The question of what came first, the chicken or the egg, is irrelevant for poultry producers; all they see is one long value chain. They raise parent chickens, whose eggs are taken to hatcheries. The hatched chicks are moved to broiler farms, the cacophonous prelude to the abattoir. Chickens are typically slaughtered at a precise, young age—34 days old—to meet buyers’ requirements. Fast-food restaurants such as KFC have tightly controlled processes: if wings or legs or breasts are too big, then the allotted cooking time is insufficient, and the meat is raw. South African consumers are generally too poor to afford large birds, so retailers also encourage producers to slaughter birds earlier than happens in richer countries. “We slaughter chickens 24 hours a day,” says Izaak Breitenbach of the South African Poultry Association, an industry body. At least that is the plan. Normally 4m birds are sent to abattoirs every day. But power cuts implemented by Eskom, the state-owned utility, have been “an absolute disaster”, he says, causing butcheries to cease butchering. The curious yet potent effects on this one industry hint at the vast cost of blackouts for the rest of the country’s economy.