By now you may have heard the tragic story about the 50,000 hens who were left to starve when a Turlock, California egg-farm owner, Andrew Keung Chung, ran out of money and just abandoned the birds. Animal Services were called to the ranch after complaints about the smell. They found that the chickens hadn’t been fed for two weeks and the scene was horrific. More than 20,000 chickens had already died.
When rescuers showed up, they were denied entrance to the farm. County workers were working in Hazmat suits to dispose of the dead bodies and euthanize the sick birds by gassing. The original plan was to dispose of the remainder of the birds but public pressure to help the animals mounted. Keung Chung signed over ownership of the healthy chickens to the county which led to rescuers receiving permission to help save some of the chickens.
Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary and Animal Place were the first rescue groups to show up and worked tirelessly, partnering with sanctuaries, volunteers and supporters. They managed to save 4,460 hens. Sixteen hens who had fallen into a manure pit were also saved. These chickens, making up the largest known farm animal rescue, will now live out their lives in freedom and safety.
Check out these photos from Animal Place of a hen’s first steps outside! Animal Place has also released a video showing the devastation that occurred at the farm.
Unfortunately, there are millions of egg-laying hens who will never know that freedom. Approximately 300 million hens are caged for egg production in the U.S. each year, 26 million in Canada, and 40 million in the U.K. (this is not counting the billions of chickens killed for their flesh each year). The majority of these hens will live their lives in battery cages, cramped and confined without even enough room to spread their wings. They will be forced to urinate and defecate on one another. The birds will have part of their sensitive beaks cut off without any anesthesia so that they won’t peck each other out of frustration created by the unnatural confinement.
What about “free-range?” There is no inspection system for companies that label their eggs “free-range.” In many commercial “free-range” egg farms, hens are crowded inside windowless sheds with little more than a single, narrow exit leading to an enclosure, too small to accommodate all of the birds at once. For all of the hens, “free-range” or not, when they are spent and no longer productive, they will be sent to slaughter, turned into chicken soup or pet food.
Male chicks of egg-laying breeder hens are useless to the industry since they don’t lay eggs and are not bred to produce excessive flesh for the meat industry. They are killed. Every year, more than 100 million of these young birds, the little yellow chicks everyone thinks are so adorable, are ground up alive, electrocuted or tossed into bags to suffocate. Their peeps can be heard while a human foot stomps on them to make room for more chicks. Funny how people “ooh” and “aah” over these chicks at Easter time yet their lives are considered expendable.
And for what? So people can eat eggs? All this torture and death just because humans like the taste of these animals’ reproductive by-products? There is no need to eat eggs. They are not ours to take. They belong to the hens. Chickens are beautiful, intelligent, loving animals who feel fear and pain, who could feel love and comfort, who should be allowed to live their lives happily.
To learn more about chickens, check out United Poultry Concerns. Learn to bake with flaxseeds or chia seeds which work just as well and are much healthier than eggs. Try a tofu scramble for breakfast. I love tofu scrambles and like to create different types all the time. Try my latest version: a Southwestern Tofu Scramble with Greens.
It’s all the best parts of breakfast (or dinner) in a one pot dish: crispy potatoes, moist tofu, Southwestern spices and the fresh tastes of tomatoes and avocados all served over healthy, bright greens. This has become my new favorite go-to tofu scramble. Try it. I know you’ll love it. And even more importantly, I know you will love the feeling of knowing you are not contributing to the torture and death of beautiful chickens and their babies. Compassion is the best ingredient!
Southwestern Tofu Scramble
1 Tbs. olive oil
6 small red potatoes, quartered
4 scallions, chopped
¼ red onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 block extra-firm tofu, drained
1 Tbs. nutritional yeast
½ tsp. oregano
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. black salt
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ cup water
1 large or 2 small plum tomatoes, diced
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped
4-6 cups kale or turnip greens
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
Juice of ½ lime
Put the quartered potatoes in a small pot and cover them with cool water. Cover and parboil the potatoes, about 5-7 minutes. Alternatively, you could place the potatoes in a bowl and microwave them for 4-5 minutes on high.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan on medium high. Transfer the parboiled potatoes into the sauté pan and cook until browned, turning them halfway through. When the potatoes are browned, add the scallions, onions, and peppers to the pan and cook, stirring, until softened and tender, about 5 minutes. Crumble the tofu into the pan and let it cook until slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
While the tofu is cooking, prepare the spice mixture. Add the spices to the pan, mixing it well into the tofu and vegetables. The tofu should be yellow from the turmeric. Add the water to the pan and mix. The water helps incorporate the spices throughout the scramble and moistens the tofu. Turn off the heat. Add the tomatoes to the scramble and mix in the cilantro. Transfer the tofu scramble to a bowl.
Prepare the greens in the same pan. If the pan is dry, you can add a bit more oil. Over medium heat, add the greens, garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well and add a few spoons of water. Cover the pan and cook until just wilted and bright green. Remove from the heat.
Arrange a layer of greens on the plates. Layer the tofu scramble on top of the greens. Top with the sliced avocado and lime juice. Enjoy!
The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.