How do you make a chicken?

«To be normal, to drink Coca-Cola and eat Kentucky Fried Chicken
is to be in a conspiracy against yourself»
(From Richard Donner’s “Conspiracy Theory”, 1997)

Every parent, at least once in his/her lifetime, happened to answer to his/her child’s question: «How do you make a chicken?». Well, maybe not everyone had to illustrate the way to make a chicken but, for sure, all of us had to explain where food and beverages that we daily consume come from.

In these cases, it would not occur to anyone to answer: «Honey, chicken comes from a chicken factory»; the better strategy consists in using the image of a farm, in which chickens scratch the field, eat seeds and worms, find a shelter in a stable, etc. We give explanations of this kind because we think it is important that our children don’t lose touch with traditional agriculture, composed of fields and farmers that the majority of kids (expecially those who live in big cities) don’t know at all.

Yes, this approach is the correct one because the rural universe we talk about in our accounts actually exists. Farms, peasants and stables still exist.
It is also fair to do so in an attempt to keep up the vital connection with nature, plants and animals without which human beings could not survive.

However, today, the answer «Chicken is made in the factory» is at risk of being the best one: in the last decades, agriculture has radically changed and if somebody could witnessed how the food we eat is made (following its way from stable to table), he or she would bump into something that looks much more like a factory than a farm.

For these reasons, to explain children how chicken is made, their parents should take them in two different places: the first one is the traditional agricultural holding, where chickens live in stables and fields, eating everything they can get and growing up in five or six months. The second one is the factory: a big barn where chicks born in a closet and travel on conveyor belts towards a large room, in which they eat twenty-four hours a day to grow up in only a month.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to visit a chicken factory. If a school tries to organise a didactic visit in one of these factories, it will receive a negative reply.
All that remains is to resort to other resources, such as videos and documentaries shot by people  who may access to the structure with video cameras.

If we decide to take this path, we have to prepare ourselves to answer to new questions (more complicated), that could destroy our knowledge about food and nutrition. Nevertheless, there is a silver lining: these queries could lead us towards more conscious choices about food purchase and consumption.

Wrtitten by Giordano Golinelli, Fondazione ACRA-CCS

Translated into English by Arianna Rimoldi

Originally published on

Photo Crazy chicks (cc) Chris Hawes