Paul McCartney & The Chicken Council duke it out on The Colbert Report!

February 1st, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

OK, well, not really. Paul McCartney appeared on Wednesday’s episode, the same episode wherein Stephen “broke” the “buffalo wing” shortage crisis story. But Stephen didn’t interview the obligatory white dude from the National Chicken Council until the next night, so he and McCartney never met. I doubt McCartney was even privy to the Superbowl/”buffalo wing” story, since his interview was pre-recorded. Still, catchy title, dontchathink?

Plus, vegetarianism did come up during McCartney’s interview. Check it:

Now for the “buffalo wing” shortage, which spanned two segments. The Richard Lobb interview is by far the more interesting of the two clips, so if you watch only one video, make it the second one below.



While the Lobb interview is supposed to be humorous and somewhat fluffy, it left me fuming. Though it’s hard to tell – the video seems heavily edited – Stephen missed a few golden (atomic?) opportunities to call Lobb on his bullshit.

To wit: Stephen, when questioning Lobb’s supply and demand explanation for the “chicken wing” shortage (quote: “every chicken has only two wings, and it’s really not worth it to produce a chicken just to get the wings”), wonders why the “chicken farmers” don’t just engineer a chicken with “three, four, dare I say it – five” wings? Lobb answers, “Nah, we don’t wanna go there. We don’t get into genetic engineering and modification and so forth.” “You don’t!?” Stephen interrupts: “Have you ever had a chicken nugget? That is a miracle of science.”

Instead of challenging Lobb’s denials of genetic modification with a joke, it would’ve been nice to see Stephen point out the sorry physical condition of “poultry” chickens, all thanks to genetic engineering through irresponsible (and downright evil) selective breeding practices:

Today’s meat chickens have been genetically altered to grow twice as fast, and twice as large as their ancestors. Pushed beyond their biological limits, hundreds of millions of chickens die every year before reaching slaughter weight at 6 weeks of age. An industry journal explains “broilers [chickens] now grow so rapidly that the heart and lungs are not developed well enough to support the remainder of the body, resulting in congestive heart failure and tremendous death losses.” Modern meat type chickens also experience crippling leg disorders, as their legs are not capable of supporting their abnormally heavy bodies. Confined in unhealthy factory farms, the birds also succumb to heat prostration, infectious disease, and cancer.

Like meat type chickens, commercial turkeys also suffer from genetic manipulation. In addition to having been altered to grow fast and large, commercial turkeys have been anatomically manipulated to have large breasts to meet consumer demand for breast meat. As a result, turkeys cannot mount and reproduce naturally, and so their sole means of reproduction is artificial insemination. Like meat chickens, turkeys are susceptible to heart disease, and their legs have difficulty supporting their overweight bodies. An industry journal laments “…turkeys have been bred to grow faster and heavier but their skeletons haven’t kept pace, which causes ‘cowboy legs’. Commonly, the turkeys have problems standing and fall and are trampled on or seek refuge under feeders, leading to bruises and downgradings as well as culled or killed birds.”

The “meat” and “dairy” industries’ genetic experiments don’t start and end with selective breeding, either. They also “directly manipulate…an organism’s genes,” which is the more commonly accepted definition of “genetic engineering” (selective breeding also has the effect of manipulating a species’ genes, but since it’s done “naturally,” technically it doesn’t count as “genetic engineering” per se).

Take these examples gathered by UPC, for instance:

Merck & Co. (the pharmaceutical company that owns Hubbard [chicken] Farms and British United Turkeys Limited), has been doing experiments on chickens using growth hormones from cattle. In the early 1990s, Merck filed for a European patent on a “Macro Chicken,” described on the patent application as a “transgenic fowl expressing bovine growth hormone.” At the same time, geneticists have been searching for a fat-reducing gene to insert into the germ plasm of commercial broiler chickens. This is because selection for body weight in the 20th century tripled the appetite and number of fat cells in broiler chickens so that they “became unable to synthesize protein and lean meat fast enough to keep pace with increased intake of food energy. The excess food energy was deposited as lipids, and broilers became fatter.” With all this in mind, genetic engineers envision a prospect of manipulating the chicken’s DNA to make chickens grow larger, leaner, and faster, and of changing the shape and composition of their bodies. Never mind the chicken, for in this vision, as a biotech company president said, “I’m not sure that birds have preferences about their body shape.”

Indeed, genetically engineered “meat” may soon be coming to a dinner table near (the collective) you:

Fast-growing salmon. Heart-healthy pigs. Nutrient-packed milk. These and other genetically engineered products have gotten one step closer to store shelves.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday announced final guidelines that will help producers clear the regulatory hurdles as they try to bring genetically engineered meat to the marketplace. The guidelines, though themselves not legally binding, will help companies meet mandated regulations.

“This guidance will help the FDA efficiently review applications for products from GE animals to ensure their safety and efficacy,” said Randall Lutter, the agency’s deputy commissioner for policy. […]

A genetically engineered animal is one whose DNA has been altered with DNA from another animal to produce a desirable trait. In some cases, animals are engineered to produce milk that contains medicines — so called “biopharm” animals — and in others, to provide fast-growing or more nutritious food.

Under current rules, a genetically engineered product requires only a label saying it has new nutritional content. For example, if milk were engineered to have more vitamins, a label would have to say only that it has more vitamins, not that it was genetically engineered.

The agency and the biotech industry have agreed that a label isn’t required because the animals aren’t any different from regular animals.

Lobb’s claim that the “chicken industry” doesn’t “get into genetic engineering and modification and so forth,” then, is a bald-faced lie.

Indeed, regular readers of my daily link roundups might recall a number of action alerts urging the FDA against allowing genetically engineered food – including “meat” and “dairy” products – from entering the marketplace (or at least being sold without a label indicating the food’s origins).

If the “chicken industry” could design, breed, slaughter and sell a chicken with five wings – and make a profit while doing so – I have no doubt that they would. Hell yes, they would. Those fuckers have no morals, ethics or conscience – a lack of humanity which certainly shines through in the Lobb interview.

Video sources

January 28, 2009: Better Know a Beatle – Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney accuses the Dalai Lama of cannibalism in an emergency. (07:09)

January 28, 2009: Countdown to Atomic Disaster – The Wing-Ageddon
Watching the Super Bowl without a plate of chicken wings is like making love without a plate of chicken wings. (05:51)

January 29, 2009: Sport Report – Chicken Wing Spokesman Richard Lobb
Richard Lobb has advice for the man who has to choose between frying chicken wings and educating his kids. (07:07)

February 4, 2009: Exclusive – Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney explains to Stephen how to hunt vegetables. (1:43)

Update, 2/5/09:

Here’s some extra web exclusive goodness from the McCartney interview – Sir Paul explains the art of vegetable hunting to Stephen:


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