May 22, 2023

Are Lab-Grown Chickens Free-Range?

We conduct our own hen party

By Ed Goldman

CBS News reports that lab-grown chicken “has taken a step closer to hitting American grocery stores”—that the FDA has cleared “cultured chicken cell material” as “safe for use as human food.”

Having never met a cultured chicken, I invited one to come to my office. She beaked on my door at the appointed hour, wearing a tiny tiara on her head and bejeweled tags on her feet. In one wing she held a monocle, with which she ostentatiously scrutinized me, and in the other wing a calling card, which she proffered:

Lab-Grown Chicken
Graduate, #Barnyard College, 2020 

Edgy Cartoon

Fowl play

ME: Hi! Please come in!

NADA: Quack!

ME: Hey, that sounded like a duck!

NADA: I’m multilingual. I speak pullet, pelican and puffin. May I trouble you for a cup of feed? It took me a long time to cross the road.

ME: Well, I’ll see if I have–

NADA (Laughs): Old Joke Alert! You were supposed to ask me, “Why would this chicken cross the road?”

ME (Getting it, maybe): And then you’d say, “To get to the other side.”

NADA (Frowning, yet with no discernible eyebrows): No, no, no. I’d say, “To avoid getting a parking ticket because it’s your street-cleaning day.” 

NADA (Yawning): You begin to bore me. 

ME (Sighing): Yeah, I get that a lot. —So tell me: In your mind, which I presume is remarkably small—

NADA: I didn’t come here to be insulted.

ME: Oh, I’m so sorry, I—

NADA: I usually go back to my coop for that! May I get a rim shot?

ME: Sorry, my drums are at the cleaners.

NADA: A joke! Good! And for you, I presume being humorous is as rare as hens’ teeth.  

ME: To get back, I’m wondering if you feel a difference being a lab-grown chicken as opposed to a naturally grown one?

NADA: Now, how on earth would I know that unless I’d also lived a life as a naturally grown chicken? I’m not what you’d call a reincarnation fan. And looking at your wardrobe and around your place in general, I’m moved to suggest that if YOU ever have your life to live over again…(whispering) Don’t do it!

ME: Noted. Listen, Ms. Capon—

NADA: Call me Nada. In fact, call me anything—and especially CALL ME LATE FOR DINNER! (Clutching its little chest) Oh, dear, I’m getting too old for all this merriment.

ME: That raises a very difficult question for me. (Clearing my throat) Lab- or naturally-grown, aren’t you living on… borrowed time?

NADA: Borrowed from whom? 

ME: I mean—

NADA: You think any banks are gonna lend me time? To them, my being a chicken is like having a reverse mortgage. I even thought of getting one of those payday loans. But they don’t lend anything as big as time. 

ME: What do they lend?

NADA: Oh, just poultry sums! Could you pleeeease do a rim shot?

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).