10 reasons Pinoys can't let go of chicken

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 18) — They tweet, they warble, and crow. They have wings but they can't fly. It's said they're even more clever than toddlers, and that they can do math!

Chickens are known as the most common, and probably the most populous bird species on earth. That's certainly true in the Philippines where chickens outnumber Filipinos.

We love chickens, for many reasons, but mainly for food. Chicken meat is way cheaper than pork or beef, and healthier to eat as it has lower fat. Pinoys also cook chicken in strange ways, leaving no part to waste. (Isaw or adidas, anyone?)

With the country's first bird flu outbreak causing a scare, with news of chickens being gassed in farms to contain the virus, it makes one wonder, can we ever live without chickens? Probably not.

Here are the reasons why:

1. There's just too many of them

As of January 2017, the chicken population in the Philippines reached 175 million.

Central Luzon is the country's top chicken producer (35%), followed by Calabarzon (20%), and Northern Mindanao (9%).

2. They can live anywhere

Chickens in the Philippines are either raised in backyard farms or commercial farms. If you're keeping them, just be sure to fence them in as they love to run, and can roam all day! And keep them warm with a roof and light.

3. Chickens are pretty easy to raise

What's the chicken diet? Just feed them rice, corn or cassava. Some backyard raisers let chickens eat leftover food, and vegetable rejects like kangkong and mustasa. If you really want to go organic, better find them some worms.

Feed them once in the morning, and again in the afternoon.

And don't forget, drinking water should be around at all times.

Chickens raised for meat are up for slaughtering when they're just 41 days old, although they can actually live "from five to 11 years in their natural environment."

4. We can raise all sorts of chickens

Here in the country, we have three types:

a. Native, the kind that has "unique taste, distinct flavor and texture," and lower fat content. They're usually free of antibiotics and synthetic chemical residues.

Of the total chicken population, 45% (78 million) are native chickens, the highest in the country

Northern Mindanao and Davao Region produce the most number of native chickens

b. Broiler, are the ones you eat for meat. They're bred to be fast growing so they gain weight quickly.

There are 62 million broiler chickens, or 35% of the total population

Most of the broilers are raised in Central Luzon

c. Layer, a special species of hens that lay eggs

There are 34 million chickens, or 20% of the total population

These chickens are mostly from Calabarzon

5. There's the so-called chicken dilemma

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It's a proverbial question we can never seem to solve.

But here in the Philippines, what we do know is — in terms of volume production in 2016, we produced more chickens (1,674,505 metric tons) than eggs (461,719 metric tons).

6. It's a multi-billion industry, which means jobs

In the Performance of Philippine Agriculture in 2016, the gross value of production of the chicken industry reached P146 billion, just P64 billion behind the hog industry

Chicken and egg production both grew during first quarter this year, with the number of chicken broilers growing in most regions.

7. Chickens are cheap, and affordable

As of August 2017, chicken meat in supermarkets or groceries costs P136 to P145 per kilo, while pork costs P220 to P249 per kilo, and beef costs P305 ot P495 per kilo.

You may buy egg for P4.50 to P6 a piece.

8. They match our appetite for 'unli-rice'

Anywhere you go, on each turn of the street, there's a chicken stall, and the smell of a well-marinated meat wafting from the grill.

We have Andok's, Baliwag Lechon Manok, Chooks to Go, Sr. Pedro Lechon Manok, Mang Inasal and many more.

It's hard to ignore a juicy slab of pecho, in inasal or barbeque flavor, served with a Mang Tomas sarsa or a mix of toyo, calamansi and sili. The best part? Rice and more rice!

9. There are a million ways to cook them

We have a long list of recipes for chicken, but nothing stands out more than our odd way of taking them apart -- from the head all the way down to the ass — as street food.

There's Betamax (blood), Helmet (head), Pakpak (Wings), Isaw (intestines), Atay (Liver), Corazon (Heart), Balunbalunan (Gizzard), Adidas (feet), Pwet (butt), and Tokneneng (egg). All dipped in special Pinoy sauce, grilled, and dunked in vinegar.

Of course, we can never cook our signature dishes Adobo, Tinola, Arrozcaldo, and Empanada without chicken.

10. But nothing beats the fried chicken!

You're not Filipino if you can't declare undying love for Jollibee's Chicken Joy and Max's Chicken.

But even if we do eat them a lot, we need to treat chickens humanely.

Animal activists say chickens are the most abused animal on the planet.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) reports these birds are usually "dumped in crates, hung upside down in shackles, throats cut open by machines, and they are immersed in scalding-hot water for feather removal."

In the Philippines, we have a law to protect them.

Section 6 of the RA 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act of 1998 says: "It shall be unlawful for any person to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat any animals."