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Healthy Chicken ~ Sorting through the Lies

No more cheap chicken for me. I want to eat healthy; meaning, no GMO's, hormones, pesticides, plutonium, or whatever foul disgraces that some companies force upon these hapless creatures.

So we have, among other terms: organic, free-range, kosher, all-natural, farm-raised, grain-fed... what does all this mean? Seems like some brands truly deliver on quality, while with others, the soul-less marketing department has latched onto these terms as a way to get top dollar for their crappy products that are loaded with chemicals... and not a care for the health problems that they may cause.

Example: some companies will make a one square meter fencing enclosure, in a parking lot, available to a trailer full of 10,000 birds. Then, call them "free-range," and charge treble the amount.

I've been scouring the Internet, but--no surprise here--I am having trouble finding good information. For me, it's not so much about the labels; it's about the brand.

- What brands of chicken are truly the best?
- What brand have the best reputation?
- What brands feed chickens GMO corn?
- Do any chicken ranches post pictures of their facilities?
- Do any companies import chickens from China, or have farms there?
- Are there specific chicken brands that are known for falsely labeling chickens?
- Are there test kits on the market to check for different chemicals and hormones?
- Can chicken be soaked in brine to cleanse and remove chemicals?


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  1. I don't want to sound like a smartass here, but have you considered not eating chicken.....?
    There are plenty of organic non GMO plant based protein options.....

      1. I suggest spending more time on science. There is very little hard data that should make you as concerned as you seem to be.

        5 Replies
        1. re: brentk

          Find a local farm where you can purchase your birds, fresh or more likely frozen.
          Be willing to pay more. This might mean you eating less poultry less often. Maybe that's a good thing also right?
          Forget ever.
          My former SIL refused to eat farm raised/wild birds. "Too chewy". LOL You can purchase her share.

          1. re: Puffin3

            As previously stated, "local farms/growers" are the answer. I have found a few small time growers of egg hens and meat chickens, standard breeds not the "Frankenchickens" with the huge breasts, which have to be ahrvested by 12 weeks or their hearts give out, (can't support the weight of the bird).
            You will pay more per bird, but it is more than made up in the taste, texture, and your knowing what the birds were fed and how they were raised. I always visit a grower before I buy, weather it is a backyard operation or a for profit small farm. I will only buy pastured chickens, and pastured eggs. Most of the growers that I have met use organic and humanely raised methods, they are very proud of their animals, and it results in a high quality product.

          2. re: brentk

            @brentk you work for Monsanto? No way man... you're not going to convince me to eat the swill that they shovel to the masses. It's engineered for one thing: and it's not the health and well being of the people!

            Must I remind you that all these foods are BANNED in the EU? As is beef with growth hormones? That's because they care enough about their people not to give them cancer.

            Starting with the genetically modified peanut, and its associated deadly allergies, it's been all downhill. My friend just found out that he's got a horrible allergy to almonds. Why? GMO.

            1. re: tangoking

              I don't work in the industry and I eat locally wherever possible. But I have yet to see any scientific studies that show that GMOs are bad for you. In fact, most of what I have seen has said that they have no discernible impact on health.

              1. re: tangoking

                GMOs are not banned in Europe, they're regulated. And where are you getting your other information from? "Genetically modified peanut, and its associated deadly allergies"??? You've seemingly pulled that out of thin air. Same with almonds, which are not genetically modified.

            2. Good luck with your search. I agree with others who suggest finding a local farm whose practices you feel comfortable with. Or a co-op that can source the chicken from such a farm.

              However, my experience is that the chicken I get from the local, more reputable farms is frozen and somewhat more mushy than I would like.

              Taste and texture-wise, I actually prefer certain commercial farms that have less transparent practices, but provide the breeds that I prefer (usually the smaller, more muscular ones).

              I end up usually getting chicken from the commercial breeders for cooking whole, and bones and feet (also eggs) from the reputable farms for soups and stock.

              1. Keep researching and sorting out those lies; hormones have not been added to poultry (nor swine) since the 1970s due to federal laws.

                2 Replies
                1. re: coll

                  That's true. Hormones are now only allowed for cattle and sheep (the latter of which I was not aware of before).

                  On the other hand, it looks like antibiotics are still routinely used for all kinds of livestock.

                  1. re: vil

                    I'm OK with antibiotics being used on animals that are sick, but not to prevent disease because the animals are raised in filthy conditions. There are too many organically raised animals that are not given antibiotics when they are sick so that the organic certification is not lost.

                2. Chicken is imported from China,except for the feet. Seems the feet are the most popular part in China and there is a chicken feet trade imbalance...I kid you not!

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: Raffles

                      No chicken or chicken products are currently imported from China. It recently became legal after we lost a fight at the WTO but no one is actually importing the stuff.

                      The fact is that the US is a low-cost producer of poultry and is a large net exporter. Poultry and egg imports from all countries except for Canada are trivial.

                      1. re: nokitchen

                        I believe almost 100% of chicken "paws" (as they call them in Arkansas) are exported to China, not the other way around. At least that's how they do it at Tyson. Where the ones we get come from, I don't know. Good thing there's not a big demand.

                    2. Your science is terrible and your knowledge is worse. You will be pleased (though I'm guessing not pleased enough) that there are no added hormones in American chickens.

                      As regards free-ranging, you're actually correct. Many producers provide something that legally passes as "free-range" but which most people upon observing the "range" would conclude that there's no appreciable difference between that and a caged chicken.

                      If free-ranging chickens is important to you for ethical reasons or if you wish to avoid chlorine (I take it you use bottled water to make your stock and wash your dishes) or whatever, the advice people have offered you in this thread is not just correct, it is able to be generalized to any product. If you don't know who is making your product, you don't know who is making your product. That applies to your chicken, to the pan you cook it in, and to the range you cook it on.

                      Try this site: http://www.eatwild.com/products/index... That will give you a start in finding chickens which live on grass and presumably seeds and bugs. That's a good indication that the chicken was allowed out of a cage for at least a good part of its life. Then make some calls, maybe jump in a car and make a day out of visiting farms. Meet the farmer, see how the chickens are treated, ask about their abattoir and about how they keep the chicken safe but not frozen between the farm and your house.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: nokitchen

                        Not sure where you're located, but I recommend Griggstown Poultry Farm in Jersey (Princeton area). I live in Brooklyn but travel there about once a month for their chicken (and quail, etc). Best chicken I've ever tasted.

                        1. re: nokitchen

                          I was hoping for sage advice on how long to soak in brine to cleanse and remove all those pesky chemicals!

                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              Chicken is delicious, and a great source of protein. I'd hate to let it go.

                              1. re: tangoking

                                It seems going to such lengths as brining all chicken to somehow magically remove chemicals is a lot of effort.

                            2. re: nokitchen

                              I've lived in this world long enough to realize that corporations care for nothing more than their profit margins--even if it causes health problems for their workers/customers. They have investments to protect.

                              Examples abound of cases where corporate profits were prioritized over human lives:

                              1. Peanut allergies? All started when the peanut was genetically modified. This has KILLED people and children... why are we not holding the GMO companies accountable for this?

                              2. Radium girls. Sure, it was safe for these women to lick the brush and paint numbers on the dials with radium-based paint. They even went so far as to accuse the women of having syphilis!

                              3. GMO labeling. $17.2M to fight labeling... why?

                              4. Of course, what about the retraction of the GMO rat study?

                              Your health and life are not to be taken for granted.

                              1. re: tangoking

                                You just posted an enthusiastic review of Turco, a pita joint in NYC that exemplifies exactly none of the ideas you posted here.

                                Do you get how weird that is?

                                1. re: knucklesandwich

                                  in TangoKing's defense, I buy organic/free range/hippie meat for cooking at home, but that doesn't meal I won't eat from the chicken and rice cart in front of my office building. I also don't own a microwave, but I will occasionally heat stuff up at work. The less the better.

                                  1. re: knucklesandwich

                                    Restaurant meals and home cooking are two different things.

                                      1. re: carolinadawg

                                        Of course, but it's a good way to limit the amount of junk that I consume. I keep it as natural as possible at home because I know what I eat in restaurants (which honestly isn't all that often) may be GMO, etc.

                                  2. re: tangoking

                                    Please explain when "the peanut was genetically modified"? Peanuts are not a GMO crop.

                                    1. re: ferret

                                      Word on the street is that the peanut was one of the first foods that they messed with, back in the 1960's, resulting in allergic reactions. I'll try and get a reference.

                                      1. re: tangoking

                                        Who are "they"? Aliens? P&G? Secret government organizations?

                                        1. re: knucklesandwich

                                          The Flavr Savr tomato was the first GMO product on the market ever. That was in 1994. "GMO" as it's currently applied refers to DNA-level manipulation. "Messed with, back in the 1960's" really is Area 51 talk.

                                          George Washington Carver "messed around" with peanuts by cross-fertilizing and grafting, practices which have been in use for centuries. Nobody ever got bent out of shape over that.

                                        2. re: tangoking

                                          Unless you're eating the output from the field trials designed to increase salinity-tolerance (and, fun fact: you're not), you are not now nor have you ever been eating genetically-modified peanuts.

                                          "Word on the street" says a lot of things. "They" say that if you step on a crack, you'll break your mother's back. Doesn't make it true.

                                      2. re: tangoking

                                        You may not be 100% right in your assessments but you are more right than wrong. Corporations do not have our best interests at heart. They don't have hearts. They have quarterly profit targets.

                                        Every penny that isn't spent on factory chicken with caged, de-beaked, de-clawed, birds suffering from wire cage burn, fetid conditions, force fed arsenic, antibiotics and other chemicals is a small victory.

                                    2. Not sure where you live but my WF carries all non-GMO chickens, some organic and some non. They also carry 'somewhat' local meaning from a few hours drive away. We also have a local food co-op where I can get all manner of truly local meat and other foods, including pastured eggs.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        The best small chickens for Zuni at WF :)

                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                In our house it's WPC, I often forget and have to remind myself no one know what I'm talking about when I call it that.

                                        1. Well, it might be all about the superbugs, please consider this short but informative presentation: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/super...

                                          1. As others have said, it's not about "brands" so much as it's about the conditions. There are humane certifications, animal welfare scores (Whole Foods) and some terms mean more than others. You should research the chickens available to you in your local area and where they come from and how they're raised. If all your choices are named brands, then research those companies, call their customer info lines if need be.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: mcf

                                              Good point. I asked my WF meat person if they had rabbit and he said they hadn't found a source that could meet their requirements as to the treatment of the animals.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                WF doesn't even sell live lobsters or crabs for the same reason.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  Here are the WF standards, and each product in their meat case is labeled with it's level: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about...

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    Wow! Thanks for sharing that.

                                                    fldhky, we had a WF Dungeness crab when in the Bay Area over Christmas. It was the most disappointing crab we've ever had. Not spoiled but a totally blah taste and texture. We actually took the receipt back for a refund.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      Yea they sell the Dungeness cooked, lobster tails and raw soft shell crabs. I've been tempted to buy the Dungeness since they appeared a few weeks ago but I think I'll stay away. Thanks for the info.

                                              2. Taking your questions in order . . .

                                                In Oakland, California, I recommend getting chicken from Piedmont Grocery. Their chicken is fron Martinelli, a local wholesaler of chicken from several smaller north bay producers. There are likely similar wholesalers in most urban areas.

                                                I don't know about branded (supermarket) chicken. I've long bought Foster Farms in that category, but its reputation has taken a hit recently.

                                                GMO corn is ubiquitous. There are no adverse health effects whatsoever from eating chicken fed with GMO corn. There are small producers which do not use it, but I doubt any large, branded chicken producer would qualify. There's no point to them doing so,

                                                Pictures? Even if there were pictures, they would post only the most attractive, inoffensive ones. This is not a reliable way to get information.

                                                Most chicken sold in the US is produced in the US. Anyone concerned about this can easily find chicken from a known source.

                                                False labelling? The chicken I buy is labelled chicken. That's what it is. If you mean falsely using the "USDA Organic" mark, that would be a crime. Leave that to the appropriate authorities to enforce.

                                                Chicken sold in the US is not fed hormones. As for chemicals, everything is chemical, including the chicken itself. Which chemicals are you concerned about? Some of the "chemicals" used in food production are used to kill pathogens. It's the pathogens which are dangerous, not the chemicals. Chicken (in the US) reaches the consumer safe to eat, when cooked according to USDA/FSIS recommendations.

                                                Brine does not do what you want, whatever that is specifically.