The demand for chicken in the US is down, and we can only speculate as to why. Many argue that tough economic conditions have caused Americans to decrease their meat consumption and opt for lower-cost foods. Chicken inventories are 13.1 percent higher than they were a year ago, according to a Wall Street Journal article.
In response to the gap between product and demand, the U.S. government is making a special purchase of 40 million dollars worth of chicken products, which will be distributed to school lunch programs and soup kitchens.
“Thanks to prevailing price trends, the government is getting a bargain on high-quality food to help meet the nutritional needs of the clients of these programs, while the industry is getting some relief from excessive inventories,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack also praised the deal, saying “it will also provide support to the broiler industry and the many small independent poultry growers that depend on the industry for their livelihood.”
Yet Paul Keller of Good.is argues that it’s factory farms that will benefit from the purchase, an industry deserves to be punished for it’s poor treatment of food animals. He argues that many people choose a vegetarian diet, or forgo factory farmed meat, in protest of these practices. “That the government would come in and save the meat producers when they refuse to submit to the demands of consumers is a blow to meat abstainers everywhere,” he writes.
Although even Keller argues that the meat should not be left to rot, his take unfortunately seems overly optimistic. Obviously, the conditions in which most factory farm animals live their lives is a danger both to the our health and the environment, and it should be addressed. Yet in a time of uncertain economic stability, a reduction in meat consumption has more to do with consumers’ bank accounts than making a political statement.