Finding a Healthy Chicken
A recent outbreak of Campylobacter bacteria in fresh chicken means more people in New Zealand are interested in sourcing quality chicken.
Approximately one person in every 300 in New Zealand is recognized as having campylobacteriosis each year, the highest reported rate in the developed world.
What are the symptoms of Campylobacter and Salmonella?
General muscle pain; stomach cramps; feeling sick; headache or fever, and mild to severe diarrhoea. Complications from the disease can lead to paralysis and death.
Does Organic chicken contain less Campylobacter and Salmonella?
Several studies show that organic chicken is not free of bacteria - not even less than commercial non-organic chickens. All chicken has to be prepared in exactly the same safe ways. This basically means cooking the chicken until the juice runs clear.
Is organic and free range actually better then?
It goes without saying that organic free range chicken is still the way to go.
Why? Not only are the chickens more likely to have a ‘happier life’, (I hope), roaming free on fresh green pastures, they are not fed antibiotics, growth promotants or blood and bone meal. Organic Chickens are fed on quality organic feed. Check out the farm source of your organic chicken, have a look at the website information, and ask questions.
While most chicken farms in New Zealand and in the US claim not to use growth hormones, many feed their chickens a constant supply of antibiotics, to reduce the risk of disease. As far as I understand the constant consumption of antibiotics is also an unnatural way to grow animals faster. As we know from human health, regular antibiotics kill our healthy intestinal flora, as well as 'bad' bacteria, undermining physical wellbeing. I believe poor gut bacteria is the underlying cause of many health issues. Therefore antibiotic consuming chickens are probably not healthier stronger chickens.
How to check the quality of chicken
Another interesting check on the quality of your chicken is the colour of the flesh and the strength of the bones, tendons and ligaments. While the following idea may make a vegetarian squeamish, I am always pleased when the joints of a roasted chicken are difficult to pull away from the body. Many standard chooks (Kiwi for chicken) are so weak in the joints and with such pale white flesh colour, that it’s obvious they haven’t spent much time on the move. I much prefer some good red muscle meat on the legs of my chicken, knowing it has had a run-around.
Recently while visiting my parents, my Dad was very concerned that the chicken was uncooked, when in fact it was running clear juice and ready to eat. He was so used to the pale flesh of non-organic birds, that the red flesh on our organic chicken was unusual for him.
Organic Chicken is so expensive!
Yes it is more expensive. However like all organic food it is good to ask what is the real cost to produce quality food. Fifty years ago people spent a much higher proportion of their income on quality whole foods. Now a lower proportion is spent on whole food and more is spent on medical care… an interesting observation from which you can draw your own conclusions.
Remember chicken used to be a treat. Now it is one of the cheapest meats available. When an animal food is cheap you have got to ask: how cheap is the feed this animal is eating? Roger and I keep chicken for a special meal every couple of weeks.
There are many other good value meats available, plus fish and wholesome vegetarian protein options. Save your free range chicken meal for special treats.