Chicken and egg

Not only should we heed the advice of the PM but also think about what we eat

Kamal Siddiqi December 10, 2018
A Reuters file photo fo a chicken.

Much fun has been made of the Prime Minister’s talk on the rearing of chickens and all that goes with it. Probably the timing of his talk may not have been right. One expects the PM to speak on high flying projects and other subjects. Chickens and eggs it seems are the domain of provincial agriculture ministers.

But I am sold on the idea very much and urge Pakistanis to look at what is being said and not who is saying it. As things stand, the meat of choice in Pakistan has become chicken. It is overwhelmingly consumed in both urban and rural areas but we have also seen how many questions are raised about the quality of the meat that is supplied.

The market may be there but the quality of what is being supplied leaves a lot to be desired.  Agriculture experts have revealed that nearly one-third of the urban population in Pakistan is food insecure owing to rapid urbanisation and climate change. This is cause for concern.

Experts say that kitchen gardening and micro-gardening techniques as well as the rearing of chickens can help Pakistan’s urban population to reduce this threat of food insecurity.

We need to produce better and produce more. Look at the food we are consuming. While some specialty meat shops claim they source their supplies from the best of farms, in most instances Pakistanis consume battery chickens - produced under punishing factory-line conditions and delivered and processed in the most inhumane circumstances.

Various videos have now appeared on social media that also educate us about the quality of the hens that we are consuming, including the diseases they are now carrying with them and which may well be passed on to us.

We do know also that the feed that these ever-suffering chickens are fed comes from a variety of questionable sources. This includes the waste fish that are carried from the Karachi Port every day to Korangi in trucks whose stink can be felt a mile off, to be made into poultry feed.

While the poultry industry continues to produce and raise chickens in the most questionable of circumstances, there is a growing awareness amongst Pakistanis now of the quality of what they eat.

On many occasions, I must confess I have decided that the best option for me is to become a vegetarian given the quality of meat we are served and sold. My friend Muzammil Niazi, who is part of the Farmers Market initiative and who himself runs a farm on organic lines in Malir, agrees that many people are waking up to the fact that the meat and vegetables we are sold in the market are raised and grown in the most questionable of circumstances. In fact, some argue that these food products may be linked to the rise in incidence of cancer in the country.

The vegetables we get in the markets are usually irrigated with sewage water. This in itself is a health hazard. But given the paucity of water in many parts of the country, there is no other option.

Given this, not only should we heed the advice of the PM but also think about what we eat. It is time to go back to the basics. Two generations back we would eat healthy. In the name of progress, we have been reduced to eating trash. In the West, some countries also eat genetically modified produce, which it is argued is equally bad.

Another initiative worth appreciating is that the Punjab agriculture department has formulated a comprehensive plan for the promotion of kitchen gardening across Punjab. The plan would help create awareness among the people about the importance and utility of home grown and fresh vegetables.

Under the programme, the department has already sold 0.1 million winter (Rabi) seed kits on subsidised rates across the province. The official press release also says that under the programme, special attention would be paid on extending the sphere of kitchen gardening to semi-urban and rural parts. This would of course mean more produce available for sale.

We need to look at improving the quality of what we eat. If this is not available in the market, what stops us from taking matters into our own hands? We cannot leave everything to the government to regulate. Let us work towards a healthier Pakistan in the coming years.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2018.

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Ellahi Buksh | 4 years ago | Reply Dear Sir, Appreciate your article on poultry and food scarcity. Regarding fish you mentioned is now being processed in european plants and exported to China, Indonesia and Malaysia. You can check with marine fishery department. It is now so expensive that hardly any is used in poultry feed in Pakistan.
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