FFS 022 – The Bird is the Word



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This year for Thanksgiving, Americans will consume 46 million turkeys. Factory farming has never been more ‘efficient’. This same year, the US has consumed 9 billion chickens. Worldwide, we managed to eat 50 billion. How does this system function? What makes it so effective and profitable?

It all comes down to one word: genetics.

Since the 1950s, heritage breeds of poultry, or standard-bred poultry, have been gradually replaced by an army of uniform hybrid birds. Bred to grow as large as possible and as quickly as possible, hybrids are exceptionally profitable for Big Agriculture, and have come to dominate the global poultry industry.

In this episode, I talk with Andrew DeCoriolis of Farm Forward and Frank Reese from the Good Shepherd Poultry Farm about the need to preserve heritage breeds. We explore:

• How animal welfare, the livelihoods of farmers and the environment are best protected when the genetic diversity of these birds is preserved.
• How free-range, pasture-raised and organic meat movements are counterproductive if we fail to win the battle of genetics.
• How supporting heritage poultry this Thanksgiving is one of the strongest and most effective ways to boycott factory farming and support sustainable agriculture.

Farm Forward is a US-based non-profit that implements innovative strategies to promote conscientious food choices, reduce farmed animal suffering, and advance sustainable agriculture. Farm Forward is helping Frank Reese share his knowledge with the next generation of farmers by launching the Good Shepherd Poultry Institute (GSPI).

Frank Reese is a fourth-generation Kansas farmer with more than 60 years of experience breeding and raising heritage poultry. An award-winning master breeder and American Poultry Association (APA) judge, Frank owns and operates one of the few successful heritage poultry farms in America, the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, which has garnered praise from Martha Stewart, celebrity chef Mario Batali, the New York Times, and is featured centrally in the documentary film Eating Animals, which recently premiered at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival.

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