Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Apr 24, 2011 02:04 PM

Salmonella Free Chicken? [moved from France]

The interesting grass-fed/raw dairy thread and its discussion about industrial farming in France reminded me of a question I had about chickens here.

I was taking a course at Le Cordon Bleu and on the first day we were making chicken stock and other chicken dishes and working with raw chicken. With the quick pace, I was always falling behind because I was always running off to wash my chopping board after working with the raw chicken and nobody else seemed to care.

Later at lunch I asked the instructor why they didn't wash the chopping boards after working with raw chicken or use separate cutting boards and he said that the way chickens are farmed in France there's no chance of salmonella in the chicken. Can this be true?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There are many carriers of salmonella, do they have lizards in France? Do chickens sometimes eat lizards?

    7 Replies
      1. re: pikawicca

        Au contraire. I grew up with chickens in the triple digits out back. They'll eat bugs, lizards, newts, skinks, salamanders, snakes, and anything else they can catch. I even saw one of our roosters eat a mouse once.

        1. re: alanbarnes

          We never had chickens big enough to eat lizards.

          1. re: pikawicca

            Or maybe you just didn't have lizards small enough to get eaten by chickens. ;-) The ones I saw picked off were the little guys - the length of your pinky finger and quite a bit skinnier. Pencil-sized garter snakes were another delicacy - I remember a tug-of-war over one of those.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              The source for our pastured eggs and meat chickens says her chickens eat ANYTHING they can get ahold of, including all sorts of bugs, geckos, skinks, worms little snakes and oh yes they fight over mice!, her feed is 100% organic and when she dresses the meat birds they do not get the Chlorine rinse that is required in USDA inspected operations, that ends up as a fecal bath with chlorine; that one sees on the commercial slaughtering production lines.
              Another reason to "Know your food Source"!

        2. re: pikawicca

          I've seen them eat frogs/toads. I imagine they could do the same with most of the smaller lizards we have around here.

        3. re: redfish62

          that's either misinformation of the chef, or it's an utter lie to get away with laziness. I work in france and there is no possible way my chef would ever let me get away with the raw chicken on a cutting board issue.

          And undercooked chicken is a big no-no, even here in France.

        4. It is indeed much much less of an issue. Just check the different smells in a US chicken and a French one. See how long a properly farmed chicken keeps. No one in France treats chicken like nuclear waste the way it's made in the US, and I don't believe there has been one single case of salmonella in chicken in the last twenty years or more.

          Now, there still are rules that, in restaurants, you should not use the same cutting boards for raw meat and other ingredients. And in good restaurants, cutting boards are soaked in bleech overight once a week.

          20 Replies
            1. re: souphie

              Interesting. Is it that the breeds of chicken here don't contain the salmonella bug or that the farming, processing and packaging is more hygenic?

              1. re: mrbitterpants

                The birds are in better health -- they don't take antibiotics and hormones, they walk around for real. They "fermier" ones grow for at least 70 days -- six months for the really good ones. The best guarantee against bugs is usually the natural processes, the ones that have worked for millenium. In a cold fridge, a chicken with the head on keeps for weeks. Packaging is definitely not hygienic. I'd say packed chicken are more of a problem. When you buy a chicken from a butcher, it is (or should be) prepared on order, starting from an animal that had the head and legs on.

                Busk is right to point out the price. As I often say, only in France is there a market for 30€ chicken. It's not obviously because French people can afford it more than Americans can -- it's a choice.

                1. re: souphie

                  For the salmonella issue, since I'm following some american blogs/websites I can see that there seems to be a recall every month at least in the US... which does sound crazy in France, as there never are recalls.
                  Everytime american family or friends come here they feel weird about eating tartare, or fresh mayonnaise or even tiramisu (because I had to tell them that the real recipe is 100% raw).

                  However, I'm sorry to be the pessimistic one, but you mention 30€ chickens... personally I buy my chickens more in the 8-12€ range, and always fermier and/or Label Rouge and/or bio... But here we are on a board devoted to people to which food is important, but that's not the case for everyone (even in France, home of Unesco gastronomy heritage...). I don't know a single person, who does as I do. I'm pretty sure all my friends, even the ones who like to eat good food, are buying the 5€ chicken who never saw a sun ray.

                  So even though, to answer the OP, there are nearly no salmonella outbreaks here in France, I don't seem to be as optimistic as Souphie and Ptipois (on the other post) about french people only eating farm-raised good quality products.

                  I hope I'm wrong.

                  1. re: Rio Yeti

                    Actually this website states that there are more than 10000 cases of salmonella in France every year...


                    1. re: Rio Yeti

                      but the fact remains that the incidence of food-borne illness in the US (including salmonella, listeria, etc., etc, etc.) is five TIMES higher on a per-capita basis than it is in France.

                      Is your main motivation here food safety and animal welfare, or are you looking at the actual food side of things? Just askin', as it changes how we'd structure our answers.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        I was asking from a food safety perspective. Where I'm from (Canada) its so ingrained in me to either use a separate cutting board or to disinfect after handling raw meat that it was such a shock to me when a culinary institution like LCB didn't have their students do the same.

                        However, it sounds like the risk is vastly reduced and not zero. So if I somehow magically get a long-stay visa to remain here, I think I will continue to use separate cutting boards to play it safe.

                        1. re: mrbitterpants

                          sorry, bitterpants, I was aiming the question at Rio Yeti, who's posted similar comments on a couple of threads now.

                          But yes, the risks of salmonella are less here. (unrefrigerated eggs, anyone?)

                        2. re: sunshine842

                          I don't deny that salmonella, E.coli and all their little friends seem to be way more present in the US than in France, I said in my previous post that from France's perspective seeing all those recalls in the US sounds crazy !

                          As for your question, my motivation for these recent posts was mainly animal welfare. I know that mostly a healthy animal with a good life equals better tasting meat, but it's not always the case (Kenji Alt. Lopez from recently did a taste test with eggs from battery chicken and organic ones, and came up with the conclusion that they taste exactly the same...).

                          I know this board is about food, and I am mostly passionate about cooking good food (and going out to good restaurants). However since this discussion came up I was curious to learn more about how animals are raised in France.
                          And although I can see that it's probably better than in most of Europe and definitely better than in the USA, I'm still not convinced that most people in France will buy the 12€ poulet fermier or the 25€ poulet de bresse over the 4.95€ Leader Price poulet de who-the-hell-cares-where-he-came-from.

                          But as said earlier, I am pessimistic by nature ;)

                          1. re: Rio Yeti

                            but yet the poulet fermier and poulet de Bresse sell out much faster than the 6,50 generic brethren...even at the hypermarches, and the volaillers at the markets sell most of all of their offering each day.

                            Most people in France DO buy the poulets fermiers, and the Label Rouge, and the Landes, and the Bresses.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              I'll look more closely next time I go at the supermarket. ;)

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                About 50% do. That's just for whole raw chickens. It's impressive, but the chicken used by the restaurant/institution trade (Flunch, McDo, Casino) is likely the cheap stuff. It's a big segment as these chains do quite well.

                                Naturally, I don't go for the lousy birds, but I'm a foodie,

                      2. re: souphie

                        FYI -- hormones are not allowed to be used in poultry production in the U.S.

                    2. re: souphie

                      Give them time and the big producers will start producing the same terrible chicken we have in the US as fewer and fewer French people are able to afford 12 euros for a bird.

                      1. re: Busk

                        Nope. The relationship between the French and their food will never allow it.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          I agree. Busk would be right if it were a case where France did not know better or that its development had not reached some kind of inevitable point of its market evolutions.
                          An example close at hand: within 5 minute walk from my home, there are about half a dozen butchers, and all of them have an extensive range of non-industrialized chicken (50% or more of all the chckens sold). This amply reflects what the consumers want.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Go look on the shelves of the hypermarkets where most French people shop. More and more crap. The relationship between the French and their small paychecks trumps the relationship between the French and their food.


                            1. re: Busk

                              I have half a dozen butchers within a 5-minute walk from my home, - as I explained above, - but no hypermarchés.


                              1. re: Busk

                                There are hypermarkets around Paris, not in the posh suburbs, where you can get Bresse chicken for peanuts. Souphie should remember the price, he's the one who found the critters.
                                Even in the most suburban/remote supermarkets a large proportion of the available chickens is poulet fermiers, Label rouge, bio and of course, in the regions, some locally produced birds that never reach Paris.

                                1. re: Busk

                                  There's certainly no shortage of over processed ready-to-eat chicken products at those hypermarches. Makes you wonder where those chickens (and those bound for McDo's et al) come from and if they have the same risk of food-borne illness as the plein air one's do.

                          2. Why is this thread moved from the France board? The OP's questions and all the replies are specific to the poultry production in France. Why deprive the France board of this useful information and exile it where it is useless? Is there a hidden advantage - extremely hidden I reckon - for excellently informative threads like this one to get LESS intead of more traffic?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Parigi

                              Yes, I don't get it either....(?)

                              1. re: Parigi

                                And by less traffic you mean more? General Topics is the second highest posted topical forum on Chowhound (behind Home Cooking)... and yet you think it's getting less traffic?

                                I also think this isn't 'a France specific thread -- chicken has a good chance of having Salmonella regardless of where is it raised.

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  me, too, neither, Parigi -- the entire OP was structured regarding salmonella and food hygiene *IN FRANCE*... putting it on the general board by definition dilutes the conversation to the world at large.

                                2. Chicken in France may have a lower risk of salmonella given different farming and processing practices than in North America, but I have a hard time believing there is no salmonella. That's like saying there is no streptococcus in the human population.

                                  Were you and your classmates re-using the boards for ingredients that would be cooked, or served raw? To me, that is the determining factor in washing or using a new board. If the diced carrots are going into the same pot as the raw chicken, all to be cooked thoroughly before eating, then why waste the time, soap, and water to clean the board?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mpjmph

                                    It was a mix as we were doing prep for multiple dishes at the same time. Even still I personally wouldn't want to get into the habit of assuming the cross-contamination would be cooked out just in case I forgot that one time.

                                  2. The only way you're getting salmonella free chicken (Or anything for that matter) is if it was radiated.

                                    Bacteria are everywhere and transmission isn't that hard. Most infections come via the fecal-oral route, so if there's waste, there's a chance for bacterial infection.

                                    Touting no hormone use in French chickens is like saying the U.S. doesn't use cow meat from 1,000 year old green cows. By law, chickens can't be treated with them.

                                    Why are there more cases of infections here? For the same reason that, as a hypothetical, if there was an bacterial outbreak of duck liver, France would have the highest rate. The U.S. produces a bunch more chicken than France (Guessing over 10x). The other significant factor (which is rather insignificant to the sheer volume factor) is there are fewer factory farms and more smaller ones over there. Infections are more likely to be isolated.

                                    That instructor at Le Cordon Bleu is an #%!.