Side Effects Of Eating Broiler Chicken: Beware Of Fowl Play

side effects of eating broiler chicken

side effects of eating broiler chicken

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Side Effects Of Eating Broiler Chicken

Broiler chickens carry germs and bacteria that cause infections. As the chickens are given many antibiotics, some bacterial strains become antibiotic resistant. If you get food poisoning from these, they can't be killed by standard antibiotics. Plus the antibiotics themselves and growth hormones injected to the birds can enter your body and create health issues. Buy free-range chickens. Otherwise, cook the broiler to 165 °F and store below 40 °F.

Broiler chickens are as synonymous with American food as the golden arches are to fast food. The United States has the biggest broiler chicken industry in the world, and Americans eat more chicken per capita (90 pounds per annum in 2015) than people in any other country. But health concerns have some sections of society up in arms about consuming broilers.

If your chicken isn’t labeled “free-range” or something that alludes to different rearing methods, it is probably a broiler.

The first thing to know is: Is your chicken a broiler? Broiler chickens, in general, refer to chicken specifically reared to be consumed as meat. The breeding methods that help the birds grow bigger faster so they can be sold have resulted in some less than ideal outcomes. Which is why you need to be aware of the possible risks from consuming chicken bred a certain way.1 There is also, of course, the debate on the inhumane conditions the birds are reared in, but that’s a discussion for another day! Here’s a look at the side effects of eating broiler chicken.

1. Food Poisoning

Broiler chicken contains harmful bacteria and germ responsible for foodborne infections. What makes broiler chickens especially susceptible to contamination is the process they go through before they get to the stores.

Foodborne illnesses strike 1 in 6 Americans every year. Of the 48 million or so victims, as many as 128,000 need hospitalization. And about 3,000 succumb to these diseases.2

Even at the store, the carcass of the bird you buy becomes exposed to juices and drippings from all the birds that were rinsed in the cold water tank after they were slaughtered. So even if that particular bird didn’t originally carry germs or bacteria, it would no doubt pick up some during this dunk in the tank!3

Consumer Reports published a feature on the results of their tests on a sample of chicken breasts of different brands including organic ones, from across the United States. They found potentially harmful bacteria in a whopping 97% of the tested chicken samples.4 A similar study in England revealed that 83% of chicken sampled had Campylobacter spp, and 25% had Salmonella.5

When cooking broiler chicken, cook it to a temperature of at least 165 °F. Store at a temperature of 40 °F or lower. When you eat leftover chicken, again heat to 165 °F.

Worrying news like this underline the fears we have about contamination of broiler chicken thanks to the headlines on salmonella or other food poisoning that has become worryingly common.

2. Antibiotic Resistance

Food poisoning on its own is problem enough, but to make things a little more challenging comes the added issue of antibiotic resistance. As broilers are bred in intensive conditions and are often low on immunity, they are pumped with antibiotics to keep up their health and prevent outbreaks. This has increased antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria including Salmonella.

Now if you were to contract Salmonella Heidelberg (not the one that causes typhoid), a doctor would typically administer antibiotic drugs like ceftriaxone or ciprofloxacin. Unfortunately, strains of Salmonella are now showing resistance to these medicines due to the high levels of antibiotic use in poultry farming. Which means you end up having a really bad bout of food poisoning. And this one is markedly riskier since it doesn’t respond to medicines normally used to treat it.6

3. Growth Hormones

Often, broiler chickens are given growth hormones so that they grow bigger faster. There’s concern that when you eat these broiler chickens, the antibiotics and hormones injected into the birds could possibly enter your bodies too.

While the European Union banned the use of synthetic hormones in animals bred for meat way back in 1981, similar legislation hasn’t hit American shores yet.

The FDA has measures to ensure that the natural or synthetic hormones given to chicken are within safe limits for human consumption.

The poultry farmers, however, say that it’s not financially viable to use growth hormones – the birds reach market weight in 5 weeks before the hormones can start taking effect. Which is why, some say, you’re unlikely to find poultry injected with growth hormones nowadays.7

The FDA also has certain security checks and controls to ensure that the naturally occurring as well as synthetic hormones of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone given to animals like cows and sheep are safe for human consumption. For instance, the manufacturer needs to show that the levels of hormone remaining in the edible tissue once the animal is given hormone treatment is within the prescribed safety limits.8 If you’re still unsure or skeptical, there are some alternatives you could consider.

Expert Opinion

If you decide to eat chicken, make sure it’s organic. Eat it in moderation for optimal health. When it comes to consuming chicken, it all comes down to quality. Before ordering chicken, consider how it was raised, what it was fed, and if the animal was treated humanely. Remember this little phrase...we eat, what we eat, eats too.

Holistic Health Coach

Free-Range Chicken Is The Only Alternative

Free-range chicken is usually suggested as the best alternative to broiler chicken. Done right, it should mean the chicken is older at slaughter age. So unlike broilers, it is also given access to fresh air, making it healthier. It is less likely to contract infections due to better spaced out living quarters. Which in turn means it doesn’t have to be as pumped up with antibiotics as the average broiler. At present, just about 1% or less of chickens reared in the United States are free-range.9 Because rearing free-range chickens takes more time, finances, and effort, these chickens are usually more expensive to buy. But with your health on the line, it may be a price that is well justified. Of course, this isn’t a guarantee, but you could lower your risks with the shift.

How To Prevent Food Poisoning From Broiler Chicken

If you do have to buy broiler chicken (it may not always be possible to get around), work with the assumption that it contains some harmful bacteria. That way, you’ll take the extra precautions you need to kill the bacteria by cooking it right.10

  • Don’t let raw chicken come in contact with other foods you are cooking, especially raw salads or fruit.
  • Cook the chicken to a temperature of at least 165 °F – invest in a kitchen thermometer.
  • Decontaminate and wash up all knives and chopping boards or dishes in which you’ve kept raw chicken. Use soap and warm water and rinse well.
  • Put the raw or cooked chicken away into the fridge immediately if you are not consuming right away. Germs can contaminate food in as little as 2 hours if not frozen or refrigerated.
  • Ensure your refrigerator is set to a temperature of 40 °F or lower.

References   [ + ]

1.Broiler Chicken Industry Key Facts 2016. National Chicken Council.
2.Be Food Safe: Protect Yourself from Food Poisoning. CDC.
3.Foodborne Germs and Illnesses. CDC.
4.Dangerous contaminated chicken. Consumer Reports.
5.Jørgensen, F., R. Bailey, S. Williams, P. Henderson, D. R. A. Wareing, F. J. Bolton, J. A. Frost, L. Ward, and T. J. Humphrey. “Prevalence and numbers of Salmonella and Campylobacter spp. on raw, whole chickens in relation to sampling methods.” International journal of food microbiology 76, no. 1 (2002): 151-164.
6.Salmonella and Chicken: What You Should Know and What You Can Do. CDC.
7.Esquivel-Hernandez, Yajaira, Ricardo E. Ahumada-Cota, Matias Attene-Ramos, Christine Z. Alvarado, Pilar Castañeda-Serrano, and Gerardo M. Nava. “Making things clear: Science-based reasons that chickens are not fed growth hormones.” Trends in Food Science & Technology 51 (2016): 106-110.
8.Steroid Hormone Implants Used for Growth in Food-Producing Animals. FDA.
9.The Life of:Broiler chickens. Compassion in World Farming.
10.Be Food Safe: Protect Yourself from Food Poisoning. CDC.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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