The Foul Truth

by Kellen

EAT MOR CHIKIN.

This is often the request made by three cows holding signs as they urge you away from burger joints and into another fast food line. Sage advice maybe after considering the perils eating beef may bring you. Or is it? Chickens are not carriers of BSE (yet?) but according to an article in The New York Times chickens can be contaminated with fecal matter that carries the E. coli bacteria. This particular article goes on to question whether or not this strand of E. coli is actually one that would make a consumer seriously ill, however, this strand is still antibiotic resistant. Meaning certain types of bacteria, or the colloquial superbugs, are able to survive exposure to antibiotics and when they cause infection in humans are untreatable.

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Recently there have been links made between eating chicken and urinary tract infections in both women and men. If UTIs are a minor health issue that usually clear up in less than a week what’s the worry? The problem is what may start out as a simple UTI could easily turn into cystitis or even ovarian cysts. An article in The Atlantic makes the connection between UTIs and the antibiotic resistant strand of E. coli. According to this article “About 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States each year are given to livestock as “growth promoters” that allow animals to put on weight more quickly…”

Those responsible for meat production do not have to divulge how the drugs are used, the quantities or which animal is receiving the drug and at what age (often times chickens receive a number of “inoculations” before they even hatch).

Antibiotics 

Unlike their much nicer and harder working cousin Probiotics Antibiotics, often penicillin or its derivatives, inhibit or destroy the growth of microorganisms. Antibiotics were first given to animals in the 1960s and it was discovered that small consistent doses didn’t only keep the animals from getting sick but it also made them grow faster. The FDA has actually been active in trying to cease the use of antibiotics in animals since 1977 but Congress has opposed their every attempt. Recently though the FDA has said that they will act judiciously to try and get meat producers on board but they will not enforce any laws concerning the use of antibiotics in livestock.

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Salmonella

When people think about bacteria and illnesses related to food handling or consumption they using think Salmonella. However, most also assume this is something fairly avoidable if raw meat is handled carefully and cutting boards and utensils are cleaned before being used on other foods. This is actually the best way to ensure that the bacteria isn’t spread and infection doesn’t take place.

Those infected usually suffer abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever which usually lasts for a week and is treatable without hospitalization. This particular foodborne illness rarely causes death but it’s the most common due the fact that the Department of Agriculture allows for the sale of raw poultry containing the bacteria.

Beasts of Burden

Chicken has become the number one meat eaten with turkey and pork a close second and third. According to Purdue University 8 billion chickens are consumed in the United States each year (55 times more than any other animal). Chickens are not protected by the Human Slaughter Act and if farmers were to treat a cat or dog in the same manner they often treat chickens they’d go to jail for animal cruelty.

Much like other animals chickens are not given credit for how intelligent they are. These abused and misunderstood animals are actually quite intelligent as the following video will demonstrate.

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