We’re all in search of healthy food options. When it comes to meat, the debate often comes consuming chicken, fish, , mutton or beef. However, even within chicken, we need to be aware of what kind of chicken we are consuming.
Let us start with a basic definition of the different types of chicken meat available in the market.
Broiler chickens are simply chickens raised solely for their meat. Breeder pairs of hens and roosters are specially purchased and raised to provide fertilized eggs. These are later incubated in special hatcheries, then chicks are raise in farms until they reach a certain weight (2-3 Kg.) Once they have the proper quality, they are sacrificed and prepared for commercial distribution. These chickens are almost always white with very constant features and their ancestry and living conditions tend to be heavily monitored.
Country/Desi chickens are raised in an entirely different way. They are raised for meat and eggs but live in more natural conditions and have a more heterogeneous appearance and their lives are less controlled.
Broiler chickens are considered a very important part of the food industry. They are an unfortunate necessity in countries with very large populations. This causes for efficiency and speed of production to be top priorities, which often translates into less than kind practices towards the animals.
Broiler chickens are treated in a way that many would consider cruel in order to optimize resources.
Normally a broiler chicken is kept in a very small space with an area similar to a normal piece of paper. These conditions create stress for the animal, which frequently can lead to an aggressive behavior.
Breeding practices are also focused on high production yield of eggs. Broiler hens are required to lay many times more eggs than usual, which causes severe physical stress and weak bones.
Harsh Living Conditions
Harsh living conditions like bad lighting, poor nutrition and overall bad practices cause a myriad of diseases like malformations, organ failure, reproductive problems, etc. Chickens are also given large amounts of antibiotics in order to prevent infections. This increases the chance of an outbreak of resistant bacteria. Hygiene is also an issue. Broiler chickens can spend weeks in filth before being cleaned.
Broiler chickens suffer from many problems related to the way they are fed. Some of this industry’s common practices lead to very rapid growth and weight gain, which causes many to become unable to move due to their heavy bodies and weak muscles. They also suffer from breast blisters, heart attacks and overall weakness.
Broiler chicken’s food often contains high amounts of protein but also one more thing, Arsenic (A). A is a very toxic compound for humans. To be fair, chickens are not given pure arsenic with the intention of killing us. It comes in the form of reagents like Roxarsone meant to promote growth, kill parasites and cause diarrhea, all important aspects of how these chickens are raised.
Roxarsone and other compounds just like it used to be very frequent in chicken feed, however, with time, this ingredient has become less and less common. The U.S no longer uses it, but in several other countries it is still part of the process.
Officially, Pakistan does not import or use Roxarsone. However, independent researchers and health organizations have found high levels of A in chicken. Which is a serious health problem since it can cause a great number of diseases and even death.
Cancer, heart problems, diabetes, high abortion risk and many other conditions can result from chronic A exposure.
So far, research about how toxic Roxarsone actually is has turned out inconclusive, however, when you cook chicken with traces of this compound, a small amount of inorganic A is released, which is quite toxic. No one is going to die from eating broiler chicken one of course. Frequent consumption will increase the risk over time.
Lead was also suspected to be present in chicken meat at a time. However, since then it became clear that other environmental sources could be to blame.
Consuming Desi Chicken
Although it may be more expensive and harder to find, Desi chicken is a safer alternative to broiler. Their treatment is usually more humane and it is less likely for them to be fed poisonous substances. That being said, desi chicken is raised in a less supervised environment and by many different sources.
Small scale production also has its risk for the consumer. Obviously, if there are such advantages by raising chickens with arsenic or other contaminants, it is entirely possible for local farmers to include it in the food of their country chickens. So, how to avoid this? You are not going to be able to spot the arsenic level of a chicken by just looking at it unless something went horribly wrong. Many companies produced millions of gorgeous chickens without anybody noticing anything unusual.
Arsenic detection and avoidance needs some strategy. The government needs to impose regular evaluation to determine that neither the food nor the animals present at a farm show signs of contamination. It would be wise for big markets to ensure the meat’s safety by testing the meat themselves with the proper detection kits.