Shuffling uncomfortably in my chair, fiddling with the buttons on my iPhone is starting to bore me. It’s been 25 minutes. Where is my chicken burger, I am wondering silently. Five minutes more and I am going to have to work up the courage to ask. The memories of stories that I should never ask where my food is or the chef will spit in it always comes back to haunt me in these situations.
Luckily I don’t need to. This towering work of art finally lands on the table. A chilli and spiced smoked chicken breast, laced with homemade aioli and basil pesto, crispy bacon, cos lettuce and tomato in a fresh seeded bun awaits my taste senses. But has it been worth the wait?
I inspect it for a moment or so wondering how on earth this is going to fit into my mouth. It’s going to be messy but it’s the only way. I gently place the burger in between my fingers keeping it as flat as I possibly can so as not to drop one single ingredient. I open my mouth about to take my first bite into this thick juicy monster when I am forced to glance up.
A stranger, staring intently at me, has appeared beside me. “Did you know,” he says with utter conviction. “That chicken has suffered for you.”
“What the?” I am clearly startled. My burger is starting to drip sauce all over my fingers. My mouth is still gaping open like a stunned mullet.
“Your chicken has spent its life stuck in a wire cage crammed in with other chickens. It has stood in a space smaller than an A4 piece of paper with no sunlight or fresh air. The only way out is the slaughterhouse.”
Then he disappears as quickly as he appeared. So quickly, in fact, I am starting to wonder if it was my imagination playing a game with me. My subconscious asking me that seeing as I only eat free range chicken at home these days, why am I being a hypocrite and not doing the same when out?
After the initial shock, I hold the burger away from me and stare at it.
“Hurry up.” I mutter to myself. “It’s getting cold. Your hands are getting covered in aioli and basil pesto. Make up your mind!”
Then I think, well, it’s such a waste. It’s dead now and it’s cooked. And it looks so delicious so it’s okay to eat it. I knew it wasn’t free range when I came in here. But I will never again eat battery hen chicken. Or maybe I could go the whole hog and turn vegetarian afterwards. But that only resolves the issue in my head; it doesn’t actually eliminate battery hen chicken factories. I could become a true greenie and fight for the cause. Highly unlikely to happen.
So do I end up eating it? I don’t know as it’s a hypothetical situation. I would like to think I wouldn’t but I honestly don’t know.
It is a facebook conversation that inspired me to write this piece.
A friend, let’s call her Anna (not her real name), posted this comment:
“Don’t get the carry on about how chickens are raised – end of the day they are slaughtered & get eaten regardless?!”
You can imagine the conversation this generated. One of Anna’s friends summed it up quite nicely, “I’d rather live for 4 months in a day spa than in a concrete cell pumped with steroids with scabs all over me though”
What Anna tells me afterwards is that, yes she is against cruelty to animals, but no, that is not why she is a vegetarian; she just hates handling raw meat. She will, begrudgingly, with gloves, prepare it for her family. Interesting isn’t it? BUT the good thing is that Anna accepted that it was indeed better to eat meat that was raised happy.
I am happy to declare that we really do only eat free range chicken at home these days along with mostly organic veggies. I can also say that more and more restaurants and cafes serve free range thus eliminating the dilemma of unhappy vs happy chickens.
If you follow my facebook page, you will see that hubby is becoming the Melbourne smoking king. There is nothing like his free range smoked chicken coated in our special rub. This perfect chicken is worth the 3 hour wait.