Americans spent about $139 each on chicken in 2007, as reported by the American Meat Institute, making it one of the most popular meats consumed. Several major companies dominate the chicken farming market. These companies have raising chickens down to a science, but many disadvantages come with that science. If you are concerned about issues such as antibiotic administration and animal cruelty, consider shopping for free-range or organic birds.
Commercially raised chickens are raised in crowded conditions. As a result, infections and bacteria spread more readily among the birds. Commercially raised chickens are more likely to carry salmonella, which causes illness in humans. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning are diarrhea and vomiting, with hospitalization or even death occurring in severe cases.
Commercially raised chickens are often kept in pens without light or access to the outdoors. Animal rights advocates call these practices cruel and unnecessary to the raising of healthy chickens. If you care about the way your chicken was treated before slaughter, this is a distinct disadvantage of commercial chicken farming.
Commercially raised chickens are often fed antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease in the farms. Although the Food and Drug Administration requires a waiting period between administration of the drugs and slaughter to help reduce residue of the drugs in the chicken’s system, it does not change the fact that the drugs were administered. The antibiotics used are the same used by humans. Farmers administer antibiotics to prevent disease rather than treat it, which can encourage the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Most commercially raised chicken is injected with a salt or monosodium glutamate solution during processing. Adding these solutions plumps the chicken and preserves its pink color. They also increase the sodium content of the meat and can cause health problems in sensitive individuals. Consuming too much sodium is associated with an increased risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure, which may be associated with atherosclerosis and other circulatory problems.
Commercially raised chickens are fed compounds that may be dangerous to human health, reports a study published in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives” in April 2008. Some companies have discontinued use of these compounds, but commercially raised chickens may still be eating feed that contains parts of slaughtered chickens, feces, plastics and an overabundance of grains. Some feed also contains arsenic, which helps make chicken meat pink, but could also be hazardous to human health. Poor quality feed could mean poor quality meat.