Cheap Chicken, At What Cost?

We had another great time at our Paleo Supper Club.  The topic of how most of the meat in this country is raised came up and yes, it is disgusting, so to see the topic on Dr. Mercola’s website yesterday morning was timely.  He talks about how chicken has become the cheapest, yet dirtiest meat we can eat.  That is, if you eat chicken bought in the grocery store.  The Animal Welfare Guidelines allow a stocking density that permits a chicken to be raised on an area equal to the size of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.  Most of these birds never see the light of day, and they can cram 30,000 or more chickens into a space that is 490 feet by 45 feet.  These animals are sick, and fed antibiotics as a result.  The chickens are also fed grain that has genetically engineered corn and soybeans in it.  In addition, chicken feathers and other animal byproducts are added to the feed, which further increases the likelihood of disease in these animals.  Surprisingly, it is not permitted to feed hormones to chickens raised in America.


Because chickens can be raised so “efficiently” in these confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), chicken has become the least expensive meat to buy and consumption has risen dramatically in the past few years.  The bottom line is that these animals become contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria, which can be transferred to us.  In addition, the nutrient profile of the meat and eggs is nothing like that of chickens raised outside, eating the diet they were meant to eat.


Take a look at Dr. Mercola’s article,  he goes into all the hidden costs of raising cheap chickens, including the ethical, environmental, and human health costs.  There is a link to the video called Food, Inc. in his article which is also enlightening.


Your best option is to buy from local farmers who raise their animals in a socially responsible way.  This produces high quality food.  True free range chicken and eggs come from chickens that are allowed to roam freely outside and eat their natural diet of plants, seeds, insects, and worms.  The labels “free range” and “natural” are also tainted, so when you see this in the grocery store, it means nothing.  There are loopholes that allow the meat and eggs that come from these poultry CAFOs to be labeled “free range” and “natural”.  The frightening truth is that these conditions also apply to our beef, pork, and dairy food supply.


I follow a paleo lifestyle strictly for the most part, but we enjoy going out to eat with friends occasionally.  The attitude that I have taken is that I will stick to a paleo diet as closely as possible when eating out, even though I know that the vegetables are not always organic, nor is the meat necessarily grass fed or local.  This mindset becomes harder to justify as we learn more about how most of the food is produced in this country and it makes me want to only frequent establishments that buy from local farmers.


While I was at the farmer’s market last Saturday, buying food for the coming week one of the farmers asked me if I owned a restaurant, or if all these veggies were to cook at home.  I told her that we cook and eat most of our meals at home.  Our rule is that if we go out and spend money on a nice meal, it has to be at LEAST as good as what we can make at home, if not BETTER!  I’m thinking this should hold true for the nutritional value of the food as well as the taste.