Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why Are Organic Pasture Raised Chicken & Eggs Better Than Conventional?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's labeling for meat and poultry products can be misleading. For example, the labels "free-range" and "free-roaming" chicken simply require producers to demonstrate that the birds had access to the outdoors. Regulations do not state how much space the flock must be given or require that the chickens have access to a pasture diet. A 1999 study funded by the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and two 2008 studies published in "Poultry Science" found health benefits from eating pasture-fed chicken meat. All three studies compared the nutritional quality of meat from birds raised conventionally which is indoors in poultry sheds and fed a grain-based diet which is to those raised on pasture, not merely granted outdoor access, as required by USDA regulations. When purchasing chicken, select birds labeled as pasture-raised. - Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms 

Because of living conditions on conventional farms nearly half of the meat and poultry (47 percent) sold is U.S. grocery stores is contaminated with staphylococcus aureus (“Staph”), a bacteria linked to a wide range of human diseases, and this bacteria is resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics in more than half (52 percent) of contaminated samples, according to a nationwide study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) published this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Researchers collected and analyzed 136 samples–covering 80 brands–of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from 26 retail grocery stores in five U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff and Washington, D.C.. DNA testing suggested that the food animals themselves were the major source of contamination. The study was funded through a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. “The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today,” said Lance B. Price, Ph.D., senior author of the study and Director of TGen’s Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health. Up to 70 percent of all antibiotics produced in the United States are used for ‘non-therapeutic’ purposes in industrial food animal production, according to The Union of Concerned Scientists, which defines ‘non-therapeutic’ as the use of antibiotics in the absence of diagnosed disease. - Laetitia Mailhes

When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s. Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 10 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens. - Animal Feed Science and Technology 

Since the 1960s, large-scale poultry producers have added arsenic to their poultry feed. Although inorganic arsenic is a toxin, small amounts speed the growth of the birds, make their breast meat pinker, and kill certain bacteria. Is this practice harmful for humans? Chronic exposure to high levels of arsenic has been linked with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a decline in brain function. But as long as poultry meat has fewer than 0.5 parts of arsenic per million, the USDA has decreed that it is safe to eat. That ruling, set in the 1950s, must be revised. Within the past few years, studies show that arsenic is a more potent cancer promoter than first believed. It has to do with its effect on blood vessels. The reason that arsenic makes white meat pinker is that it increases the growth of blood vessels in the meat. The more blood, the pinker the color. That process, called “angiogenesis” also plays a key role in cancer promotion. Cancer cells cannot speed up their growth without the creation of new blood vessels to fuel them with nutrients. Arsenic does the trick, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The European Union banned the use of arsenic in poultry production in 1999. Several large U.S. producers have stopped the practice on their own, including Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms. Arsenic should be banned in all animal feed. - Environmental Health Perspectives 

Eggs from hens raised outdoors on pasture have from three to six times more vitamin D than eggs from hens raised in confinement. Pastured hens are exposed to direct sunlight, which their bodies convert to vitamin D and then pass on to the eggs. Vitamin D is best known for its role in building strong bones. New research shows that it can also enhance the immune system, improve mood, reduce blood pressure, combat cancer, and reduce the risk of some autoimmune disorders. - Mother Earth News 

Eggs from pastured poultry are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin A. Meanwhile, they are lower in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. In addition, there is a direct relationship between feed, yolk color, and the nutrient content of the egg. The more orange the yolk, the higher the level of health-enhancing carotenoids. - Poultry Science

In 1999, using a grant from the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, chicken farmer Barb Gorski compared the nutrition of her chickens to USDA data for conventionally raised poultry. Her pasture-raised poultry contained 21 percent less fat than conventional chicken, and 30 percent less saturated fat. Gorski's study also revealed 50 percent more vitamin A in her pasture-raised chicken meat when compared to conventionally raised broilers. Removing the skin from the meat equalized vitamin A content between pasture- and conventionally raised birds, however. - Pastured Poultry Products 

According to a 2006 Consumer Reports study, chicken is one of the most important products to purchase organic. Organic chicken does not contain the toxic hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides that commercially raised birds do. According to the report, even low levels of artificial hormones can increase one's risk of developing cancer. Commercial chicken may also be tainted with toxic heavy metals. Researchers from the Netherlands have found that organically fed chickens develop different genes than their conventionally fed counterparts. The result is that the genes responsible for creating cholesterol have a higher expression in organically fed chickens, yet these birds do not have elevated blood cholesterol levels. - Natural News

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