Revenge of the Chickens

Chicken has become the go-to protein at mealtime for millions of Americans. Advertisers have told us countless times that it’s a heart-healthy option to beef. An average American meat-eater consumes 27.5 hens per year and 2,147 over a lifetime. Annually, 8.13 billion chickens are killed for meat and eggs. This accounts for 95% of all land animals killed for food within the U.S.

Historically, when a family wanted a chicken for dinner they would go into the backyard or barnyard and choose one from their free roaming flock.  Someone would kill the bird with their hands, and then go through the process of plucking and eviscerating it to prepare it for the oven or frying pan. People in cities would visit their local butcher and buy one that was raised naturally nearby. Chickens were eaten on special occasions and certainly not every day.

Happy, healthy chickens were part of the ecosystem of the small family farm until the mid-20th century when everything changed.  Factory farms began to take over chicken farming as a business. Nearly 100% of all poultry production in the United States is now done this way. It’s virtually impossible for independent family farmers to compete against massive corporate operations and the ones that do raise their birds in a way that people concerned with quality are happy to pay more for, such as organic.

Birds in the barnyard or backyard normally eat green plants, wild seeds, worms and insects. They will also eat cereal grains, fruits and vegetables. Fast-growing chickens in factory farms are typically fed only GMO corn and soybeans that have been sprayed with chemical pesticides and herbicides such as glyphosate, a suspected carcinogen. These chemicals end up in the muscles of the birds.

Superbug Factories

American agribusiness is one of the largest purchasers of antibiotics in the world, due to the incredibly crowded and filthy conditions inside the massive barns where the birds spend their short and miserable lives. Thousands of tons of antibiotics are added to their feed to prevent massive outbreaks of disease that would kill them all, and ruin the corporate profits.

Despite the quantity of antibiotics chickens are fed, raw chicken is the most hazardous food you can take into your kitchen. Chicken sickens more Americans than any other food. The U.S. lags far behind other countries in controlling salmonella contamination in poultry, with the industry instead focused on boosting profits.

“Chicken is a reservoir for salmonella.” Thomas Gremillion, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America.

Proper cooking can kill most salmonella strains, but normal food preparation techniques like using a sponge to clean up spills or rinsing raw chicken in the sink tend to spread salmonella and other nasty bugs around your kitchen, resulting in cross-contamination of your sink, cutting board and other foods. 36% of chicken breast, legs, thighs and wings were found to be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant enterococcus faecalis and other dangerous bacteria. This abuse of antibiotics creates bacteria that, should you become ill, are resistant to the antibiotics your doctor would prescribe to save your life.

Simple Steps to Avoid Contamination

At the store: The outside of packages of raw chicken at the grocery store is also a likely source of bacterial contamination. Always use a hand sanitizer and place the package inside of a clean plastic bag to prevent contaminating the other groceries in your cart. Remember to wipe down the handle of your shopping cart with anti-bacterial wipes every time you shop. Doing this will also protect the next shopper; who may have infants or young children, or who may be elderly or have an impaired immune system.

At home: Proper storage of meat and poultry in your refrigerator is essential to prevention of food- borne illness. Keep the package inside of the plastic bag (or a sealed container) and store it on the bottom shelf so that juices can’t drip onto other foods. Food safety experts advise to never wash raw poultry before cooking – it will only spread the bacteria to other surfaces within two feet of the sink. Thaw raw poultry in cold water, while still within the package or plastic bag, and change the water every 30 minutes. Once it is thawed cook it immediately.

Have a dedicated cutting board exclusively for meat and poultry prep. Wash the board, knives and other utensils that come in contact with the chicken or the cutting board with hot soapy water, then disinfect with chlorine bleach or other sanitizer and rinse with clean water. Remember – the home is the prime location for outbreaks of food-borne illness.

Eating Chicken Will Make You Fat

Birds are now bred for their breast size and many find it difficult to stand because their chest is so heavy they topple over. Modern chickens contain 3X more fat than protein, and 10X more fat and calories than the chickens we ate in the 1970’s. Genetic selection for fast-growth leads to obese chickens.

One Netherlands study covered 14 years. Men and women with the highest chicken consumption had a greater increase in their body mass index (BMI) compared to those with those who consumed no chicken at all. (The highest consumption was equivalent to one chicken breast every two weeks, or one chicken nugget/day.)

This chart is even more telling. It shows the weight gain variations between different animal foods. Clearly, poultry eaters (particularly women) show the greatest weight gain over those eating red meat, fish and dairy.

Adenovirus 36 (Adv36) Chicken Virus and Body Mass Index

This virus (not killed by antibiotics) can be spread rapidly through a population of birds in a crowded factory farm setting. It is estimated that approximately 15% of adults in the US are infected with this virus. Obese children who tested positive for the virus weighed 35 lbs. more than their peers who tested negative.

The virus appears to increase the number of human fat cells by mobilizing fat cell precursor stem cells. This can cause obesity without increasing food intake. Researchers recognize that this virus can also be transmitted among family members, which may help to explain the rising problem of childhood obesity (which actually may now be considered an “infectious disease”).

This chart shows the differences in weight (in kilograms) and BMI for people who tested positive for the Adv36 virus compared to those who test negative.

1 kg= 2.2 lbs.

Meat and Diabetes Risk

Meta-analyses of multiple studies show a strong correlation between meat and animal fat consumption and development of type II diabetes, in particular processed poultry. Researchers believe it may be directly related to the abundance of pro-inflammatory toxins in cooked animal products.  These toxins, known as AGEs, lead to tissue injury. Restriction of dietary AGE’s suppresses the damage and may allow the tissues to repair themselves.

A 12 year study showed 8% increase in risk for type II diabetes by increased consumption of total meat by only 50 grams per day. That’s the equivalent of just ¼ of a chicken breast. Another study showed that workers in the meat industry, and particularly in poultry processing, have the highest rates of diabetes. It is believed that high amounts of leucine from animal foods causes overstimulation of mTORC1 which burns out the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and contributes to type II diabetes. Restriction of animal protein is the only way to limit leucine levels. Animal foods are also concentrated sources of industrial pollutants which are recognized as contributors to obesity and diabetes.

In Conclusion

If you decide you can’t live without eating chicken, consider buying organic. Decrease portion size and frequency of consumption; cook it until it is completely “done” using a food thermometer (165 degrees F) and avoid eating chicken from restaurants. If you’ve ever had the “24 hour stomach bug/ flu” what you likely experienced was food poisoning, so please take these suggestions to heart. There is strong evidence that some urinary tract infections maybe directly related to poultry consumption.

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