Johns Hopkins recently published a paper exposing how industrial chicken producers add arsenic containing drugs to chicken feed to cause them to gain weight quickly and have a color most people associate with chicken meat.
Eating organic doesn’t get you away from it, either. Almost every commercially available chicken contains detectable levels of the same arsenic compounds used in the pharmaceutical drugs added to feed. Certified organic doesn’t contain as much, but there is enough to cause concern. Conventionally raised chickens, of course, contain the highest levels.
According to a report by Chris Hunt of gracelinks.org, 88% of all chickens raised for human consumption in the US were given the arsenic-based drug roxarsone made by Pfizer.
Now Pfizer pulled the drug from US markets in 2011, but what is to stop them from bringing it back after the furor has died down since the FDA did not actually ban the use of roxarsone? And a lot of commercial chicken (especially from Wally World) actually comes from Mexico and China where that drug certainly isn’t illegal and in fact is used quite frequently.
Hypothetically, let’s say that Pfizer never brings the drug back to the US market and the FDA banned the substance from chicken feed. Then we’ll even add the caveat that arsenic-based drugs are never used in this country again, even under a different name (I have to say, the likelihood of this happening is slim to none). Then we still have to deal with the fallout from all those decades of use in commercial chicken farms where the chickens ate this day and night for years, polluting the soil and water. Then more chickens come in on top of this. They scratch in the dirt. They drink the water.
So what are we supposed to do? Supporting efforts to eliminate toxic substances from our food supply is a cross between a smart thing to do and a pipe dream in my opinion. It’ll take years to get the ones who did this in the first place out of office and install new people who . . . hopefully won’t do the same thing.
If you only raise chickens for eggs, consider getting some dual breeds who are good for their meat as well such as a Cream Legbar.
Cream Legbars are a heritage breed, auto-sexed chicken that lays early, between 20-24 weeks, have a good amount of meat, and produce awesome blue eggs like an Araucana! There are mixed reviews on their temperament. Many find them to be calm, intelligent birds. Others find them to be loud and flighty. Likely it depends on how they mix with your existing flock.
You can also try everyone’s favorite breed, the Orpington. These are generally very sweet-natured and friendly. Great for people with children.
On Sunday, I’ll post part two with some practical solutions.