Many chickens sold in supermarkets are fed a steady diet of human drugs.
Think the pink slime scandal is gross? There’s even more unappetizing news, this time from the poultry department. By testing feathers, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that “healthy chicken” sold in your supermarket could have very well been raised on a steady diet of prescription, over-the-counter, and even banned drugs.
The full implication of people eating chicken containing these drugs isn’t even known, although previous studies have shown carcinogenic arsenic fed to chickens—something approved for use in nonorganic chicken farming—does wind up in the meat.
In the study, researchers tested feather meal, a by-product of chicken farming often used as fertilizer, because feathers accumulate important clues as to which drugs and chemicals chickens are exposed to during their short—usually about eight-week—lives.
The contaminated chicken report is the latest in a string of findings suggesting the industrial food system that supplies most supermarkets routinely engages in practices that could put consumers at risk.
And this, the study’s coauthor says, is just the tip of the iceberg.
“There are a wide spectrum of public health, social justice, and environmental concerns that stem from the way we raise animals for food,” explains researcher Keeve Nachman, PhD, assistant scientist and director of the Farming for the Future program at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, part of the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “These concerns range from the generation and transport of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics that are critical to human medicine, to the disproportionate concentration of animal-production sites and their associated air and water pollution in low-income communities of color, to the overwhelming energy and water inputs required to grow and transport feed for food animals.”