Live chickens are sold at Heart of the City Farmers’ Market at UN Plaza, but feces is being served up along with fowl, according to an animal rights activist, who is working to shut down the chicken sales.
The presence of poop alone should be enough to shut down live poultry sales at the market, says Andrew Zollman of activist group LGBT Compassion. Zollman has for a year recorded what he believes is a litany of state and local health code violations — some of which are available for viewing on YouTube — perpetrated by Raymond Young Poultry of Modesto, who has sold chickens and other fowl at the market since 1993.
Live chickens are extremely popular with the market’s Chinese-speaking clientele, many of whom then travel with the birds, which are stuffed into shopping bags, on public transportation. For a time, some used food stamps to purchase the birds, which is another violation (since shut down by Zollman’s efforts. The market is now cash-only).
Here’s what’s wrong: the birds come into contact with their own feces before they’re sold, there’s bird poop on the plaza near the Young’s tarp-covered truck, and there’s bird poop on the bags chickens are sold in, which are then taken into the market area near the fresh fruit and vegetables, according to Zollman, who says the YouTube video evidence corroborates his claims. “We’ve so far been unable to get any city or county officials to enforce this or other violations,” he told the Appeal.
The California Food and Retail Code does not prohibit live animal sales at farmers’ markets, though there are restrictions on pets’ presence at any “food facility”. Sales of poultry — the definition of which includes live animals — are allowed under the law. Young’s farmers’ market permit allows him to sell live poultry.
Despite Zollman’s efforts, the sales continue — with approval from the city. Investigations by workers from the Department of Public Health have unearthed at least two health violations in the past six months, according to Eileen Shields, a department spokeswoman.
One, in June, was considered fixed within a week. A second, last month, led the DPH to ask market manager Christine Adams and the Youngs to post security guards to prohibit customers with just-bought live chickens to enter the market, and to keep the area in front of the Young’s market area free of bird crap.
Since June, the market has been “monitored quite frequently,” according to Lisa O’Malley, a DPH food inspector, and “both Raymond Young and Christine Adams have complied with all DPH requests. The problem is with maintenance.”
As in the poop. At the market on Wednesday, the area in front of the Young’s stall seemed clean and clear. “They said the bags were dirty and the floor was dirty,” said Christina Ly, who manages sales for Raymond Young (her father). “But now everything’s fine. They tell us to sweep the floor and keep the bags clean, and we do it.”
Adams, the market manager, was busy when approached by a reporter Wednesday. Her walkie-talkie radio crackled. She was on the move. “We have a chicken situation,” she said, weaving through bag-toting shoppers looking for the problem: someone had crossed the line and brought one of the Young’s live chickens into the market.
“Look for the pink-top[ped plastic bag],” she said, before finding the perpetrator — a woman carrying a child on her back as well as a full load of groceries — and escorting her to the perimeter.
Adams believes there’s nothing wrong at her market. “[Raymond Young] is legal,” she says. “He does everything he needs to do. He has his paperwork.” She wants Zollman to stop protesting. “It’s bad for business,” she says.
Still, she would like to see Zollman and the Youngs come to a mutual agreement. They’ll have the chance to do that next month, when everybody – Zollman, the Youngs, and Adams — are scheduled to sit down with a mediator who is expected to address the protests as well as a gay slur allegedly made against Zollman by a Young market worker in August (as penance, Zollman is requesting that market staff undergo LGBT sensitivity training, and make cash donations to Larkin Street Youth Services’ HIV Prevention and Castro Youth Housing Initiative programs).
Adams hopes the mediator, an attorney, can convince Zollman to stop protesting, and get the Youngs to do what they need to do to please Zollman — which, unfortunately, appears to be nothing short of packing up to Modesto and never returning.
“We don’t believe it’s possible for HOC to comply with public health laws when they’re selling animals at a market where they’re prohibited at,” Zollman says. “However, even if they somehow complied, we still wouldn’t be satisfied, as all of the other animal social problems will still exist.”