How safe is the food we eat? I’ve related my Dad’s story of twigging 50 years ago to why his Canadian-resident mate’s sex drive had shrivelled; it was due to the estrogen being pumped into battery-raised chickens. Until last year, I would have thought that such practices were a thing of the distant past. But as a member of the Primary Production Committee, I got to ask some questions mid-year of the NZ Food Safety Authority.
Information provided to the committee told us that NZFSA was doing some studies about the use of antibiotics in factory-raised chickens. (Large amounts of antibiotics are required when chickens are stacked three and four a time into cages with an A4 size of space.) The NZFSA officials said that the studies they had done were not “conclusive” about whether the antibiotics used have any impact on human health. So what, I asked, where they doing to provide some assurance to us as New Zealanders who eat dozens of kgs of chicken per capita every year. The NZFSA’s anwer was that it was doing some more studies!
Forgive the pun, but isn’t this rather putting the egg before the chicken? Should we be eating chicken fed antibiotics if it is inconclusive that this will not do us any harm? I didn’t ask the question of NZFSA about whether estrogen is still fed to chickens here. Others might know?
I plan to follow it up, most especially since my good buddy Moana Mackey’s post about the guy in Louisiana who developed breasts and lost facial hair because he was eating chicken necks. The supposition is that because these include thyroid glands, this might be where estrogen is concentrated. I know from reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma that estrogen is fed to beef cattle in the US. This and the use of corn on feedlots has seen the average age of cattle at slaughter in the US reduce from perhaps 4 years a century ago to 14-16 months. Chickens, be they US or NZ, are raised in a matter of weeks. Yes, it does provide cheap food but it seems to me that animial welfare and human welfare are both short of what they deserve.