Finally Healthier Chickens Are Easier to Get at the Grocery Store

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February 09, 2006 | 6,412 views

Four of America's 10 largest chicken producers are ceasing to feed chickens low doses of antibiotics.

The practice made the chickens grow faster and stay healthy, but health groups have for years argued that doing so was causing a public health crisis.

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacterial Infections

Low levels of antibiotics in animal feed have been linked to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in humans. Groups such as the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association have been campaigning to stop the practice for years.

40 Percent of U.S. Chickens

Now, Tyson Foods, Gold Kist, Perdue Farms and Foster Farms have all stopped using antibiotics for this purpose. Combined, the four companies produce almost 40 percent of the chickens raised for eating in the United States.

Not Permitted by McDonald's

Europe has already banned the technique, and McDonald's stopped using chickens grown under the regimen a month ago. Such moves by large-scale purchasers of chicken have likely been a major factor in ending the practice.

For those of you concerned about affordable healthy eating, this is good news. In fact, it sounds a bit too altruistic for big business, doesn't it?

But note that McDonald's has stopped using antibiotic-laden chicken. While Tyson's is claiming that the move is connected with developing hardier breeds and better husbandry, it probably has much more to do with making profits. Not just McDonald's, but also Panera Bread and Arby's, have all stopped buying chickens raised in this manner.

But whatever the reason, it's well past time livestock producers made the switch, considering the needless overexposure to antibiotics kills both the good and bad bacteria. Nevertheless, those healthier chickens are still fed pesticide-laden grains, and rarely have the opportunity to eat anything resembling natural food, which is why organic is still the way to go.

Most people don't realize that the largest use of antibiotics in the United States is to feed to animals, often so that they will gain more weight.

Just a reminder, chicken is a great food for families, no matter what nutritional type you are. Protein types benefit best from eating dark meat, whereas carb types do better with white meat. Mixed types, no surprise, can go either way.

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