What Is “Chicken”? – More On Colorado’s Proposed Referendum On Animal Agriculture

Fox Rothschild LLP

Fox Rothschild LLP

As previously discussed in “Colorado Poised to Eliminate Animal Agriculture” this proposed referendum, while clearly intended to eliminate all animal agriculture and related industries in Colorado, is fraught with ambiguities.

Take, for example, the definition of the lifespan of a “chicken” purportedly living for eight years.

Attorneys will recall the basis of a case used by law professors teaching contracts and commercial law in which the definition of what “chicken” means was the basis of the lawsuit.  Frigaliment Importing Co. v. B.N.S. Intern. Sales Corp., 190 F.Supp. 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1960) begins with this question:

The issue is, what is chicken? Plaintiff says ‘chicken’ means a young chicken, suitable for broiling and frying.  Defendant says ‘chicken’ means any bird of that genus that meets contract specifications on weight and quality, including what it calls ‘stewing chicken’ and plaintiff pejoratively terms ‘fowl’.

If “chicken” means a young chicken, suitable for broiling and frying, then its normal life span would be approximately 35 to 49 days.

To make it even more ambiguous this is how USDA describes various forms of chicken:

The age of chickens used for meat can vary from 6 weeks to 1 ½ years old. Chickens labeled as ‘Broiler-fryers’ are young, tender chicken about 7 weeks old; ‘Roasters’ are older chicken, about 3 to 5 months old; ‘Capons’ are male chickens about 16 weeks to 8 months old; and ‘Stewing/Baking Hens’ are mature laying hens 10 months to 1 1/2 years old.

As reported by Dan Flynn in 2022 ballot measure could be “win or die” test for Colorado livestock industry published in Food Safety News, the National Western Stock Show, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Livestock Association and Colorado Farm Bureau have joined forces to oppose the Initiative.

The criminalization of routine animal husbandry practices always angers farmers and ranchers and rightly so.  Those practices have been developed by animal scientists and agricultural extension agents to protect the animals from each other, predators, environmental hazards, infectious diseases, and also create safe work places for farmers and ranchers.

Unfortunately, Colorado is not the only state facing the threat to agriculture through a ballot initiative.  There is a proposed initiative under consideration in Oregon which is arguably even more egregious.  Look for discussion of that initiative in the near future.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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