We can't even afford chicken feed

The recession has an upside, right? As consumers cut back, austerity trend pieces told us chicken was supposed to supplant beef as what's for dinner. But Pilgrim's Pride, the large poultry producer, has gone bankrupt right after Thanksgiving.

The Chapter 11 filing was brought on by high feed costs, a surfeit of chicken on the market, and weak demand. Weak demand? Chicken is about the cheapest animal protein one can get on supermarket shelves, so this either spells an outbreak of mass vegetarianism or a desperate lurch toward rice and beans.

For that, we can blame people who have turned away from rice and beans: The rising middle classes of India, China, and other developing countries have increased their consumption of meat, which requires large amounts of grain to produce. The high price of oil and fertilizer used to farm grain have added to the cost. A recent drop in commodity prices hasn't been enough to help. Next thing we know, we'll be fighting chickens for feed.

(Photo by J.A.T. Vierkant)