Have you ever asked yourself what you're really feeding on when eating a chicken?
Before you buy a sandwich, don't you want to know what it's filled with? Well, I suppose you would want to know the same thing before eating a chicken, no?
Photo credit: Michael Khozyaikin
Don't worry, this article is not other "avian flu" story. This article will give you the straight facts on what the chicken we eat really contain.
If you want to know, read on.
All the chickens that we buy and eat, in any part of the world, belong to a couple of hybrid species, (known as COBB 500, a Cobb Breeding Company trademark), all born in applied genetics labs, and exclusively selected for fattening.
The result of these genetic manipulation and in-breeding is a veritable biological machine with a very high conversion rate: a chicken eats 1.5 kilos of feed and 'produces' 1 kilo of meat and it only lives for 35 days (it doesn't even have time to go crazy).
When these broiler breeders reach the height of their growth, they weigh around 2.3 kilos, and once they are prepared for consumption, only weigh 1.2 kilos. In order to obtain these results and accelerated biological cycles, the chicks are served appropriate feed in the required conditions.
This is generally called "integrated industrial breeding" and it has its key growing phases:
Photo credit: Sarp Spencer
Breeding is conducted in huge tents where tens of thousands of feathered friends are kept: there is a density of 10-15 per square meter, or better, up to 30 kilos of meat per sq.m. (EU regulations for organic farms limit 3 chickens per sq.m.).
These chicken days are endless. Daylight lasts 24 hours thanks to artificial lighting and they spend their waking hours pecking at anything with a yellowish color.
Temperatures are always high due to the constant light and chicken waste is collected for producing a by-product used as feed or organic fuel. Just ten years ago, the same by-product was being used to feed cows.
Hygenic conditions are terrible. These animals spend their whole lives stepping and sleeping on their own waste. Bacterial infections are constantly zapped with antibiotics introduced in their feed from their very first day of life till the last. The deafening sound of 100,000 scared and sqeaking chickens does not help conditions.
The chicken's organism is put to the test: its digestive system is under stress and its ability to resist pathogens is severely weakened.
But as well all know, there are no antibiotics for viruses. Vaccines are used, which create antibodies to react to the virus, without really getting rid of the virus. Inevitably, animals which seem healthy are sold, with a high probability of risk of transfering any disease to human beings.
The chicken designated areas are not subject to biosecurity, and become bacterial time bombs ready to explode at a moment's notice, causing economic damages all over. These huge chicken tents are dangerous because they are likely incubators for possible viruses such as salmonella and the flu transmitable to humans.
What Do They Eat
In a natural regimen, chickens should only eat corn, soy and fiber, turning vegetable protein into noble protein. The kind we eat, in other words 99% of the 520 million chickens and 22 million turkeys Italians eat every year, is fed industrial feed, produced mainly by two or three companies.
The ingredients in these feeds is top secret so they can easily put whatever they choose. Corn and soy which are the two main components(60-70%)are imported and transgenetically modified and produced so that they are much cheaper.
Unlike regulations set for bovines, feed for chicken and turkey may contain flour made from meat and fish, exhaust oil, and animal fat. Two years ago, Belgian chickens were said to be filled with dioxin and that was due to an excess of PCB, but if within set limits, it is legal to feed them exhaust motor oil.
The best results are obtained with animal protein taken from intestines, heads, claws and feathers from similar animals who had previously died.
Other animal proteins are bought where it's cheapest, like flour made from blood and fish. Around 30% of these proteins are admnistered to turkeys, while the percentage is a little less for chickens.
What comes out of all these modifications are little chicks sold as chickens or turkey with tasteless meat and with dubious quality and health.
If these chickens were to be cooked two minutes longer than supposed to, they would literally break apart. On the other hand, if left to cool down, they would give off a fishy smell, as they have been partially fed fish.
Nowadays, chicken meat is not offered by restaurants worthy of that title. It is only served in factory and school cafeterias, or during dinners of families who make less than 1000 euros a month.
Conditions are even worse for turkeys: their meat is practically non-edible. The Amadori company chops it up, adds a little beef and offers it in huge meat rolls saying it's "for a quality Sunday with the family". But the roll is not made up of turkey only: beef and a high quantity of additives are included.
Who is protecting the consumers?
Chiara Moriconi - Guglielmo Donadello -