Monday, September 22, 2008

Germy Poultry

Consumer Reports tested chicken for campylobacter or salmonella, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne illness. They found a lot of germs.

Dirty Birds: Even ‘Premium’ Chickens Harbor Dangerous Bacteria

They tested 525 fresh, whole broilers bought at supermarkets, mass merchandisers, gourmet shops, and natural-food stores in 23 states. They found an average of 83% were contaminated with campylobacter, salmonella, or both:

No-antibiotics brands:
  • Bell & Evans (air-chilled)
  • Buddy’s
  • Coleman
  • MBA Brand Smart Chicken (air-chilled)
  • Murray’s
  • North Country Farms
  • Ranger
  • Rocky
  • Rocky Jr.
  • Springer Mountain Farms
  • Wegman’s
  • Whole Foods
USDA Organic brands:
  • Coastal Range
  • Coleman
  • D’Artagnan
  • Eberly’s
  • Maverick Ranch
  • MBA Brand Smart Chicken (air-chilled)
  • Organic Raised Right
  • Rosie
  • Whole Foods
  • Wise
Not that a wild bird couldn't harbor infectious bacteria. But our farming of poultry, including tight housing and sloppy slaughter practices (organic or not) contribute to higher contamination rates.

(I was reading that Happy Hen Organic Fertile Brown Eggs from Pennsylvania, which are advertised as coming from hens that run free "in a natural setting" and are "humanely housed in healthy, open-sided housing, for daily sunning - something Happy Hens enjoy." are actually housed in barns containing more than 7000 birds each ... "the wall-to-wall birds are severely debeaked; and individual hens have even less space than the abysmal industry standard.")

When it comes to cleanliness, I can see it doesn't pay to spend extra on organic, air-chilled, antibiotic-free, gourmet, or other high-end poultry.

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