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The Downside

Modern chicken farming techniques are becoming increasingly criticized by a variety of groups. Some of the most common criticisms include the tight quarters chickens are required to live in, especially egg producing chickens, which are able to be placed in closer proximity to each other than chickens reared for meat.

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 One common misconception of these groups is that growth hormones are being used in chicken production in the United States. The last widely used hormone was banned in the late 1950s and today the use of hormones in chickens and eggs is illegal. However, antibiotics and antimicrobials are routinely used in large scale modern chicken farming operations and there is ongoing research into the long term effects of antibiotics in poultry farming. Critics of antibiotic use worry about the development of 'super-strains' that are resistant to antibiotics and pose a threat to humans. Despite this concern, antibiotics have been used in large scale farming operations including poultry for many years and there are no major instances of antibiotic resistant strains that affect humans originating on farms. One other point of contention is the point at which antibiotics ought to be allowed in the life cycle of the chicken. Currently, poultry farmers are allowed to use antibiotics preventively, before chickens have shown any sign of sickness, but some have lobbied that they ought not be allowed to use antibiotics at all except in the case of actual sickness. It is worth mentioning that antibiotics may have other attributes that are attractive to producers, as a correlation has been found between the use of certain antibiotics and accelerated rates of growth.

Of much more immediate concern to consumers is proper preparation of chicken in meals. Chicken ought to be cooked well, and under-cooking by local restaurants or home chefs is of much greater concern than antibiotics. Consumers can ensure that their chicken is cooked properly by following labelling instructions on chicken products. Eggs can be dangerous too if they become infected by salmonella - Edwina Currrie once almost destroyed the UK egg market by alleging that nearly all eggs are infected, which was a gross exaggeration, but it has to be admitted that a large number of people fall ill every year in the UK, particularly after having eaten products containing raw eggs such as tiramasu or even the favourite hangover cure, the 'prairie oyster' (revolting looking thing; I'd rather suffer my hangover than swallow one any day). Like chicken products, eggs should really be served well cooked including the yolk which should be solid - bad news to generation of of both adults and kids who love dipping their toast in the yolks on a Sunday morning!



Copyright Peter Garrey 2009