Chicken: A History from Farmyard to Factory

Polity. Jul. 2020. 252p. ISBN 9781509525911. $25. agri;.
Science historian Josephson presents a thought-provoking exposé of the poultry industry. He traces the history of how the red jungle fowl from Southeast Asia became the modern domesticated chicken and shares how different cultures have incorporated chickens into various religious practices, literature, and gendered economies (with women often having taken charge of poultry management). He notes that across cultures, domesticated chickens were considered companions and partners to humans until 20th-century industrialization made them a commodity. Josephson shows how the practice of having large agribusiness operations, CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), with millions of birds kept inhumanely for their brief seven weeks of life, may have begun in the United States but has spread around the world, with large operations in Brazil, China, the European Union, and Russia. The industry comes with many invisible costs, which are passed on to consumers: meat loaded with antibiotics and other additives; diseases (such as Avian flu) spread to humans; and waste products, which pollute land, water, and air.
VERDICT Highly recommended for those interested in agriculture, food safety, and the humane treatment of animals.
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