Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Contaminated chicken feed

Chickens at around 30 broiler poultry farms in Indiana have been fed feed contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine and related compounds, The chemicals have been identified as contaminating wheat gluten added to the feed, the same route whereby pet food that has killed many animals was contaminated.

The chickens have already been processed into meat and are in stores and on your table. Commercial chickens are overwhelmingly Cornish/Rock hybrid crosses like the ones in this picture from the USDA.

The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,, have not initiated any recall of the chicken products in question, since there is no documented harm to humans from the chemicals, or from eating chicken contaminated with them.

More than 100 brands of pet food have been recalled since the contamination was identified March 16. Sixteen pet deaths have been confirmed, but the true total is unknown. The FDA is tracking around 8,000 reports.

This episode is shining the spotlight on how food animals are raised and how chicken meat gets to our tables. It’s not a pretty picture. These chemicals have been identified. What else are you eating along with your fried chicken?

The industrial model which American agriculture has adopted produces a lot of food at low cost, but its vertical integration makes it vulnerable to massive failure. Contamination disperses through the system rapidly and is then delivered to food retailers in many states within a short period of time. It’s on our tables and in our mouths, making us the test of what sickens us.

We need a strong food system to feed every American. The greatest strength lies in a diversified food system that offers fresh food from a variety of local sources, not a vertically integrated corporate conglomerate that treats animals as industrial units contributing to the bottom line.

Your own small flock of chickens, or the eggs and meat you buy from a local farmer, is the best assurance of safe, nutritious food.

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