Okay, I’ve long known that I didn’t particularly like the way poultry is raised for eggs and meat, but then I got reading Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profits and read this interesting little insight into the processing of the meat itself:
Mechanical evisceration breaks open intestines and pours fecal material over the carcass, inside the body cavity, and contaminnates the birds. Large chill tanks often have several inches of fecal sludgei n the bottom. In fact, about 9 percent of the weight on department-store chicken is fecal soup. The soft muscle tissue is more conducive to insoaking, and the carcass sponges up the fecal-contaminated chill water. Of course, this adds to the carcass weight, but certainly does not contribute any to the health of consumers.
This filth is why birds receive as many as 40 chlorine baths – how much of that permeates the meat? And now the Food and Drug Administration has approved irradiation of chicken to control Salmonella and other bacteria that are a direct result of high-speed automated processing. Irradiation reduces vitamin C levels and reduces the nutrients in the meat. Processing is an inherently filthy thing. And the larger, the faster, the more automated the swystem, the more filthy it is.
– excerpt from Pastured Poultry Profits, p. 10, by Joel Salatin
Mm, tasty. So not only is it raised in crowded, generally unsanitary conditions and given all sorts of antibiotics because of the unnatural surroundings, then it’s contaminated – fecal matter or chlorine, mmm.
Salatin goes on to talk about a comparison given to him for his pastured poultry versus conventionally-raised poultry:
The first time a professional barbecued several hundred halves of our chicken for a field day, he was was astounded at the difference. He said flatly, “Look, chicken is chicken.” But then he made a startling discovery. He said that carcass weight normally drops 20 percent during the cooking process. Ours lost only 9 percent. In all the thousands of birds he’d cooked, he’d never experienced anything like it.
Interestingly, research suggests that conventional chicken, because it lacks muscle tone (the meat is soft and mushy rather than firm and solid) insoaks a substantial amount of water from the chill tanks in a commercial processing plant. In fact, a figure bandied about is that up to 10 percent of the retail meat counter weight of conventional chicken is water from the chill tanks. If that is true, it is certainly coincidentally close to the 11 percent difference between teh cooking loss on our birds and conventional ones. If it’s not true, the difference simply substantiates the “grease drippings” difference and lends more credence to the notion that altering production models can completely alter the quality of the meat, milk or eggs.
Chills tanks often have a layer of fecal sludge on the bottom because of the volume of carcasses and the bits and pieces of excrement that were not washed off during processing. This water insoak, therefore, has an accompanying fecal contamination level. Is it any wonder the poultry industry wants to irradiate poultry? Furthermore, the industry is fighting proposals to mandate air chillin instead of water chilling. If the 10 percent figure is accurate, it’s easy to see why the industry opposes air chillin: the retail weights would drop significantly.
– excerpt from Pastured Poultry Profits, p. 16, by Joel Salatin
Yeah, that really instills confidence. It got me thinking, though… the pastured poultry you see available through websites like Local Harvest might seem more expensive, but actually… if commercial chicken has so much “water weight” that you cook off anyway, the price is much closer, because less of the pastured poultry cooks off. Not to mention the health benefits of the way it’s raised.
Not to get on a “health food” rant here, but those excerpts just had me a little grossed out, and I thought I’d share the knowledge…
Edited to add:
For those of you who want to look into the alternatives to store-bought meat, you can visit websites like Eat Wild and Local Harvest. Eat Wild has a state-by-state directory for grass-fed meats, whereas Local Harvest is a broader directory of farm markets, CSAs, small farms, and co-ops that you can search via zip code. Hope this helps!