Photo Credit: Getty Images
Nicholas D. Kristof, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, recently reported some disturbing information concerning factory farmed chickens. In two studies designed to locate the presence of antibiotics in poultry, reseachers uncovered a host of shocking chemicals and drugs in the birds. Caffeine, arsenic, Benadryl, Tylenol and other banned antibiotics were all found in samples begging the question not only of safely but why these substances are being fed to the chickens that we eat.
Why are factory farms including these foreign elements in the chicken's feed? In small doses, poisonous arsenic keeps the chickens' flesh a rosy shade of pink and wards off infections. What about that caffeine? It acts as an appetite stimulant, giving the chickens more awake hours to spend eating and fattening themselves up. And those antibiotics? Certain antibiotics have been banned because they can breed antibiotic-resistant "super bugs" that can be deadly to humans. You'd have to imagine that the stress level is pretty high in a giant factory farm chicken house, so Benadryl is doled out via feed to calm the chickens' nerves. Chicken feather samples from China were also found to contain an antidepressant. Pretty scary stuff.
Big poultry companies do not disclose chemicals or additives like this on their packaging or anywhere else, and Kristof reports that many of them are unaware that the birds are consuming these things. Factory farms are often required to use mass-produced chicken feed, and the farmers don't always know what's in it.
Scientist Keeve E. Nachman, who headed up one of these studies, claims that they haven't uncovered anything that poses an immediate public health risk even though nine out of 10 broiler chickens were found to have consumed arsenic. With news like that, we're going to be sticking with organic chicken like Kristof.