Friday, January 27, 2012

My Husband's a Chicken Catcher (or Getting To Know Our Food )

I wasn't going to do a blog about this originally but a friend asked me to so she could share it. I shared to let others know. This is my facebook status from today:
"I've always known how inhumane conditions for livestock are, and have chosen to ignore it, putting the needs of my family first. (I'm sure most of us have seen at least one peta video on the subject, if not go watch one). But I'd never thought much about the people that get them from those barns to our dinner table, until now. My husband's a chicken catcher, along with 7 other men on his shift crew. He has only been on this job 5 days and already the health affects/problems are starting, there are men who have worked this job for years, and are permanently disfigured. They make less than $90/day, have no health insurance and are responsible for damages to the barns. They are also mostly illegal immigrants, working one of those jobs that most American citizens wouldn't, or if they did, the price od chicken would be much higher than now. Why? Because it would be regulated, with an actual wage, Osha standards, sick time and health benefits. Proper working standards.
7 men on a shift catching 44,000 chickens per day, x3 shifts per day. 22,000 chickens in a barn. One barn. 2 men walk the walls, while another drives basically a big vacuum, and the last 4 catch 8 chickens at a time- by hand.  Those 2 wall walkers are trying to make sure chickens don't kill each other or themselves, pick up the DOAs and snap the necks of those that are no good.  All of this in the dark, stomping around in ankle deep chicken shit, muck and mud. There really isn't proper attire, besides boots, jeans, long sleeves,(multiple layers ), bandanas ( to cover faces and necks ) and gloves of some sort (an attempt to keep the bites and scratching to a minimum, and a weak barrier between skin, shit and urine).
We all know we can get ecoli, and salmonella, from under cooked poultry. Just think about what these men are working in, what they are exposed to and bring home to their families.  You may say/think they have a choice, but as the wife of one, I can tell you we don't. This is the job that's available at the moment, but we are lucky that this will only be for a few months. There are those out there that do what they have to to survive, the things no one else would, if given a choice.
After this we will no longer be buying conventional chicken. I could ignore the inhumane conditions for the chickens, but not for the humans that bring it to my table. Please if you saya dinner prayer, not only thank your higher power for the food but ask him to bless the men who caught it too. Don't snub illegals that "are stealing American's jobs", these are jobs we wouldn't under normal circumstances take and if we did the rest of America would be paying a much higher price for their meat."
A few things to add-
*It disturbs me how organizations like Peta, villify the workers, when really its (the conditions) are bad for them too. If there is blame to be cast it should be placed on the big companies that are unethical ans the government for such low standards.
* My eldest son wants a job so desperately he wants to work there, but as a mama bear I may need to say no. I already worry about Dh and am watching his health, watching my asthmatic child work in the same conditions?! Nope not gonna happen.
* Really he doesn't have a choice in this job at the moment. Unless someone out there wants to offer him something else, with a decent wage. We're even willing to relocate!
* It kills me inside to think about him there, to hear him say "I'm just doing what I have to." He's a wonderful man, father, cook, experienced in construction and remodeling, a skilled artist.  But he gets to be a chicken catcher.
I haven't been in our family van since he started and truth be told I'm scared to. The smell that permeates for him when he gets home is 5x worse than a state fair poultry barn. I'm afraid of putting the los in there, of what they'll breath in and how bad it really is.
Photos of my husband's hands and neck.
After just 4 days of chicken catching. He also has scratches on his arms which he's battling infection, patches of the same stuff on his cheeks, and what he calls "chicken poop" coming out of his tear ducts, I believe its likely an infection.  My husband has no medical insurance. We are treating him with what we have here at home. My husband is not alone, there are 20 other guys that work in the same conditions.  And to think, we eat the chickens that come from these conditions.

Edit Note: 10/12 As this is fast becoming one of my most popular posts I wanted to update that lucky my husband is no longer having to catch chickens for work. But hundreds of people still do and my hope is still the same- that there is a way a better work enviroment can come to those who do.My husband's hands have healed, though with scars. Thank you for all your thoughts and advice- maybe someone else who catches chickens will read them and be able to use them.


  1. My grandma was a chicken grower for many years. She had one chicken house ans barely made a profit after feed, electricity, and water, so we had to help catch the chickens so she wouldn't have to pay anybody. It is nasty work. Thick Leather gloves and old army jackets help protect from scratches. A respirator helps a little. My grandma's house was shut down fifteen years ago when she couldn't afford to make necessary improvements and I haven't eaten chicken since way before then. I sincerely hope opportunities arise for your husband and son.

  2. the rash is from the ammonia a tip for the scrateches on the arms take an old pair of socks an cut a hole for his fingers an thumb also baby powder on the body before he goes to work is awesome at helpin with the rash even if ur hubby is no lnger doin this maybe this will help omeone else my husband was a chicken catcher for yrs in pa its nasty dirty work i been to the barns an helped his hands are permenatly dsfigured

  3. I catch chickens for a living, have done for about a year now and i have to agree the marks are what we call ammonia burn. My best advice may initially seem counter intuitive but bear with me. Clothing absorbs the ammonia chemicals from the poop and holds it against the skin where it causes a chemical burn. Baby powder does work but the best advice is to wear a singlet and no gloves. This is because the wet mess hits the skin, then dries out doing no more damage, first two weeks the burns will continue but lessenned, then the skin will harden and you will never get this reaction again. Trust me i endured months of agony from long shirts and gloves before ditching it all for joggers and a vest, no burns since. Four months and counting. Tell him to try it once.

  4. Hey i am a british chicken catcher. Its not the best job but here the money is good. I have been catching for 2 n half years.. All we where is reflective work trousers t-shirt n jumper sll with teflective strips. We wear thin cloth n rubber gloves. But when we are in the cgicken sheds we take our jumpers off because it is to hot to weara one. I have been catching all that time n i am fit n healthy. Iv neve fell ill or caught any infections or fallwn ill from catching.i catch 5 days a qeek unles i do over time.the inly problem i had was my arms, leg n back muscles ached for months and my hands were sore/red raw for couple of month till my skin hardened up n got used to it but after my body got used to it 5 days a week every week im fit as a fidle and bo problems with me.. Also the money is good.

  5. I have spent over a year catching chickens in BC Canada and I mean it's pretty much the same from what I can tell world wide. You have a job to do and it sucks but someone has to do it. My best advice is cotton gloves that you constantly switch every couple of hours. Some people use socks to prevent the scratches but they don't bug me so much now that I have spent so long catching. I am prone to working up a sweat in the barns and I am also one of the few that will work in little more then my gloves my boots and a pair of shorts and I find that I have very few problems from things like cuts. Clean any infections out when you get home and as you get ready use baby powder to keep your skin dry.

  6. I have beeb catching chcikens for about 2 years now and were i work at the best thing we have found to help prevent rash is womens panty hose. Wear the under your regular work clothes. But thw catch is take 1 pair and cut the crotch out so you can wear it like a long sleeve shirt. Womens trouser socks also work good for putting over your arms once you cut out finger holes to protect from scratches. We work 6 days a week every week. The monet is good woth benefits


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