You've heard of "Free-Range" poultry? I'm sure. The yuppies who insist on it haven't a clue about raising domestic animals, and they've been sold a bill of goods that the chicken that gets no additional protection from disease, and has to forage for it's own food instead of having it brought to a trough, is a better chicken.
Say good-bye to your "free-range" poultry, Mr. & Mrs. Yuppie, their death warrants have all been signed by Judge H5N1, which will likely execute them all this year. The problem, of course, is that out on the "free range", wild fowl can and will mix in with the poultry flocks, and the Avian Flu strain H5N1 will transmit to them even before it transmits to better-managed flocks. It may even be possible to maintain some chicken production during the Avian Flu, if it's done totally indoors.
For most of us, though, chicken will become a very scarce commodity shortly (for the "free-range" afficionados, almost immediately). Fox news recently reported that H5N1 will likely hit US poultry production this Spring. Poultry prices will soar faster than gas prices after a hurricane.
In this Rivrdog Blog post, I advised how to measure your poultry-products use and prepare to lay in sufficient frozen stocks and sufficient substitutes to get through the avian pandemic. Problem was, I didn't have the data on what was really available for pre-processed and substitute poultry products.
I hollered "help". That's all it took for my Food Editor and his wife to immediately run to the store and scope out the available poultry products, do some basic kitchen and storage tests, and whip up a report. Now, that's FAST: the unvarnished truth (no MSM bull), in HOURS!
The first installment of "Long-Range" Poultry follows...
According to Rivrdog, Fox News is recommending laying in stores of of poultry, eggs, and related products, due to Bird Flu arriving here in the United States via migratory wild fowl.
Regardless of whether or not you take seriously the threat of H5N1 jumping to a human-spreadable version of flu with fatality rates approaching 50%, the unavoidable threat is to the poultry industry.
H5N1 is extremely contagious among avians. When a single infected bird is found in a flock, the whole flock has to be destroyed to prevent further spread. (Ed. note: since wild flocks can't effectively be euthanized, due to being, well, wild, the disease continues it's spread along the paths of those wild and migratory fowl. Also since birds of a feather tend to flock together, wild or not, the infected wild birds like to land in among open poultry flocks, which then get infected.).
Now just imagine the huge barns our major poultry-producers use, with thousands and thousands of chickens in them. Wiped out, gone. And it'll be several months, at least, before that grower can replace that flock.
Let that simple scenario happen a couple of times across the country, and we'll be facing a sudden shortage of chicken, eggs, turkey, and all the other things that come from them, and no matter how severe the shortage, the prices for the available product will skyrocket.
Anyway, we have a threat coming up. Not a "possible" threat, or "likely", but almost guaranteed. H5N1 is going to get here, it's going to infect bird populations, and it's going to impact our food supply.
This post is going to be more focused on storage than my last two have been. What I've found that seems like a good way to lay in stores so you don't get caught paying $20 for a dozen eggs or $15/lb for chicken (if you can find them).
First up: If you have a freezer, reorganize it and start filling it. If you don't have a freezer, and have space for one, start watching the classified ads and craigslist.org, get one, and start filling it.
(And as insurance, look into getting a (roughly 5kw minimum) gas- or diesel-powered generator. Diesel's better, but they're also more expensive. Keep enough fuel to run your fridge and freezer for at least three days.)
Start buying whatever you like, watch for it on sale... I don't think I need to tell anyone how to shop for groceries, do I? (Ed note: by the time you read this, the prices will probably be rising. Pay the prices that you have now, because they will surely get even higher.)
On less-commonly-known ground, there are plenty of recipes you can make using canned chicken that are plenty good. The cans, of course, don't need refrigeration - store them anywhere you have spare cabinet space. The ones in my cabinet now are good for at least three more years.
More manufacturers are also packaging pre-cooked chicken in foil pouches that don't require refrigeration, also with multi-year shelf lives. One by Tyson that Lisa bought earlier tonight is good until 2009. These also store easily, and have the added advantage of being easily carried in a backpack.
Ok, it's not hard to stock up on chicken. What about eggs?
Two words: Freeze 'em.
I cracked an egg into a Glad storage bowl, put it in the freezer overnight, and then fried it - came out fine. Well, ok, I think I overcooked it, but it looked like an egg, tasted like an egg, etc. etc.
You can also separate the yolks from the whites and freeze them separately. Here's more information. And don't forget about Egg Beaters - these are basically just egg whites with yellow food coloring and some preservatives. And they freeze long-term just fine as well.
I'll have to do a follow-up regarding powdered eggs - don't have any to try yet.
This research also had me feeling a little like I was in the Twilight Zone - Vegans really ARE useful! Do a Google search on "Vegan Baking" and you'll find PLENTY of egg substitutes for cooking and baking. Here are some examples.
"Poultry Products" is honestly too big a topic to cover in one post. I'll probably do some followups on this one. Just remember, freezers are your friends, as are canned or pouched foods and egg substitutes. If H5N1 doesn't make the jump to human-transmissible, all we'll have to deal with is a poultry shortage. Refrigeration shouldn't be an issue.
Of course, if H5N1 DOES make the jump to human-transmissible, we'll be looking at a whole other set of problems - which is why you're reading EVERYTHING here on Paratus, not just the food posts, right? (Ed. note: some Flu Pandemic preparation posts are also found in the main Rivrdog blog, just click on October 2005 Archives, to the October 15 post, where the earlier ones are linked. There are a few later updates all the way through the November archives, but that 10/15005 post will get you all the good stuff.)
Editor: I have to thank Aaron and Lisa for their work. This is going to be a big test for Americans, but those who prepare, WITH THE HELP OF THOSE WHO OFFER THE PREPARATION HELP, will always be better off, and every such situation mastered increases your self-confidence that that you can master the next, more difficult test.
Editor's related suggestion: For some reason, probably just coincidence, there appears to be an oversupply of pork in the stores right now. In Portland, OR, I can get pork loin (whole loins, good for about 6-8 meals for two) for $1.69/lb. The usual price is around $5.00/lb. I'm going to buy several loins and freeze them (cut into 2 # roasts in vac-seal pouches), and they will be a decent substitute for chicken (pork is, after all, "the other white meat").