Monday, November 30, 2009

Check Yo Chicken

A recent study by Consumer Reports shows that, of 382 whole raw chickens bought at over 100 stores in 22 states, 62% contain a harmful bacteria called campylobacter, 14% had salmonella, and 9% had both. This includes organic and all-natural chicken, too, though I think they fared a bit better in the testing.
But no worries, I think, because apparently normal cooking kills off the bacteria? Still, kind of disconcerting to know that if you undercook a bit or don't clean off your cutting board well enough, you risk getting really sick. (Each year, about 500 Americans die from these bacteria and 25,000 are hospitalized).

Also, I think this says something about the state of our food industry: namely, this is a reflection of the unsanitary conditions that arise when you breed thousands of chickens in cramped quarters with unnatural food and no access to the outdoors.

Some quick facts about factory farmed chicken:
  • Broilers are warehoused in long sheds, called “grower houses,” which typically confine up to 20,000 chickens at a density of approximately 130 square inches of space per bird...A chicken requires 138 square inches just to stretch a wing.
  • Overcrowded confinement also results in the rapid deterioration of air quality within the grower sheds. As the weeks pass, chicken excrement accumulates on the floors. As bacteria break down the litter and droppings, the air becomes polluted with ammonia, dust, bacteria, and fungal spores. High ammonia levels cause painful skin and respiratory problems in the broilers, as well as pulmonary congestion, swelling, hemorrhage, and even blindness. Ammonia destroys the cilia that would otherwise prevent harmful bacteria from being inhaled. As a result, chickens “are inhaling harmful bacteria constantly..."
  • In the 1950s, it took 84 days to raise a five-pound chicken. Due to selective breeding and growth-promoting drugs, it now takes an average of only 45 days...Broilers’ bone growth is outpaced by the growth of their muscles and fat. "We consider that birds might have been bred to grow so fast that they are on the verge of structural collapse.” ...90% of broilers have detectable leg problems...In one study of lame chickens, 20 percent had bacterial infection of the bone, 13 percent had visible leg deformities...At six weeks, broiler chickens have such difficulty supporting their abnormally heavy bodies that they spend 76 to 86 percent of their time lying down.

"Living in their own waste, the birds cannot escape the high levels of ammonia. As a result, their bodies are often scalded by the noxious chemical."

    Well, how's all that for a picker-upper (no pun intended)?

    1 comment:

    1. Kayla also posted about this on her healthy living blog:

      Waht is the normal temperature that people should be cooking chicken in order to kill this bacteria? I certainly don't want to buy any chicken until I know if I can prepare it safely even if it is contaminated.

      Also, it might be good to put what campylobacter is, because I have no idea what it can do:

      It seems to cause diarrhea, fever and cramps, but seems like it can be treated with fluid intake and electrolyte replacement, but can cause death as well, especially in young children.