Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chickens in Delaware



Shortly after I retired to Delaware, I noticed one thing that was to become ubiquitous on my travels around the roads of Sussex County, the chicken trucks. What are the chicken trucks? These are open bed trucks loaded with cage upon cage of 8 week old boiler chickens headed for slaughter. Sussex County Delaware is the most southern county of Delaware’s three counties. Sussex County land is open and flat, perfect for the long rows of chicken houses. Delaware is ranked 7th in the country for poultry production. I live east of Route 1, which is the ocean side of the peninsula. The demographics of “East of 1” are almost all new Delaware residents. Like me, most of these new Delaware citizens are retirees who moved to Delaware to escape the high taxes of their home states. Others have second homes to take advantage of the resorts of Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach and other shore attractions. On the “other” side of Rt. 1, are the natives of Sussex County. These natives consist of the descendants of the original Dutch settlers, Nanticoke Indians (true natives) and the recent immigration of Hispanics, mostly Guatemalans. On occasion I have to travel on the other side of “One” to visit a friend or to shop at the local Walmarts (Georgetown and Milford). Almost invariably I will find my Subaru Forester behind one of these chicken trucks. My first reaction is profound sadness. These chickens do not know where there are going. I think of Nazi Germany sending trainloads of Jews to the death camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka. I want to holler “Run for your lives!” Some chickens do escape from their cages, only to be run down on the highway. Shortly after this picture included in this blog was taken, I saw the mangled form of one such chicken along the side of the highway. For all of these chickens, this first and last trip is the first time they have seen daylight in their short lives. They are raised in long, low slung chicken houses under artificial light. Their feet never touch the earth that have been warmed by sunlight. On this last day of their life they are roughly gathered by forearm scarred “chicken catchers” and shoved into wooden cages. These cages are stacked one atop another on the back of a tractor trailer flatbed truck. Thus they begin their Final Journey. They do not know that they will soon meet their end at one of the local chicken processing plants. They will be pulled out of their wooden cages. They will be hung upside down by their legs in a conveyor belt type contraption. The lucky ones will have the electric shock stun them to death before they are eviscerated. When I pass one of these chicken trucks I think of this. Quite frequently I’m on my way to lunch at the Ocean Point Grille II on Long Neck Road. They have a great Chicken Caesar Wrap. I wonder if I’m eating one of those chickens that only a week or so earlier were giving me a quizzical look from their Truck of Death.

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