The demand for cheap food has had a dramatic impact on food production. Today, 65 billion animals worldwide including cows, chickens, and pigs are crammed into factory farms. And according to the Cornucopia Institute, the price of factory farming chicken is lower than it’s been in decades, making it the cheapest meat on the market. I like to call it sick chicken.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future were shocked at what they found in conventional chickens produced on factory farms. They were initially testing chicken for antibiotics and found a slew of chemicals by testing the chicken's feathers. The chicken’s feathers are like human fingernails in that they are an indication of what chemicals the animal has been exposed to in their lives.
Arsenic is a well known chicken contaminate that’s routinely fed to factory-raised chickens because it reduces infections and makes their flesh a more appetizing pink shade. Additionally, another study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that antibiotics like Cipro, which are banned because they breed antibiotic resistant infections, are still given to chickens. Benadryl was given to reduce anxiety and some chicken feathers even contained Prozac. Yikes.
Factory farmed chickens are also routinely fed GMO corn and soy instead of their natural diet of seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. And of course they’re given hormones and antibiotics to rapidly fatten them up.
Then there are the ethical costs of factory farming. For example, knowing that an animal with a nervous system like ours is made to endure such harsh conditions. Chickens are pretty smart animals yet they spend their lives standing on what amounts to an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper without ever being able to spread their wings.
And finally, the environmental concerns which come from the fact that these factory farms produce tons of waste that pollute local ecosystems. According to Cornucopia:
Tyson produces chicken cheaply because it passes many costs on to others. Some of the cost is paid by people who can't enjoy being outside in their yard because of the flies and have to keep their windows shut because of the stench. Some is paid by kids who can't swim in the local streams. Some is paid by those who have to buy bottled water because their drinking water is polluted. Some is paid by people who want to be able to enjoy a natural environment with all its beauty and rich biological diversity.
No matter how cheap factory farmed chicken might be, it’s not worth the overall price. I made a choice of whether to buy organic or give it up. I chose to give it up.
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Image: Krystian Olszanski