Chicken in California from Foster Farms is getting people sick right now. (Oct 2013) They are not even recalling it! Foster Farms claims their factory has made changes so that it can restart them They later got closed down in 2014 for cockroaches.
Ground turkey from Cargill was being recalled. (August 2011) The meat maybe contaminated with salmonella bacteria. A reminder that we need to thoroughly cook meat products to kill any bacteria. These outbreaks of contamination revive the debate over whether too many antibiotics are used in livestock. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can be promoted. The FDA is investigating the area.
Consumerreports.org has investigated Chicken Safety by purchasing fresh, whole broilers at various stores and analyzing them. They found 2/3 contained Salmonella and/or Campylobacter bacteria. This is an improvement from their last test 3 years ago.
Buying organic helps but they found 57% of the organic birds had campylobacter. Perdue chickens were better than other name brands. Bell & Evans did well but sample size was small. Most contaminated were Tyson and Foster Farms. Buying cleaner chickens only increases odds that failing to prepare chickens won’t make you sick.
The scary part is that almost 2/3’s of the bacteria was resistant to one or more antibiotics.
Free range – Chicken had access to outdoors. Door may have left open briefly each day.
Natural – Chicken minimally processed. No artificial ingredients, preservatives, or added color.
No Hormones – Meaningless as USDA prohibits it.
No Antibiotics – Unverified unless chicken is certified USDA organic
USDA Organic – Certified antibiotic free, 100% organic feed, and free range.
Recommendations they suggest include:
1) It is clearly important to cook chicken to at least a 165° F level of doneness to eliminate the bacteria.
2) You also need to prevent raw chicken or its juices from touching any other food to eliminate the risk of contamination. Clean anything it touches thoroughly. Do not use these items with the cooked meat.
3) Buy chicken that is wrapped, is chilled the most, and get it right before checkout.
4) Do NOT wash chicken, it does not clean it and this causes bacteria to fly all over the place
5) Cook the chicken within a couple days or freeze it.
6) Thaw frozen chicken in a refrigerator inside its packaging and on a plate. A microwave can also be used for thawing. Do not thaw it on the counter as bacteria could grow.
7) Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.
Mary’s Chickens Organic Farm
Mary’s Chickens, based in Fresno County, CA, is a popular brand in western specialty markets. They specialize in free range chickens, turkeys and ducks. Other good reasons to buy their products:
- Birds have spacious yards to roam in
- No antibiotics
- Their barns are cleaner and warmer than most
- All the birds are under one roof
- They grow heritage turkeys
- Birds rendered unconscious before slaughtered
- Feed is not genetically modified
While in the end, the bird is killed, it lives a better life than on other farms. They also live healthier life without chemicals.
The Quest for Safe chicken – 100% Natural Chicken
We all want to eat healthy food, but we recently read about several issues with chicken. When is 100% Natural not 100% Natural? More and more of the time unfortunately.
US Department of agriculture (USDA) defines the term “natural” as a product that contains no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed. The definition applies to beef and chicken.
“Natural” Packaged chicken can be injected with up to 15% salt water and seaweed extract (carrageenan) per the US Department of Agriculture. The tiny fine print on some chicken packages reads “With up to 15% natural* chicken broth”
Allegedly, Wal-Mart in 2003 told US chicken processors to standardize packaged weight of fresh chicken, so this scheme was employed.
So not only are we paying extra for salt water, we are getting saltier chicken.
This article offers some helpful suggestions on what to look for when buying chicken. 100% Organic, Pasture raised is the best.
Chemicals in chicken
Chemicals given to chickens have also have problems. In July 2011, Pfizer stopped selling 3-Nitro that was used in some chicken feed. FDA found a very low level of inorganic carcinogenic arsenic in the livers of chickens treated with the drug.
Tyson settles consumer class-action suit over Chicken Labeling
Chicken is in the news again. Tyson settles consumer class-action suit over Chicken Labeling. The case started in January 2008 when competitors Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms sued them alleging that Tyson’s “raised-without-antibiotics” labeling constituted false advertising. Tyson used a chicken feed additive called ionophore that the USDA considers an antibiotic, but had not been proven harmful.
6 months later, Tyson withdrew the antibiotic wording from its chicken. The USDA approved the longer, qualified phrase for use in marketing materials at the end of 2007, so Tyson’s competitors sued one month later.
Competition helps keep industries honest and in this case helped expose more food – antibiotic connections that are hidden behind marketing.
Egg Recall – Egg Farm Practices and Organic Eggs
The recent recall of half a billion eggs from 2 large farms in Iowa is shining a spotlight on our food chain. Are factory farming practices of increasing profits by squeezing hens in close quarters causing these problems? Having just a handful of food producers due to industry consolidation add to the problem. California has new regulations taking in effect in 2015 requiring cage-free treatment of hens. It also bans all eggs coming from outside the state that fail to comply with this battery-cage rule.
Confusing Egg Terminology
Cage-free – Most cage-free hens live in very large flocks that can consist of many thousands of hens who never go outside. However, unlike battery hens, cage-free hens are able to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests.
Organic – As certified by the USDA, this label requires some outdoor exposure.
Pasture-raised – This and other classifications indicate outside forage on vegetation and insects.
Certified humane – Endorsed by the Humane Society, this does not require access to the outdoors but has standards for air quality and lighting.
Organic Eggs have better flavor and the chickens laying them have been feed organic feed. Eating them is a good way to help minimize risk of exposure to antibiotics, or synthetic hormones and pesticides while obtaining a healthy dose of nutrients. We could not find studies that validate these suggestions though.
Egg Cooking Tips
Eggs need to be fully cooked properly to prevent food poisoning and salmonella contamination. Bacteria can exist inside an uncracked, uncooked whole egg. Avoid eating raw cookie dough with egg or making ice cream with egg or Caesar salad dressing with raw eggs. Cook eggs until the egg yolk and the egg white are firm. Cook egg custard used in eggnog, homemade ice cream, and quiches to at least 160 degrees for 15 seconds. Bake egg meringues at 350 degrees for at least 15 minutes on the lower rack of your oven. See FDA website for additional safety information.
Raw shell eggs that have not been treated to destroy Salmonella need to be refrigerated at 45°F or below.
Always wash hands with hot soapy water before and after coming in contact with eggs or foods containing eggs.
Be sure to read our Healthy Food Options to avoid Chemicals