April 2007 Letters to the Editor
Comments from readers on the last issue of Minnesota Monthly
The article “Pecks and the City” (March) omitted the very sad fact that males, who comprise 50 percent of the chicks hatched by hatcheries and commercial egg-breeding facilities, are killed as soon as their sex is determined, within a day or two. (Only hens are wanted for their eggs.) Because poultry are exempt from humane slaughter laws, the unwanted roosters commonly are disposed of as cheaply as possible by suffocation, or maceration (being ground up alive for fertilizer or feed). At a facility like Murray McMurray, featured in your article, this could mean 40,000 doomed chicks per week. For those “anxious customers who spent all winter studying McMurray’s full-colored illustrated brochure” as “part of the adventure,” let’s not forget it is truly a life-or-death one.
Thank you for writing about people who are proud to be chicken lovers (“Pecks and the City,” March). Like many, I never knew I’d dote on chickens—that is, until I met a crippled hen from a mass-production operation 20 years ago. She taught me how expressive and affectionate a chicken can be. Since then, I’ve maintained a sanctuary for chickens and started a national advocacy organization on their behalf.
I must respectfully challenge the hatchery’s claim that chicks can last three days (72 hours) without food or water. Some can, but not without ill effects. In nature, when chicks hatch under a mother hen, the first to hatch must wait 24 to 48 hours for all to emerge; they survive by absorbing yolk nutrients during this time. Commercial chicks may already be 36 hours old before they are shipped to customers. For this and other reasons —including excessive heat and cold, poor packaging, and being banged around in their boxes—30 to 80 percent arrive dead, according to the airlines.
The best thing people who love chickens in a responsible manner can do is adopt one or more from a shelter or rescue group, such as the Clouse’s Chicken Run Rescue discussed in your article.
President, United Poultry Concerns
I was pleasantly surprised to see a picture of the Twin City Milk Producers’ collection station in Farmington illustrating “Milky Way: the Candy Bar Invented in the North Star State” (March). I remember that exact scene very well. I lived in Farmington from 1942 to 1949, until I was 9 years old. The father of my best friend at the time, who lived two houses down from us, drove a milk truck. (This was before tankers.) My friend and I would sometimes ride along to pick up milk cans for delivery to the TCMP plant. As the truck was being unloaded, we would wander around and watch the activities, including the loading of the “Milky Way” train cars. We were told that a lot of milk was going to be made into candy bars. Your photo brought back pleasant childhood memories.
James J. Vehling
The Horse’s Mouth
I want to thank Minnesota Monthly for the supportive article on the University of Minnesota Equine Center (“Unbridled Ambition,” February). Writer Karin Winegar was wonderful to work with and so very understanding of horse owners and their connection to these magnificent creatures. She really captured the practical as well as the emotional impact that high-tech, high-touch veterinary medicine has on horses and their owners.
2007 Tamarack Award
Minnesota Monthly is now accepting entries for the 2007 Tamarack Award. The $10,000 short-fiction competition, now entering its 22nd year, is open through May 15. Residents of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan are invited to submit an original, unpublished story of 4,000 or fewer words. Visit www.minnesotamonthly.com for additional guidelines.
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