factory farms

  1. Take two chickens and call me in the morning

    It's the Buy-One-Get-One-Free special stores don't advertise: Buy some chicken, get some meds for free.

    And just to make it more convenient for everyone, the drugs aren't in their own package -- they're already inside the chicken.

    Chickens raised on factory farms are being fed everything from banned antibiotics to painkillers -- and some are even poisoned with arsenic -- all in the name of raising the fattest and pinkest possible birds in the shortest possible time.

    Now, two new studies on chicken feathers (which hold traces of drugs and other toxins fed to the birds) show just how many meds are pumped into them -- and remember, whatever that chicken eats is what ends up on your plate on Chicken Night:

    Caffeine: You know people who seem to eat every waking minute, right? Chickens are like them. Keep them awake longer, and they'll eat more and get fatter. But caffeine also makes chickens jittery (just like it does to some people), and since jittery chickens have tougher meat, they need something to help them to relax before they turn into tough old birds.

    Prozac: One feather-meal sample from China found this antidepressant, and it's almost certainly there to help counter the caffeine and keep the chickens relaxed so their meat doesn't get leather-tough. And it's not the only drug that can have that effect.

    Benadryl & Acetaminophen: These drugs turned up in the U.S. samples, and not because the chickens have allergies or need pain relief. It's because, like Prozac, these drugs can also relax the chickens and help keep the meat tender.

    Antibiotics: Factory farm chickens are kept in such cramped and filthy conditions that illness is a much bigger threat than the wolf ever was. So the birds are drugged to preemptively protect them from a rapidly spreading infection -- and, conveniently, the drugs also help them to gain weight. The researchers found a class of antibiotics banned from poultry... but it looks like that ban is about as strong as a rubber chicken.

    Arsenic: It's crazy, but this is actually allowed. Arsenic kills two birds with one stone (so to speak) because it kills bacteria and keeps the meat nice and pink. The problem, of course, is that it's arsenic -- and when you eat a bird fed this poison, you're getting a little dose of poison yourself.

    It's enough to keep chicken off the menu for good, but you don't have to go that far. Just go organic instead.

    And for more on food ingredients and additives -- including a few you just won't believe -- keep an eye on your inbox on Sunday for my Weekend Roundup.

  2. The secret ingredient in pork

    Chops, roast, ribs, sausage, bacon...

    I'm getting hungry just thinking about all the great ways to eat pork. But there's one form of pig that makes me lose my appetite every time -- and it's exactly what people eat the most of: pork from factory farms.

    Factory farmed animals are raised and slaughtered in filthy conditions, which is one reason for all the contaminated meat scares in recent years. And, of course, the only reason the animals themselves don't drop dead is because they're pumped full of antibiotics -- drugs that often end up in your meat.

    But there's one more reason to skip out on this stuff: Factory pork contains a drug so dangerous it's been killing pigs like crazy.

    Ractopamine hydrochloride is a beta agonist that mimics stress hormones. It leads to bigger pigs -- but it also leads to deader pigs: Some 218,000 have been killed by the drug in a little more than a decade.

    That number should be even higher, except plenty of pigs about to drop dead of ractopamine overdose -- including pigs so sick they can't even walk on their own -- are quickly slaughtered first.

    And then, they're shipped off to your local supermarket...despite the fact that low doses of the drug can remain in the meat.

    The feds aren't too concerned. They claim a little ractopamine hydrochloride never hurt anyone. But in reality, there's not a whole lot of data on what low-but-steady doses of the drug does to humans.

    The only human study submitted by the drug's maker involved just six people -- and one found his heart racing so bad he dropped out.

    Here's the only thing you need to know about this drug: It's banned around the world. It's even banned in China, which doesn't exactly have the best reputation when it comes to food safety.

    Last year, Chinese officials arrested a bunch of farmers caught giving the drug to their pigs.

    But here in the U.S., you can get your own dose of ractopamine tonight if Shake-n-Bake is on the menu, and you won't even know it.

    The answer here isn't to avoid pork. Pork is delicious. The answer is to go organic -- and while you're at it, go organic with your beef and chicken too.

2 Item(s)