When it comes to choosing meat for our meals, we often consider factors like taste, price, and nutritional value.
But have you ever stopped to think about which meat is actually the dirtiest?
Historically, pork has been labeled as the ‘dirtiest’ meat, but recent studies suggest that chicken may actually be the most toxic.
From antibiotics containing arsenic to fecal contamination, the chicken industry has some serious issues that are worth exploring.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the evidence and try to answer the question: is chicken dirtier than pork?
Is Chicken Dirtier Than Pork?
According to research conducted by the USDA, more than 99% of broiler chicken carcasses sold in stores had detectable levels of E. coli, indicating fecal contamination. This means that every time you consume chicken, you are almost guaranteed to be ingesting actual poop.
Additionally, chickens are often given antibiotics containing arsenic, which is a known carcinogen. This is not only harmful to our bodies but also to the environment, as the resources required to raise and treat animals for consumption have a significant impact on our planet.
In contrast, pork has historically been labeled as the ‘dirtiest’ meat due to concerns about trichinosis and other diseases. However, modern farming practices have significantly reduced the risk of these diseases in pork.
Furthermore, a recent study found that raising beef for consumption has a much greater impact on the environment than producing pork, poultry, eggs, or dairy.
The Chicken Industry’s Use Of Antibiotics
The use of antibiotics in the chicken industry has been a topic of concern for public health advocates. Antibiotics are often used in chicken farms to prevent disease and promote growth, but this practice can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can pose a serious threat to human health.
In 2017, the FDA issued rules to ban the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in livestock, including chickens. However, the use of antibiotics for preventive care is still permitted, which allows for continued excessive use of these drugs.
Despite efforts to reduce antibiotic use in the chicken industry, sales of medically important antibiotics for livestock have increased by 7% from 2017 to 2021, according to a new FDA report. The chicken industry, which had previously led the pack in reducing antibiotic use on farms, bought 12% more antibiotics in 2021 than in 2020.
The routine use of antibiotics in chicken farms allows for the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can cause infections that are difficult or impossible to treat. Public health advocates have called for stricter regulations on antibiotic use in the chicken industry to prevent the spread of these dangerous bacteria.
In contrast, pork and beef industries have made strides in reducing their use of antibiotics. Pig farmers around the world use nearly four times as much antibiotics as cattle ranchers do per pound of meat. However, modern farming practices have significantly reduced the risk of diseases like trichinosis in pork, and beef production has been found to have a greater impact on the environment than poultry or dairy production.
The Dangers Of Arsenic In Chicken Feed
One of the biggest concerns about chicken consumption is the use of arsenic-based additives in chicken feed. Roxarsone, the most commonly used arsenic-based additive, is used to promote growth, kill parasites, and improve pigmentation of chicken meat. While roxarsone in its original form is relatively benign, under certain anaerobic conditions within live chickens and on farm land, the compound can be converted into more toxic forms of inorganic arsenic.
Arsenic has been linked to various types of cancer, including bladder, lung, skin, kidney, and colon cancer. Even low-level exposures to arsenic can lead to partial paralysis and diabetes. Despite this, about 70% of the 9 billion broiler chickens produced annually in the US are fed a diet containing roxarsone.
The use of roxarsone has become a topic of increasing controversy. A growing number of food suppliers have stopped using the compound, including the nation’s largest poultry producer, Tyson Foods. However, no one knows the exact amount of arsenic found in chicken meat or ingested by consumers who frequently eat chicken. Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the Department of Agriculture has actually measured the level of arsenic in the poultry meat that most people consume.
The National Chicken Council claims there is “no reason to believe there are any human health hazards” associated with the use of roxarsone. However, a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future found that chickens likely raised with arsenic-based drugs result in chicken meat that has higher levels of inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.
In addition to inorganic arsenic, residual roxarsone was also found in the meat studied by researchers. In meat where roxarsone was detected, levels of inorganic arsenic were four times higher than the levels found in USDA Organic chicken where roxarsone and other arsenicals are prohibited from use.
Chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic has been shown to cause lung, bladder, and skin cancers and has been associated with other conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cognitive deficits, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. With at least 75% of Americans regularly eating chicken and no established safety standards for inorganic arsenic in foods by the FDA, it is crucial for consumers to be aware of the potential risks associated with consuming chicken raised with arsenic-based additives.
Fecal Contamination In Chicken Meat
One of the major concerns with consuming chicken is the prevalence of fecal contamination. According to the USDA, bacteria commonly found in feces are routinely present on meat and chicken products. This means that chicken products are likely associated with the intestinal tract and can contain harmful bacteria.
Although the USDA implements a “zero tolerance” policy for fecal contamination, this policy applies only to visible fecal contamination. Chicken products pass inspection as long as feces are not visible to the naked eye. However, inspection lines move at rates up to 175 birds per minute, making visible detection of feces nearly impossible.
A study conducted by the Physicians Committee found that 48% of 120 chicken products sold by 15 grocery store chains in 10 U.S. cities tested positive for the presence of fecal bacteria. Additionally, a USDA training video obtained by the Physicians Committee revealed that the chicken slaughtering process ends with carcasses soaking in “fecal soup” for up to one hour before being packaged for consumers.
Consuming chicken contaminated with fecal matter can lead to foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli. These illnesses can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting.
Comparing Pork And Chicken Cleanliness Standards
When it comes to cleanliness standards, both pork and chicken have their own unique challenges. Chickens suffer from more dirtiness than pigs on farms designed around human convenience, as dirt can get trapped in their feathers. In fact, more than 99% of broiler chicken carcasses sold in stores had detectable levels of E. coli, indicating fecal contamination. This is a major concern for consumers, as ingesting fecal matter can lead to serious illnesses such as salmonella and campylobacter.
On the other hand, pork has historically been labeled as the ‘dirtiest’ meat due to concerns about trichinosis and other diseases. However, modern farming practices have significantly reduced the risk of these diseases in pork. Pork is also more likely to carry dangerous pathogens and parasites than beef, which is why it needs to be cooked thoroughly to ensure safety.
In terms of acidity, both pork and chicken are slightly acidic foods but chicken has a higher potential renal acid load (PRAL) value than pork, indicating that it produces more acid inside the organism. However, this is not necessarily an indicator of cleanliness or safety.
Tips For Safe Meat Consumption
While there is no such thing as risk-free meat, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of foodborne illness when consuming meat. Here are some tips for safe meat consumption:
1. Cook meat thoroughly: Whether it’s chicken, pork, beef, or turkey, cooking meat fully through is essential to kill any disease-causing pathogens. This means ordering your burgers well-done and cooking ground meat until it’s no longer pink. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of the meat reaches the recommended safe temperature (165°F for poultry, 145°F for beef, veal, pork, and lamb).
2. Don’t wash raw meat: Washing raw meat can spread germs around your kitchen and increase the risk of cross-contamination. Instead, cook thawed meat right away and marinate it in the refrigerator.
3. Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently when handling meat, fish, or poultry. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked meats to avoid cross-contamination.
4. Avoid consuming raw or undercooked eggs: Cook eggs thoroughly until the yolks and whites are firm. Avoid consuming foods that contain raw eggs, such as uncooked cookie dough or homemade eggnog.
5. Be mindful of food safety labels: Pay attention to expiration dates and storage instructions on meat packaging. Keep meat refrigerated until you’re ready to cook it.
By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of foodborne illness when consuming meat. It’s important to remember that proper food safety practices are essential for all types of meat, not just chicken or pork.