



Mike the Headless Chicken was basically brain dead but lived a pretty decent life, he never became food, got treated pretty well and couldn't smell the putridness of chicken coops.  So why don't we do that to all chickens?


Architecture student Andre Ford aims to make all poultry a version of poor old Mike.  Chickens destined for your dinner table are called broiler chickens and their rearing conditions aren't exactly summer camp.  Intensive broiler sheds are filled with tens of thousands of birds where the air gets so polluted with ammonia from their excrement that it can be damaging to their respiratory tract.  They cannot move easily and can exhibit stresslike responses to the overcrowding.  But hey, they are just food right?


We know that blind chickens are less stressed out with overcrowding and Andre's idea capitalized on the idea that chilled out chickens produce more meat.  The next logical step was clearly to sever their frontal cortex so they can't think or interpret fear (if they, arguably, have that ability to begin with).  The Royal College of Art student designed a contraption that looks like it's about to suck the brain of the chicken right out.


Andre Ford Frontal Cortex Chicken


In addition to effectively removing the brain of the chicken, the entire chicken factory that was proposed included removing the feet of the chicken so that they can be packed tighter, electrical shocks so that the immobilized animals build muscle mass and a network of wires and tubes that provide air, food, water and remove excrement.


Shocking?  Perhaps.  Delicious?  Probably.


Before you react (or perhaps after) with disgust at this type of animal rearing - ask yourself - is it better than the one we have now?



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