Save the chickens!

It seems like everyone’s talking about chickens lately! If you were in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall a couple of weeks back, you might have seen the inaugural Melbourne Chicken Save rally. A few days later, Animals Australia launched their new campaign to raise awareness about factory farming of chickens, and finally, the chicks (do you like that?) at Our Hen House aired the first episode of their community/online TV show.

I’m a little late reporting on this, but the weekend before last, the first public awareness rally for Melbourne Chicken Save was held in Bourke Street Mall. It aimed to show people how lovely and intelligent chickens are, and how cruelly they are kept in factory farms.

It was along the same lines as the Melbourne Pig Save rallies that are held most months in the same location, outside the old GPO, on the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets. They provide information and explanation about the lives of animals in factory farms, and provide suggestions for cruelty-free alternatives.

It was a warm, sunny day, and lots of people stopped to look, especially when the brilliant Little Miss Sunshine turned up.

Crowd gathering to watch a chicken on a table doing tricks

Clever Little Miss Sunshine doing her stuff

Animals Australia campaign

Little Miss Sunshine is the shining star of Animals Australia’s new campaign to raise awareness about the treatment of chickens in factory farms, “That ain’t no way to treat a lady“.  She’s just gorgeous, and you can see how smart she is in the Edgar’s Mission video Bird brain.

What to eat instead

Buying free range and ‘humane’ chicken products is one thing – but the most humane approach is to stop using chickens altogether, which can seem tricky at first. Here are some of my favourite chicken and egg substitutes:

Chicken substitutes

Tofu

I know tofu has a reputation for being a bit bouncy – which can be good but very un-chicken-like, but let me explain:

If you take a whole block of tofu, still in the packet, and freeze it, then thaw it, it takes on a totally different texture.

Once you’ve thawed the tofu, open the packet and drain out the liquid. Then squeeze out even more of the liquid and, if you can be bothered, you can press it between two clean tea towels or sheets of paper towel.

With all of this liquid removed, it loses its bounce and has a firmer texture. It also soaks up marinades and sauces really, really well, so it can be very tasty. Prepared like this, tofu works well in place of chicken pieces in most recipes.

Redwood chicken pieces

Garnisha tandoori paste and Redwood chicken-style pieces

Garnisha tandoori paste and Redwood chicken-style pieces

I usually don’t like fake meats, but for some reason I really like these. They’re enough like chicken to stand in for it, but not enough that it really feels like meat. (No sinews, veins, bones, cartilage or cruelty.) I love them baked in a tandoori paste mixed with coconut cream.

I was very excited to find a vegan tandoori paste a few months ago (most, that I’ve seen, have cochineal to give them the red colour). Garnisha tandoori paste is vegan, and as it has no cochineal, it’s not the expected red colour, but it tastes the same as the more common red paste.

Loving Hut’s fried chicken

The Southern fried chicken at the new Loving Hut restaurant in Northcote seems to be the most popular item on the menu. It gives you the crunchy, oily, salty goodness of regular old fried chicken.

Fried 'chicken' balls

Loving Hut’s Southern Fried ‘chicken’

Egg substitutes

The Gourmet Vegan has a really handy list of substitutes for different purposes. We’re always going back to it.

Here are some others I have or have tried:

No Egg

I often use Orgran No Egg, just because it’s easy. It’s based on potato starch and tapioca flour, and helps things bind together.

No Egg

The Vegg

The Vegg is an egg yolk substitute. I’ve had it in my pantry for a while now. I’ve heard that it’s great, but I’m not quite sure what I’m going to use it for yet.

Packet of The Vegg

Scrambled tofu

Similar to scrambled egg, but not the same. I actually like it a lot better than eggs, especially when it’s mixed with mushrooms and curry flavours. There are lots of recipes around. Just Google it, or try this recipe from Great British Chefs.

Scrambled tofu and toast

Scrambled tofu from Invita at the Queen Victoria Market

Quiche

I haven’t personally tried this “Can’t tell the difference” quiche yet – it’s on my list – but I’m told it’s a good one. It’s based on chickpea (besan) flour. Let me know if you’ve tried it.

Frittata

I have made this silken tofu frittata. It tasted fantastic, although I have to admit that mine didn’t look quite as good as the picture. (No, I won’t be posting the photos!) I’ll make it again though.

Beyond Egg

This is a product that aims to reduce the cost of producing baked goods, while providing an even better result. It was released late last year and could result in a lot fewer eggs used for mass-produced baked goods, which almost certainly don’t use free range eggs. It’s good news for people who don’t eat eggs, because more biscuits and cakes will be available for us…just what I DON’T need!

Read a comparison report from Huffington Post.

Reducing your egg consumption will also reduce your risk of raw egg roulette. (Erk!)

Partially de-feathered chicken, running free on the grass

Rescued battery hen at Edgar’s Mission last year.

There are lots of delicious alternatives around – and remember that every time you substitute, you save one egg (or more), and that’s good for chickens.

If you do use eggs, here’s a handy chart from Animals Australia to help you make sense of all the confusing labelling and humane claims on the egg boxes – but remember that even the loveliest free range farm or suppliers of chickens for home eggs (unless it’s a rescue situation) can’t use the 50% of male chicks that are born. You’ll probably want to ask what they do with them, because these little chicks can’t even be taken in as pets in suburban areas, because most councils don’t allow roosters.

Our Hen House

In more exciting chicken news this week, my favourite podcast Our Hen House has just launched its brand new community/internet television show!  I think they did a great job!

They taste tested some gourmet vegan food from the Regal Vegan.  It’s based in New York, but it sounds like they’re similar to Botanical Cuisine here in Melbourne – so now I’m craving a jar of cashew cheese!

Anyway, here it is. If you’re not already a follower, check out the Our Hen House podcast, blog, online magazine, Etsy shop  – they’re into everything!

Watch Our Hen House on Brooklyn Independent Media from Brooklyn Independent Media on Vimeo.

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3 thoughts on “Save the chickens!

  1. I’ll have to try the can’t-tell-the-difference quiche on my family next week, it looks fab! Thanks for the write ups, glad to see those Loving Hut balls got a mention 😛 I’ve had a packet of Vegg sitting in the pantry for a few months, I really must do something with it soon.

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