Monday, January 20, 2014

Tainted Chicken Meat

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,


Saturday, January 11, 2014


We all get incensed at times. Yet anger ages us faster than any other emotion.

Anger is often justified. Our friends may even encourage us to freely vent our feelings to relieve the stress anger causes.

Yet we’re better off not to stomp and shout. Our relief is only momentary, while the consequences can be long lasting. Besides, our anger can burst forth again whenever we recall the incident or the person who caused it.

Also, venting one’s anger can easily become a habit—not an attractive habit, and tough to break.

Worse, angry outbursts cause persons to lose control over their actions—they become dangerous not only to themselves but also to others. Imagine driving a car while in a rage. When we are furious we lose power and control to the person who caused the anger—often to the perpetrator’s great delight! It’s better to focus on the steps necessary to salvage the situation.

Don’t simply repress your anger either. Unwittingly, you may take it out on an innocent person, such as your spouse or child.

It’s better to find a way to deal with the underlying unfairness or unmet need. Recall the last incident that made you angry. Could you have handled it better? It’s often the same type of incident in different guises that triggers us. By practicing better ways of reacting we can change our behavior.

In some situations we want to consider what may have driven the other person to act the way he or she did. We are all human and far from perfect.

Often our anger is caused by a situation that is beyond our control—a canceled flight, an ugly dent in our parked car, heavy traffic when in a rush. Did our anger improve the situation? If not, recall Mark Twain’s wise words, “If we don’t learn to laugh about our troubles, we have nothing to laugh about in our old age.”

With my best wishes for a healthy and peaceful 2014,