To put it politely, the American egg industry is pretty fucked. Even after the USDA ordered the death of 5 million Iowa chickens in a last-ditch effort to stem the spread of avian flu,the outbreak has killed more than 48 million chickens across 15 different states this year. As such, substantial shortages have sprung up and egg prices have risen to comical levels, with many intrepid egg producers reaching for H.R. Giger level solutions.
Hong Kong farmers know all about this kind of problem. Their poultry sector suffered a dramatic downfall after the first death from H5N1 bird flu occurred there in 1997. Thanks to fear of the avian flu jumping species to humans, the government in Hong Kong strongly discouraged poultry farming; only 28 such farms survived.
So Hong Kong poultry farmers have learned to get creative. According to the South China Morning Post, Fong Chi-hung of Harvest Musical Farm in Yuen Long is one of the most sought-after poultry farmers in all of Hong Kong. The secret to his success? He prefers for his walkable wares to have all manner of music pumped into their coops.
That's right—at the Harvest Musical Farm in Yuen Long, Fong Chi-hung plays music to his chickens. Then he charges a pretty penny for their meat and eggs. His flock of Zhong shan Shalan chickens don't just listen to Mozart, though; they have quite eclectic tastes. They're down for a little Gaga too.
Fong now has 30 distributors for his music-appreciating poultry. His ten-year old business is raking in big bucks: a two-kilogram bird brings HK$180 ($23.22 USD); his eggs sell for HK$7 each. That's about an American buck an egg, folks.
Fong says his eggs are worth it: "Unlike ordinary mainland eggs, which have flaccid yolks and runny whites, the yolk of a music egg is firm and there are two distinct layers of white."
He got the idea to play music to his chickens thusly: "When I first raised chickens, many died. They were scared by noise from firecrackers and nearby construction … So I tried playing music to my chicken[s] to get them used to loud sounds."
Fong believes he knows what kind of music his chickens like. He plays classical for chicks up to 15 days old. Why? Because they mostly eat and sleep at that age, so the classical music is soothing.
Adolescent birds of 16 to 30 days old listen to romantic ballads. We don't know why, but we can guess. Adult birds of more than 31 days enjoy up-tempo tunes from the likes of Lady Gaga.
The musical chickens also enjoy some form of free-ranging. They meander around a "roof garden" which gives them a "semi-free-range" experience. Fong explains, "Usually, there are 60 chickens to a coop, but some have just 20. Selected chickens are put in the top rack, where there are only five, to give them more space to move around." Life is good if you are a Fong-raised musical chicken.
The problems for Hong Kong chicken farms are not all avian-flu related. They also have a hard time competing with Chinese poultry and egg producers, thanks to low Chinese wages and costs and the ubiquity of hormone use there—something that is not allowed in Hong Kong. As a result, many Hong Kong poultry producers have gone upscale.
Hence, the musical egg and the happy Hong Kong chicken.
Somebody needs to let Fozzie Bear know about this shit, ASAP.