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You can sum up the essence of food processing by following the trail of one chicken from the farm to your table. (Vegetarians are excused from this section.)

A chicken's first brush with processing comes right after slaughtering. It's plucked and shipped off to the food processor or the supermarket, packed in ice to slow the natural bacterial decomposition. In the food factory, your chicken may be boiled and canned whole, or boiled and cut up and canned in small portions like tuna fish, or boiled into chicken soup to be canned or dehydrated into bouillon cubes, or cooked with veggies and canned as chicken a la king, or fried and frozen in whole pieces, or roasted, sliced, and frozen into a chicken dinner, or . . . you get the picture (and if you don't, check out Figure 19-1).

When you buy a fresh (raw) chicken instead of a cooked one, you perform similar rituals in your own kitchen. First, the chicken goes to the refrigerator (or freezer), then to the stove for thorough cooking to make sure that no stray bacteria contaminate your dinner table (or you), and then back to the fridge for the leftovers. In the end, the chicken's been processed. And you have eaten. That's the point of this story.

Figure 19-1:

From the farm to your table: Chicken processing.

Figure 19-1:

From the farm to your table: Chicken processing.

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