Chickens are regularly fed arsenic

Grist.org senior food and agriculture writer, Tom Philpott, recently reported in an article titled, “Time to end the insane practice of lacing chicken feed with arsenic”, that it’s a standard chicken industry practice to dose birds with arsenic.

According to Philpott’s article, the industry supports the use of arsenic because they believe it makes the birds grow faster, as well, it is reported to control the spread of coccidiosis, a common digestive disease among chickens.

When arsenic is used in its organic form (chemistry speaking: organic arsenic molecules contain both carbon and arsenic) it is not instantly toxic. However, it can—and often does—become toxic, especially in chicken manure, which as we have seen through the rapid spread of factory farms, regularly contaminates ground water, air and soil.

Arsenic is finding its way into the finished chicken meat products, too, says Philpott. He references a 2006 study conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy that tested samples of chicken meat taken from fast-food restaurants and supermarkets. The findings revealed 55 percent of samples contained detectable levels of arsenic.  Philpott also discusses the factory farm practice of recycling arsenic-tainted chicken manure into cow feed, which then leads to a slew of beef products with arsenic contamination.

The government standards for acceptable levels of arsenic in poultry have not been revised to reflect the rising increase in chicken meat consumption, and the testing measures  have also not been increased. Philpott’s article quotes Food & Water Watch, which states that, “Between 2000 and 2008, the USDA tested only 1 out of every 12 million domestically produced chickens (or .00008 percent). In 2005 and 2008, the department conducted no tests for arsenic residues in domestically produced broilers.”

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Photo: Aleutia