Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Yesterday, I had the bloodshed of thousands of poor, innocent chickens on my hands.

No - our farm doesn't have any of the feathered beasts (gracias por dios), but apparently vegetables like to eat pulverized chickens. Who knew?

We put different things in the soil to make the plants happy. After tilling and before planting, we'll generally apply a hefty portion of compost. Certain vegetables (salad greens, in this case) really like nitrogen, so we needed to add something nitrogen-rich to the soil to make them happy.

That's where the feather meal comes in. According to wikipedia, feather meal is, "made from poultry feathers by partially hydrolyzing under elevated heat and pressure and then grinding." We were told it was just ground feathers from chickens and didn't think too much of it. As we (another intern and I) started sprinkling the powdery mix over the earth, we got to thinking.

Are vegetables that get nutrients from dead chickens vegan (or vegetarian) friendly? Hmm.

As we started to feel weirder and weirder about the task at hand, we caught sight of the "ingredients" list on the side of the feather meal bag. Not only did it include ground feathers, but other fun things like bones and blood. Awesome.

I mean, if thousands and thousands of chickens are going to be slaughtered, we might as well put the refuse to good use, right? The alternatives to feather meal include soybean and alfalfa meal. Farms that try to be organic tend to avoid soybean meal, since some 95% of soybeans grown in our country are genetically modified (GMO), thus making them not organic (and super creepy). It appears that alfalfa meal has less nitrogen in it than the feather meal... which is probably why our farm prefers the chicken death.

In any event, I'm still conflicted by the whole ordeal. Thoughts?


  1. well, considering all dead animals end up back in the ground i don't think there's anything vegetarian unfriendly about it. that's the whole circle of life business talked about so much in the lion king, isn't it?
    but the mass produced dead chicken fertilizer is pretty disturbing to think about and seems pretty counterproductive to vegetarian politics. shrug.
    what do i know i'm a chicken eater.

  2. hmm. yes. circle of life. that's what i'll tell myself from now on. :-)

  3. will you sing it, lion king style?

    funny what a large amount of crops in america (or elsewhere) are grown just as feed to our stock animals, whose leftovers are then used as fertilizer for more crops.