Birds of a feather, toxic together

If chicken is a regular part of your diet, that might mean that arsenic is too… along with a number of other ingredients not listed in the fine print.

If you are buying mass produced chicken, then it is a good idea to find out what the chicken you are eating, has been eating…

What’s in chicken meal?

  • Farmers mostly don’t know as meal formulas are proprietary.
  • Most chicken feed contains drugs (including antibiotics) which help the chickens to grow quickly and to minimize risk of infection.
  • Because these drugs are administered through food, the dose given is not precise.
  • Legal restrictions on how feed is used preclude direct testing of feed ingredients.
  • However scientists are able to test the feathers of chickens, which, like human hair, accumulate the chemicals and drugs in their diet.

What the studies show
Studies of chicken feather meal and chickens have revealed the following substances in the chicken diet:

  • arsenicRosarxone and Histostat are arsenic-based drugs given to kill parasites, accelerate growth and give meat a pink colour; the carcinogenic arsenic residue of this drug is found in chicken livers and feather meal
  • fluorophinolones – this is a class of antibiotics which is illegal for use in poultry because they can breed antibiotic resistance in humans
  • caffeine – this is given to keep the bird awake so that they will eat more
  • paracetamol – a common pain killer, for anxiety
  • diphenhydramine – a kind of antihistamine, also for anxiety
  • prozac – some samples from China included this antidepressant which, if you were a Chinese chicken, was probably welcome relief.

So why do I care what they find in chicken feathers?
Chicken feathers get fed back to chickens. Yes. They are turned into meal and fed back to chickens raised for meat. In this way toxins which accumulate in feathers may get into the food of chickens destined for human consumption.

To minimize exposure to these toxins, at a minimum, avoid chicken livers from non-organic birds. If chicken is a large part of your diet you may want to supplement with other meats or organic sources. Or maybe just cut back on meat altogether.

Note that there are no known incidents of toxicity from exposure to these substances through chicken meat. However there is a recognized potential for the development of drug resistant infections from continued exposure to antibiotics. Multi-drug resistant “superbugs” are on the rise and kill hundreds of thousands of people every year.

a verterinary drug that contains arsenic