MOVE OVER MEAT MONDAYS- LET'S TALK CHICKEN
Welcome to Move Over Meat Monday! Prior to sitting down at the computer, I had already decided in my mind that I was going to give you another meatless recipe/method today. However, I happened to pick up one of my older Self magazines and turned right to an article written by Tula Karras entitled "Fowl Play" and it immediately caught my attention. In the article she discusses some of the dangers out there regarding the consumption of chicken.
So, I felt it was only "divine intervention" that I would come across this article at this moment on Move Over Meat Monday and felt compelled to share some of what she uncovered and save my meatless recipe/method for another Monday. So here we go!
There is a 50% chance that the chicken you buy from the store may contain Campylobacter (called "campy" for short). This pathogen is found in the intestinal tract of the chicken which causes no harm to the animal, but can make humans extremely sick and sometimes fatally if the cooking temperature doesn't kill it.
It is estimated that 76 million cases of foodborne illness occurs each year in the US and during the past ten years, poultry has caused more of these cases than any other food group according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (a food and health watchdog group in D.C.)
In addition to campy, between 2000-2005, rates of salmonella spiked 80% in broiler birds. Rates have declined a little since then, but the percentage of food poisonings from this bacteria have remained steady over the past decade.
Conventionally raised birds may also contain arsenic, a carcinogen. About 70% of broiler chickens are fed arsenic at some point. Farmers add it to chicken feed to fatten their flocks, birds go from hatchling to slaughter in six weeks. This practice is legal. Christa says: Wow!
When birds arrive at a slaughterhouse, they are rinsed with hot water and chlorine in order to help reduce bacteria levels but this isn't required by the USDA. Please note also, it is said that the chlorine the chickens are rinsed with presents no safety issues for humans. Christa says: I don't know about you, but chlorine and what may end up on my plate somehow don't mix..I'm just sayin'. But, dirty chickens still get slaughtered. A USDA officer is always on site at every plant to give visual once-overs to approximately 35 birds a minue to see if there are bruises or signs of disease, but a hen might look fine and still be filled with microscopic salmonella or campy.
Recently the USDA has reallocated resources to test plants that perform poorly more often and plants with good records less often. The USDA requires plants to submit a test for salmonella once a year, there is no test in place for campy.
During the tests, the USDA pulls one sample from the plant each day for 51 days. If more than 12 of the samples test positive for salmonella, it is a performance-standard failure. They break it down further to say, that a plant can still pass if just under 20% of the poultry has potentially harmful pathogens and that plant's chickens can end up in your grocery store. If a plant fails, the USDA doesn't automatically suspend it. They perform a follow-up test as soon as possible and send in an officer to watch the plant's procedures. Once the problem is identified the officer asks the plant to address it. If they refuse to address it, then a letter is sent by the USDA giving them 3 days to fix the issue. If that doesn't work then it is suspended to make corrections. Christa says: This sounds like way too much time and red tape involved before shutting a plant down to keep people from potentially becoming ill from bacteria ridden chickens!
Plants can continue sending chicken into the marketplace while awaiting lab results informing them if the chicken is tainted. These results can take up to three weeks.
You can go to www.fsis.usda/gov/science/salmonella_verification_testing_program/index.asp. This USDA website has started posting names and identifying digits (P numbers) of offending plants. To avoid buying chicken from a plant that performs poorly, you can check this site monthly and pring out the list to compare it with the packages in your store or get rid of chicken you already purchased that have matching numbers. However, some packages don't have P numbers and you can never be 100% certain that your chicken is bacteria free.
Well, I definitely learned a lot from this article and will share this information again whenever an opportunity is given. If this doesn't make you reconsider fryin' up some chicken, I don't know what will! While you transition to a meatless diet, be safe and always do your homework!