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A poultry plant is a facility where poultry are processed from slaughter to packaging for sale. Poultry are generally defined as domesticated birds such as chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese. Poultry plants vary in size and scope, and some offer specialty services such as kosher butchering. Most are located in centralized areas with access to train and trucking lines which facilitate rapid transport of live birds and packaged meats, and some are attached directly to poultry farms.
At a poultry plant, live birds are slaughtered and processed to remove entrails and feathers so that they can be butchered for sale. Whole birds are often sold as-is, and the poultry plant can also provide processing for poultry parts such as legs, thighs, and wings. Scrap materials which are not prepared for sale are sent to rendering facilities, while the finished processed meat can be shipped in bulk to wholesalers, or packaged for shipment to grocery stores.
Specialty services which may be offered by a poultry plant can include kosher and halal meat processing, organic meat processing, and humane slaughter facilities. Meat from such plants tends to be more expensive, reflecting the increased care which must be taken in processing, and such plants can also be subject to more rigorous inspection. Government inspectors in these cases are concerned not just with food safety, but with evidence that the plant is conforming with regulations which allow it to sell meats labeled as humane, kosher, or organic.
Large scale poultry farms may have an attached processing plant to streamline their business operations. Not having to truck live birds cuts down on production costs, including costs associated with losing birds in transit. Smaller scale farms may not want to run a processing plant, or may be part of a cooperative which pools resources to fund a centralized plant which handles birds from multiple farms. Very small farms may make arrangements for mobile poultry processing, in which a slaughter truck comes to the farm to handle slaughtering and processing.
Numerous workers are required for poultry plants to handle various stages of the operation. The work tends to be difficult, loud, and dirty, and rates of compensation are usually fairly low because the labor is primarily unskilled. Working in a poultry plant also comes with a number of occupational hazards, thanks to the heavy equipment which is utilized in poultry processing. Plant workers can lose extremities to blades, conveyer belts, and other equipment, and they are also at risk of burns from scalding tanks used to remove feathers.
@browncoat - I've heard recently that someone was talking about setting up the ultimate poultry plant, which would be "humane" as well.
They would remove part of the brains of the chickens so that they couldn't feel pain and wouldn't want to move around, and then remove their feet and things as well, so that they could stack them, and basically treat them like equipment.
Sounds horrific, doesn't it?
But, in theory, the chickens wouldn't be in pain or misery. And they would be very cheap to produce. It's definitely an interesting option to think about.
@indigomoth - It's difficult because in order to go for the middle option you need to install very expensive poultry equipment.
And organic and free range chickens can be sold for so much more than factory chickens that most farmers are going to go for what looks like the best way of recouping their loss.
After all, if you can install a little bit of extra equipment and then charge as much as $10 more per bird, why wouldn't you?
The problem is that the market for free range is only so big, since a lot of people simply can't afford them.
I personally think you're right and some people need to branch into the middle ground, where the chickens are kept in better cages, but not necessarily left to roam around, and are killed humanely.
Those carcasses can be sold for slightly more than the factory ones, but not for nearly as much as the organic ones, keeping them within reach of the average person.
I think it's really sad that "humane" is only an option when it comes to poultry processing. I'm not one of those people who thinks that they should do away with raising chickens altogether, but I don't like the idea that they have the ability to kill them without pain and fear and they simply don't do it.
I'd be willing to pay extra for that, but I've never seen that option on the chickens available at my supermarket. You can either buy free range, which don't mention anything about how they died, or you can buy factory farmed chickens, which presumably lived in misery and died in misery.
I wish someone would go for the middle option.