Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Rooster soup and thoughts about the effort that it takes to have dinner

Yesterday evening I had rooster soup for dinner...
.... I'm not a very big meat eater, but yesterday I made soup from one of the roosters that hatched from the last lot of fertile eggs that I gave to the chickens.  When one gives a clutch of eggs to a broody chicken, one can be sure that at least half of the babies will be male.  In more business-like premises,  baby chickens are "sexed" at about two days old (I don't know how to do this) and the males "discarded" as garbage.  

The problem is that adult male roosters should leave home to join another flock, fight for supremacy and a few (the biggest, toughest and most aggressive) go on to father chickens for some years to come.  My chickens are "employed" to lay eggs, eat earwigs and produce fertiliser for the vegetable garden.  Hens lay eggs for quite few years... though the number of eggs gets less as they age and I keep my chickens indefinitely... they don't eat much when they are not producing eggs in later life.  

The roosters are another problem.  Last time,  I had three roosters.  Once they are adults, they begin to attack not only each other, but the hens as well.  They do injure the hens quite badly some times, and that is when I bundle them up to be taken to the "chicken processors" to be "processed".  I have killed them myself,  but it is not my favourite task and the cost for "processing" at the local plant is $1.50 each, and so I take them out there.  I do feel guilty, but not as bad as if I had bought the carcass from the supermarket.... a "meat" chicken that is bred to grow fast, die young and never have a life at all.

This rooster (the one in my soup) had been in the freezer for more than a year.  I boiled him to make stock for soup... chicken noodle soup.  The noodles are made from locally grown flour, eggs from the chickens, garden leaves and a pinch or two of salt.  This made me think about the effort involved in producing our food.

While growing vegetables is enjoyable,  it also requires effort.  The work involved in soil preparation, planting, weeding and maintaining the garden is significant.  It is easy enough to produce enough food for oneself.  Producing enough for two is a bit more effort, though not too bad. Once my household increases to three, I need help, either in labour or by buying a significant amount of food from the shop.  And that is where I begin to contemplate our current food production system.  Thousands of people who live in the towns and cities don't produce any of their own food at all, but they still eat and someone has to be growing and manufacturing that food.  I'm sure that if I worked really hard and full time,  I could produce enough for, say, a large family...  but not on the scale that would be required for the majority of the population to eat well... and get fat... on my labour.  The only reason that this has been possible for the last 150 years or so is because the energy input has been mechanical and chemical.... and the energy source for all of this has been from those fossil fuels that we keep hearing about... the decayed remains of millions of years worth of photosynthesis.  It was as good as "money in the bank" but as we have accelerated our use of this seemingly unlimited energy supply, apparently we didn't think about what we would do when the energy supply ran out and the "bank" account was getting close to empty.  

The abundance of easy energy and the consequent over-abundance of food (for there is money to be made by selling more calories to someone that they actually need.... and those calories can either be wasted or eaten) has led to a problem with waste disposal, methane production and obesity.  It seems that with accelerating use of fossil energy we have unwittingly resorted to storing quite a bit of that energy as fat.

It's hard to know what is going to happen.  The fossil fuel will run out, or at least be in such short supply that food becomes more expensive as long as the production and processing is carried out by relatively few people, as it is now.  Perhaps food production and processing will become more "hands on" for more people.  Perhaps the cheap and "empty" calories will be more expensive. Perhaps food and food products will be valued and treated with some respect.  I don't know the future but I do know that significant change is inevitable as the energy supply becomes more expensive and unreliable.

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