Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Choose: Frankenstein Chicken, or Naturally Raised Chicken?

Arsenic, banned antibiotics, antihistamines, Prozac anti-depressants, caffeine, and Tylenol.  Why are commercially produced chickens being fed these chemicals and drugs?

Click on the cartoon for a full size version.

Farmer: "For maximum profit, I need maximum growth.  You won't eat if you're asleep or sick, so you're getting caffeine to stay awake, Gravol to stop caffeine jitters, plus antibiotics, painkillers, and anti-depressants.  That should cover it."  Hens: "That shot he gave me yesterday made me sick as hell!".  Other Hens: "We need something to keep us alive if we're going to be living in our own manure".  Other Hens: "It's OK guys, it will all be over in 6 weeks".  Baby Chicks: "No thank-you.  I prefer to be organic!"
Thanks to Murray Stenton and his help illustrating these important issues

The big factory chicken producers must think it helps their profitability, or they wouldn't do it.

Is CFO (Chicken Farmers of Ontario) aware of what is going on in the Ontario mega commercial chicken factories?  Do they care, or purposely turn a blind eye to these risks and mis-guided efforts to maximize profits?

Arsenic in food and drink can be a big problem, causing poisoning and cancer.

In spite of arsenic being a known acute poison, 3-Nitro® (Roxarsone), NADA 005-414, a drug used for agricultural feeds for chicken and pork, was approved by the FDA on March 21, 1944. There have been several subsequent approvals for 3-Nitro® (Roxarsone) for combination use, the most recent being 2009.  Later, arsenic was found to be a carcinogen, yet the FDA continued to allow it to be used in animal feeds as Big Ag could earn more profits if they used arsenic.

In May 2006, Health Canada lowered the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines to 10 ug/L (millionth of a gram per litre) based on recent information on the carcinogenicity of ingested arsenic.

Bacteria are hurt by arsenic too.  That is why arsenic has been shown to prevent infections in the high density, cheek to jowl chicken factories.  Adding arsenic to chicken feed causes a 4.1% greater weight gain due to metabolic disturbances created in the chicken.  So we risk poisoning people, or giving them cancer so as to gain 4.1% extra profit.  Thanks, chicken factory owners, we appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Arsenic also adds a nice pink colouring to the meat.  Consumer studies show that consumers can be fooled at the meat counter into buying poultry meat that has an eerie pink hue, as opposed to the whiter, non-arsenic chicken colour.

Note that free range chicken tends to be naturally more coloured, a colouration that is attempted to be copied by lacing the meats with arsenic.  Let's see, arsenic-laced or free range, is there a preference there you'd like to make as a consumer?

According to John Hopkin Bloomberg School of Public Health, the US EPA estimates that 70% of commercial chickens raised in the US were fed arsenic since the 1940's, and 80% market share for arsenic additives in animal feed are from Roxarsone brand organic arsenic.  Note that more than 10% of the chicken sold in Canada comes from the US.

In 1977, BC Broiler Marketing Board seized 40,000 kg of US chicken that was found to be laced with arsenic from Roxarsone in the chicken feed, declaring that Canadian chicken was better, and therefore US imports ought to be banned from Canada.

In Jan. 2007, Science News reported that bacteria in chicken litter are converting the organic arsenic residue in the chicken manure to inorganic arsenic, far faster than previously thought.  The inorganic arsenic dissolves into soils and surface water, and can then enter garden produce that was fertilized with arsenic contaminated chicken manure, and drinking water gets contaminated from farm runoff.  Inorganic arsenic is far more poisonous and carcinogenic than the organic arsenics that are fed to the chickens.

For example, on the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware and portions of Maryland and Virginia) in the USA where 7% of the US chicken is produced, there are 600 million chickens raised per year which produce 1.5 billion kg of litter containing the chicken manure, which contain up to 50,000 kg/yr of poisonous arsenic, which then gets added to the local environment (ie. landfilled, or used as fertilizer to grow food).

Tyson, the world's largest chicken producer, stopped feeding arsenic in 2004 due to public furor about arsenic contaminated chicken meat.

In 2011, the manufacturer of Roxarsone voluntarily removed their product from the marketplace.  Canada banned roxarsone-type feed additives as of Aug. 8, 2012.  In July 2012, Maryland USA banned arsenical drugs and feed additives for chicken.

In 2012, US rice growers sued chicken farmers and drug companies for contaminating their rice crops with arsenic, where chicken manure was used as fertilizer.

In May 2013, John Hopkins Bloomfield School of Public Health published a study of chicken meat taken from across the US.  In spite of the legal requirement for factory chicken producers to withdraw arsenic-laced feeds sufficiently before slaughter so as to detoxify the meat, John Hopkins found significant levels of residual arsenic in the retail chicken meat samples.   They estimated that the arsenic residues would likely cause 3.7 additional incidents of bladder and/or lung cancer per 100,000 people exposed.

Remember how Canadian Chicken Marketing Boards seized arsenic-laced US chicken back in 1977 (see above)?  Oh, how times change.  If you can't beat them, you join them.  Apparently many, or a majority of Canadian factory chicken farmers followed the US lead, and have been feeding arsenic, antibiotics, and other drugs to Canadian chickens so as to obtain additional profit for themselves.

On August 8, 2012, Health Canada's ban on the addition of arsenic to chicken feed finally went into effect.

On Jan. 15, 2015 the FDA finally admitted that 70% of chicken in the US contained elevated arsenic residue from adding arsenic drugs to the chicken's feed or water.

So now that we know of their evil ways, does CFO ensure that Ontario chicken factories are in compliance with the recent roxarsone arsenic ban?  Did CFO test samples from Ontario chicken factories to ensure there is no cheating? Arsenic residues occur in the bird's feathers, manure, and liver, so its easy to collect samples to ensure compliance.  If not, why not?  You can ask CFO yourselves.  Email CFO about Arsenic

I put the same questions to CFC (Chicken Farmers of Canada).  Are you paying attention, finally?  Are you testing?  Canadian lives and health are at stake!  CFC has a website where consumers can directly ask CFC these tough questions.

Is CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) also checking?  If not, why not?

Banned Antibiotics
Antibiotics are fed to animals, even when they aren't clinically sick, because it maximizes the weight gain.  Unfortunately, those same antibiotics cause super-bugs that are drug resistant, and drug residues in the meat medicate the consumer without their knowledge.  Some antibiotics that are critical to treating human disease have therefore been banned from use in animals.

In the 12 samples tested, six different classes of antibiotics were present, with between 2 to 10 different antibiotics in each sample.  Antibiotic residues were present in 100% of the samples taken.  In spite of the banning of animal use of antibiotics reserved only for human use, we now learn that chickens are being fed banned fluoroquinolones (such as Ciprofloxacin).

Note that WHO and CDC feels we are on the verge of losing effective use of most antibiotics due to the excessive use in animal.  More than 85% of all antibiotics produced in North America are used on animals, just 15% go to human use.  Antibiotics for animals is BIG business.

When a bird is sleeping, it isn't eating.  If you keep the birds awake longer, they grow faster, and the chicken quota boys make more money.  Hence, chickens are fed caffeine so as to keep them awake, so they keep eating and grow faster.

Caffeine was found in 100% of the samples tested.

If you ever drank too much coffee or too many energy drinks, you probably suffered from shaky hands and having your nerves on edge.  It a similar effect for chickens.  Nervous birds don't grow as fast, and are subject to falling sick. Stressed birds produce tough meat. If a person gets motion sickness, doctors sometimes prescribe Benadryl (antihistamines) to calm the person, thereby avoiding the nausea.  If you want to feed caffeine to grow your chickens faster, and you have over-stressed birds due to un-natural living conditions in your chicken factory, then you also have to feed antihistamines and/or Prozac-type anti-depressants.  Guess what, that's just what chicken factories do to maximize their profits.

Pain Medications
Acetaminophen (Tylenol's active ingredient) is probably fed to help birds survive the high density living conditions and the disease risks.  If your not feeling well, you tend to eat less, and heaven forbid that from affecting chicken factory profits.  Tylenol-like pain medication helps your suffering chickens to feel better, and keep eating.

Giving birds paracetamol (Tylenol-like drugs) can keep an avian flu infected bird going long enough to get them to the slaughter plant.

Canada's Position on Feeding Antibiotics   From CFIA
"World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) identified the fight against antimicrobial resistance as one of its priorities for 2012. The OIE also advocated for good veterinary control of the registration, import, distribution and on-farm use of antimicrobials."

"The OIE’s call for better control of antimicrobials echoes last year’s statement from the World Health Organization (WHO), which warned that the world is on the brink of losing these “miracle cures” due to the emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens."

"Macrolides and tetracyclines are often incorporated into feed for growth promotion or disease prevention, and fluoroquinolones and cephalosporins are frequently used to treat and prevent infections. Pathogens and commensal organisms resistant to these drugs in animals can be transmitted to humans, and the management of animal health then becomes a human health issue. The reverse can also be true."

After writing this Blog post, I am sick with a feeling of just how far mega chicken factories have wandered away from the natural order of things.  They are so far over the horizon, it is doubtful if they will ever find their way back to reality.

Fortunately, small flock poultry farmers stand at the ready to fill the gap created by the on-going mistakes of the arrogant, never admit to a mistake, mega chicken factory quota-boys.

 For more information, see the following:

May 12, 2005 Environmental Health Perspectives "Arsenic: A Roadblock to Animal Waste Management Solutions"

Oct. 2008 Ann N Y Acad Sci., "The environmental and public health risks associated with arsenical use in animal feeds"

April 4, 2012 New York Times, Arsenic in Our Chicken?

Mar. 21, 2012 Environmental Science & Technology, "Feather Meal: A Previously Unrecognized Route for Reentry into the Food Supply of Multiple Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs)


  1. This is so upsetting-- what can we eat that we can control. Most of us are not farmers. I feel like things are really out of control!

    1. Thanks for your comments. You sound like me 3 years ago when I found the truth. Today, I'm not so shocked when I turn over the next rock and find more ooze. Unfortunately, the ooze seems to be under every rock.

      Fortunately, exposure to sunlight soon cures the ooze problem.

      Openness, transparency, accountability is the Doctor's prescription.

      If you want to help, become a member of SFPFC; it's $1.00 per year.

      Second, tell all your friends and family to come read this Blog posting , and many others.

      Third, if you have 10 ft x 10 ft. in your backyard, you can raise enought chicken meat and eggs to feed your family. Then, you know what goes into it, and control it. SFPFC (and others) are willing to help you get started. Al this helps teach kids (yours or neighbour's) what it's all about.

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