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The dark side of chicken

Posted Feb 25 2013 9:18am
English: Chicken meat available at Chow Kit.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chicken is one of the most popular protein choices when eating a healthy diet. It is usually advised to replace red meat with lower fat choices like chicken, turkey and fish. What many do not realize is often factory-farmed  chickens are fed a variety of things that may potentially affect humans consuming the meat.

Following poultry slaughter, feathers are converted into feather meal and sold as fertilizer and animal feed , thereby providing a potential pathway for reentry of drugs into the human food supply.


The Food and Drug Administration says 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are fed to livestock and even healthy chickens in order to protect them from disease in cramped quarters. It also helps the chickens grow bigger and faster. (also why chickens are given caffeine).   One study ,  published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Environmental Science & Technology , found that feather meal routinely contained a banned class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. These antibiotics (such as Cipro),  are illegal in poultry production  because they can breed antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that harm humans. Already, antibiotic-resistant infections kill more Americans annually than AIDS, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America .

“We’re particularly interested in chickens. They, in many cases, are getting drugs from the time that they were in an egg all the way up to the time they are slaughtered,”

The  chicken industry  disputes the researchers’ conclusions, and quoted Dr. Randall Singer, associate professor epidemiology at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, who said: “These studies have nothing to do with antibiotics in poultry product and further changes to antibiotic use in poultry will not change the potential human health risks associated with these food born E.coli.”


Organoarsenical drugs are widely used in the production of broiler chickens in the United States . Feathers from these chickens are processed into a meal product that is used as an animal feed additive and as an organic fertilizer. Research conducted to date suggests that arsenic drugs, specifically roxarsone, used in poultry production result in the accumulation of arsenic in the keratinous material of poultry feathers. The use of feather meal product in the human food system and in other settings may result in human exposures to arsenic.

Antihistamines & Acetaminophen

One-third of feather-meal samples contained an antihistamine that is the active ingredient of Benadryl . Poultry-growing literature has recommended Benadryl to reduce anxiety among chickens, apparently because stressed chickens have tougher meat and grow more slowly. The great majority of feather meal also contained acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol.

It is quite alarming to discover even when one makes what seems to be a healthy dietary decision that may not always be the case. It cannot be stressed enough how important researching what is really going on with the food that is consumed. Eating foods from local farmers can help one get a better understanding of the quality of food purchased as well as the methods employed to cultivated and process the food.

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