On a cold, early winter evening, I peeked in the coop to check on the chickens. As usual, five of them were snuggled up next to each other on the roost, a tree branch my boyfriend, Jared, had affixed to the wall of the coop. But one, the jet-black Ameraucana we named Thing (because of the silly fuzzy feathers on her face), had been left out. She was huddled alone in the corner on the coop floor, below the other chickens: the spot reserved for the last in the pecking order.
Okay, so lawmakers in Annapolis are having it out over whether we should introduce a statewide ban on arsenic in chicken and turkey feed.
You’ll excuse me if I think this one is a no-brainer. Especially when not only have “low levels of arsenic” been found in the livers of broiler chickens, but the stuff we’ve been feeding poultry to kill parasites and boost growth has apparently been “adding 30,000 pounds of arsenic to Maryland’s soil every year for decades.”
Of course the argument for continuing to feed our poultry poison (in really small amounts, we swear) is essentially an economic one: the FDA may very well approve the arsenic-containing drug Roxsarone for use nationally, which would put Maryland poultry farms at a disadvantage if it were banned in the state.
I don’t know about you, but if I were shopping for chickens in the grocery store and one of them was marked “ARSENIC-FREE,” that’s the one I would buy. And I’d certainly be willing to pay some kind of premium for it.
Really, the whole but-if-we-don’t-feed-our-chickens-poison-how-will-we-remain-competitive? argument reminds of that old Jack Benny joke, the one where the mugger says, “Look, Bud. I said your money or your life!” and Jack Benny says, “I’m thinking it over!”
The only reason it’s funny is that anyone would rather protect his life (and, so we would hope, the lives of others) than his money, right? I mean, right?