Popular Fast-Food Chains Called Out for Chickens Raised Poorly, Full of Antibiotics
So you gave up meat to go plant-based and may be wondering, what's so bad about chicken? We know that it's a relatively lean source of protein and the white meat is especially high in protein per calorie. But the way chickens are raised these days has become a hot-button issue for animal welfare advocates, and the byproduct of this overcrowding and artificial fast-growth of the birds has a side effect that puts our health in danger: The faster the birds grow, and the more overcrowded the conditions, the more antibiotics end up in the meat. And that means it ends up in you when you eat that Memphis BBQ Chicken pizza from Domino's.
The World Animal Project keeps track of which companies are the worst offenders when it comes to raising chickens in inhumane conditions, and their report card was recently published in the SUN in the UK, and picked up here by One Green Planet. The report names Domino's Burger King, McDonald's, and Starbucks among the worst offenders when it comes to the chickens they serve. KFC is making progress since according to WAP it is the only company to have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment in the UK.
WAP graded the companies both in the UK and in the US and Domino's scored worse here, but poorly both places. The scores are based on a system of 90 points total that they could get for how the chickens are raised.
Domino’s was the worst on the list for the second year running, with its UK (PLC) and US (Inc) sections coming bottom in the ranking and being branded “very poor”.
The next worst was Pizza Hut which actually dropped its score by nine points and going from “poor” to “very poor” compared to WAP’s 2019 “pecking order”.
Burger King dropped two tiers, going from “getting started” to “very poor” and a score of 9 out of 90 points.
The only other fast-food chain to lose points was McDonald’s, which scored 22 out of 90, although it stayed in the same “poor” category.
KFC was the only company to improve and go up a ranking on the “pecking order”, scoring the best mark of 44 points and moving into the “making progress” category.
What Really Happens on Chicken Farms?
According to the WAP, chicken farmers are cramming 100,000 chickens into overcrowded sheds, where they risk getting sick and spreading diseases, so farmers overload them with antibiotics as a preventative. They also use techniques to grow the birds faster, feeding them synthetic hormones that get passed into us when we eat the meat.
Without intervention, raised naturally, chickens reach maturity at around five months of age and deliver the highest-quality meat around the age of two or three months, according to SilverLakeFarms.com. However, in order to reach maturity faster, in a matter of just weeks, industrial farmers feed their birds with high-nutrient foods, raise the birds under fluorescent lights (the stressful conditions weaken the birds, compromise the quality of the meat), and require them to be given antibiotics in order to avoid any health problems caused by the sudden growth and harsh overcrowding. When it comes to growth hormones, despite the public's long-standing belief that they are in poultry, they are not—or at least they are not supposed to be. Ever since the 1950s, the USDA has outlawed growth hormones in poultry, according to Business Insider. In fact, the biggest hazard to humans is the antibiotics fed to the birds.
Plumping, also referred to as “enhancing” or “injecting,” is the process by which some poultry companies inject raw chicken meat with salt water, chicken stock, seaweed extract or some combination to make the bird appear bigger and heavier to the consumer.
The word "natural" is little help since it refers to what happens to the food after it's slaughtered, not before. The official definition of "natural" from the USDA's website: "A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product...." It does not address how the animal is raised or what it is fed.
If you want to know that the bird you're eating was not grown artificially fast, housed in overpacked conditions and fed antibiotics look for the labels grass-fed, free-range or organic. Another term that's used for chickens is pasture-raised.