Somewhere along our American Journey, we've convinced ourselves that birds make for a healthier meal option than cows or pigs. But nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, eating chicken may hold more dangers than its fellow barn mates. While organically and ethically raised animals are always a better option than not, there's still plenty of reasons chicken is not a health food. Here are eight.
1. A serving of chicken contains just as much cholesterol as red meat. And eggs contain three times that. Cholesterol is linked to clogged arteries and heart disease.
2. Grilled chicken—a popular alternative to fried—commonly contains PhIP (2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine), which may contribute to the development of certain types of cancers including breast and prostate.
3. A common industry practice involves feeding chickens arsenic in order to make them grow faster. It's highly toxic to humans and can cause cancer, dementia, neurological problems, and other ailments.
4. HCAs (heterocyclic amines) are found in meats cooked at high temperature, including chicken, and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
5. A Consumer Reports analysis found that 83 percent of fresh, whole broiler chickens purchased across the US had high levels of campylobacter or salmonella. Campylobacter is the leading cause of food poisoning in the U.S.
6. Detectable levels of E. coli were discovered in as much as 65 percent of broiler chickens in a USDA study. This comes from fecal contamination during processing, making organic chickens also at risk as well as the more common conventionally raised chickens. According to Consumer Reports, more than 1 million Americans become ill each year as a result of undercooked chicken.
7. Avian flu may have dropped out of the mainstream media's attention, but it's still a very serious illness that is transmitted through poultry. The mutating nature of the disease means more cases of pneumonia, multiple organ failure and death are likely as a result of too many chickens living in crowded and unsanitary conditions where the disease spreads.
8. With more than 9 billion chickens raised for food in the U.S. every year, the environmental impact is nothing short of astonishing. Highly toxic animal waste ruins land, seeps into and contaminates water, makes air un-breathable and devastates a tremendous amount of dwindling resources, all of which take a toll not just on chicken eaters, but everyone else on the planet.
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