Buying the healthiest chicken has never been harder. Many have seen horrifying images and videos of factory poultry farms where chickens live in such tight quarters that they have no room to move. Many factory hens never see natural daylight. With natural day-night cycles, egg-laying chickens and ducks lay more eggs during the summer season when daylight is longer. In the winter, they get a rest. With that in mind, factory poultry farmers artificially increase the daily light duration with lamps so their chickens will produce more eggs year-round. Instead of eating small plants and insects, factory chickens eat feed consisting of grains, including GMO corn.
Similar to cattle and fish, poultry farmers inject their birds with antibiotics to try and keep them free of disease. Despite the use of antibiotics, chickens still get sick, probably because the pesticides and herbicides that lace their feed destroy the normal bacterial flora in the chickens’ guts, leaving them with unhealthy intestinal biomes. Before the 1980s, people ate raw eggs without any fear of getting sick. Since then, though, the incidence of Salmonella infections has been on the rise. Today, signs in restaurants warn of eating eggs that aren’t cooked thoroughly for fear of Salmonella. GMO feed with glyphosate residue has been implicated in disturbing the microbiomes of poultry, killing off beneficial bacteria and leaving behind those that are less susceptible to the chemical, such as Salmonella and Clostridium. This may in part explain the increased incidence of Clostridium and Salmonella infections in cattle, poultry farms, and conventional egg production factories. However, the risk of salmonella persists in free-range and certified organic chicken populations.
If you’re truly dedicated to eating the healthiest chicken — and you have the ability to raise your own — I highly recommend it. Chickens are fun to watch, and collecting fresh eggs is a special gift each day. Otherwise, try to find a source of poultry and eggs that are not mass-produced from a factory farm. Be a savvy shopper and understand the deceptive labeling techniques used by some factory farms. Words like “all natural” mean nothing. Unfortunately, descriptions such as “free range,” “cage free,” and “naturally raised” are also misleading and don’t really mean what they sound like they mean. It is best to ignore marketing ploys. A more useful label is one that specifies “organic eggs.” In order to receive the organic label, the laying chickens aren’t fed any GMO grain and are raised on land that has been free of pesticide and fertilizer use for at least three years. “Free-range” means the chickens have the ability to go outside, but this might mean that they are predominately housed indoors with access to just a small outdoor concrete slab. Making sure that your eggs are fully cooked will help eliminate the risk of acquiring a Salmonella infection.