Sunday, June 29, 2008

The cruelest cuts

"America's best-selling meat comes in dozens of cuts and hundreds of further-processed forms, such as turkey hot dogs and chicken patties. It's a variety born of necessity, as historically thin profit margins have forced poultry producers to develop new products in their search for revenues.That strategy was accelerated a quarter century ago with the debut of chicken's most revolutionary product.

The McNugget.

In 1983, McDonald's introduced nationwide the bite-sized chicken pieces that were kid friendly, car friendly and presumably a healthy alternative to burgers (consumers didn't know they were fried in beef fat). Within two years, McDonald's was the second-largest chicken seller in the country, behind Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The launch ignited consumer demand for a diversity of poultry products, a trend that continues today.

It has not been good news for poultry workers' hand

"I don't know a single worker who doesn't have some sort of pain in their hand," Garcia says.

Says Garcia of his patients: "I get people who say, `Please don't tell them I went to my private doctor. If they find out, they will fire me.' "

It is this contradiction -- workers fretting about losing a harmful job -- that troubles the doctors on the fringe of the poultry business. For workers, the issue is often a simple equation: how much they can make versus how much they can bear." (Thanks Toufic)

Read the entire (excellent) article here. I sent it to a friend in Lebanon who is an occupational health specialist. I wonder what the status of the injuries is in Lebanon, where poultry is big business and there are a couple of large plants. There are also much larger plants in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, countries that are not known for respecting workers rights.

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