There was a mention in the news this week that our treatment of food animals in this country is appalling. I agree. I haven’t eaten red meat for years, and both of my daughters asked for barnyard animals as pets just about every Christmas.

I do still eat poultry, and just try to put out of my mind the whereabouts and details of their lives before they show up fricasseed on my plate. But some animal activists have apparently suggested that chickens designated as pot pie filler might be happier during their brief lives if they were lobotomized.

I imagine myself at the grocery, asking the man behind the meat counter the following questions:

ME: “Pardon me, but is this chicken breast from a free range chicken?”

BUTCHER: “Why yes, ma’am, I think so. Let me check.” (he runs to the back, wiping his bloody hands on his gory apron) “Yes, it is. We get all our poultry from XandO Farm, which is a free range facility.”

ME: “That sounds good. But do the XandO chickens get organic feed?”

BUTCHER: (rolling his eyes a bit, and then running into the back again) “Yes, ma’am. XandO Farm uses certified organic grain.”

ME: “But, wait. If these chickens are fed grain, then it must mean that they don’t get out much. I wonder just how ‘free range’ they are, if they need grain at all, come to think of it.”

BUTCHER: “I know. You want me to ask, don’t you?”

ME: “Well, I want to make sure that the range out there at XandO is really ‘free.’ ”

BUTCHER: (hitting forehead with palm of hand as he heads behind the swinging door, then returning after a much longer pause) “Ma’am, according to the literature, the XandO chickens are ‘free range.’ That is all it says.”

ME: “Can you make a quick phone call? I really don’t want to eat fraudulent free range chicken.”

BUTCHER: “Perhaps if you have some other shopping to do, I can talk with the meat department manager for you. He is on his break right now. Can you come back in, say, ten minutes?” (coughing into his hand—but it sounds more like choked laughter to me)

ME: “Ok. That would be fine. Oh, and while you are at it, could you ask him whether the the XandO chickens have had lobotomies? I would appreciate that.”

BUTCHER: (now spluttering, spewing saliva all over the table in front of him containing twenty pounds of ground beef) “Beg pardon?”

ME: “Lobotomies. You know, pre-frontal cortex destruction? It’s the latest in animal husbandry. Happy chickens–make the best pot pies. It’s been on the Food Network…”

BUTCHER: “Let me make sure I understand. You want lobotomized chicken, right? Not chickens that have had electroshock therapy?”

ME: “Correct. They don’t do shock therapy on chickens. I think you are thinking of buffalo—they have a lot of stress.”

BUTCHER: (now sweating profusely) “I’ll see what I can find out for you, ma’am.”

I nod, feeling very smug, as I go off to look for Acai berries, chia seeds, and gluten free melba toast, secure that my family will live long and healthy lives…

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