My brother lent me Consumer Reports, which led me to subscribe to the magazine. It was their February 2014 report on chickens that did it.
It never occurred to me that a natural or cage-free chicken, or even an organic one could be tainted with salmonella. But this is exactly what Consumer Report discovered. They tested the chicken breasts of all brands, including the major four—Perdue, Pilgrim’s, Sanderson Farms and Tyson, and found that all of them were tainted by similar amounts of bacteria.
National statistics show that every year 48 million people become victims of contaminated food. Chicken meat is a major cause. The reason is that nearly all chickens carry salmonella in their intestines. It does no harm to the chickens, but when they get slaughtered—nine billion chickens a year—the meat gets easily contaminated.
Salmonella comes in a vast variety of strains; it can cause nausea, severe cramps, diarrhea, low fever, pneumonia, urinary infections, and the like. Most worrisome is the strain that is resistant to antibiotics, found in 49.7% of all chickens tested.
What to do: Handle raw chicken meat with caution. It is perfectly safe to eat when it’s been heated to 165º. Use a meat thermometer. Even more important, do not let raw chicken meat get too close to any other food. If your hands have touched chicken meat and you pick up the phone or open a drawer, the bacteria that you transfer from your hands continues to live for hours, even days. So be sure to soap your hands thoroughly, also anything that comes in contact with the raw meat.
By the way, among the fried chickens that Consumer Report tested, Costco’s chicken ranked as the tastiest and best.
Chicken labels: Consumer Reports also decoded various chicken labels. Did you know that cage-free, natural and free-range are meaningless labels? There are no set standards, nor required inspections.
No Antibiotics means just that, a chicken raised without antibiotics. In the 1940s, farmers discovered that chickens that were on antibiotics for medical reasons grew faster. Before long, all chickens were fed antibiotics, but it did not turn out to be cost-effective. Chickens that are regularly given antibiotics become antibiotic-resistant and do not necessarily grow faster anymore. Worse, antibiotic-resistant chickens carry antibiotic resistant salmonella, which is of great concern since the patient can no longer be treated with antibiotics.
Therefore, choosing a chicken raised without antibiotics is a better choice; the chicken has no antibiotic resistant salmonella.
No hormones is a superfluous claim, since no US chicken is allowed to be given hormones.
The label, No GMOs VERIFIED means that the chicken feed contains less than 0.9% genetically modified crops. It is important that the label says verified.
Pasture-raised chickens that are Animal Welfare Approved, are raised on green pastures. Unfortunately, very few stores carry them.
Certified Humane chickens are raised in accordance with Human Farm Animal Care standards and are annually inspected. Standards pertain to the animals’ environment and stress-causing factors.
USDA Organic chickens, my favorite choice, are fed a vegetarian diet without GMO’s, antibiotics or toxic pesticides. Access to the out of doors is required but not standardized. Annual inspection is required.
Knowing the potential dangers of raw chicken meat, I simply use greater caution: I heat the meat to 165º, and thoroughly soap my hands as well as any objects that directly or indirectly come in contact with the raw meat. I still delight in a tasty chicken, especially if I prepare it myself. However, if I didn’t prepare it, I make sure the meat is no longer pink, but is well done.
Until next time,