You go to the market in most major cities today and the chicken waiting there for you in their shrink wrapped Styrofoam trays and plastic bags are nothing like they used to be. To begin with, they’re huge. Chickens haven’t been this big since the Cretaceous period. And they have no flavor; it’s like trying to eat a piece of rubber. What have they done with the chicken I remember?
To begin with, poultry production became big business. The commercial production of chickens was reduced to pure numeric efficiency; feed to weight ratios, birds per square foot requirements, optimum weight at slaughter, etc. What God has created, let no man leave as is. It may sound a bit negative, but it has been our capitalistic dogma for many years.
When I was growing up, chickens were raised in “yards”; fenced enclosures with a dirt area and a coop. the chickens were fed a feed of seeds and grain and also foraged in the yard. It took time to allow the chickens to grow to the size and age suitable for market and poultry production was a mom and pop operation.
Although not the first major producer, the advent of the Tyson method, nature was no longer good enough. Feeds were manipulated and enhanced to increase the weight to growth time ratio while reducing the feed to weight ratio. Anabolic steroids (growth hormones) were added to facilitate faster maturity and increased dense meat production. As the chicken became more efficient, so did confinement methods. More and more birds were packed into chicken houses until the maximum had been reached. Not to be satisfied with the maximum, chicken houses became multi-leveled and, in some cases, chickens were raised in rack upon rack of cages.
Factory farmed chickens are routinely administered with Roxarsone, thought to be a relatively benign organoarsenic compound which partially decomposes into inorganic arsenic compounds in the flesh of chickens. The FDA has found there to be no significant impact for the use of Roxarsone in the production of chicken, turkey or swine. Additional amino-acids, anti-oxidants and antibiotics are routinely added. To bypass tests for poultry growth hormones, human growth hormones have taken their place.
This first became of public concern with occurrences of early puberty in young girls in Mexico in the early 70’s. Specifically, girls as young as 7 and 8 were entering puberty and developing breasts early. Although it’s been played down and ignored by both media and health officials, the situation remains with us today. There is still an alarming number of cases of early onset puberty in both male and female children.
But children aren’t the only ones affected. Increases in the number of cases of liver cancer has been linked to removing the skin from chicken before cooking, eliminating the enzymes and cholesterol contained in the skin. Current studies suspect the increase in the number of cases of juvenile neuropathic problems and geriatric dementia are associated with the levels of inorganic arsenic in chicken livers.
So now we are faced with the choice of not eating chicken, buying directly from a small farmer or taking our chances with a bird the size of a small turkey with no flavor and additional chemicals added with all the risks associated or not eating chicken.