Poultry producers feed their birds arsenic to make chicken flesh a more appetizing shade of pink. Maryland lawmakers are fighting back.
Go ahead and pick up some poultry—but it's best if it’s from Maryland. The state recently became the first in the nation to pass a law banning farmers from using arsenic-based feed additives in raising their chickens. Beginning next year, the state’s poultry producers will no longer be free to feed their birds a steady dose of poison-laced drugs like roxarsone.
The legislation signed into law last week may not have garnered much attention outside of Maryland, but it’s a significant move forward for the country at large. Arsenic-based feed additives like roxarsone have historically been used liberally in America’s booming poultry industry, to the detriment of water, wildlife, and chicken-eaters everywhere.
Poultry producers feed their birds roxarsone to prevent intestinal problems and make chicken flesh a more appetizing shade of pink. While Big Poultry has claimed for years that the use of roxarsone and other arsenic-based feed additives has no impact on consumer health, evidence suggests that all that arsenic is unnecessarily risky for consumers. Last year, the FDA found increased levels of arsenic in the livers of supermarket chickens. The FDA asserts that the presence of arsenic in chicken poses no threat to human health, but even relatively low levels of arsenic elsewhere have been linked to cancers, developmental disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other maladies. Because roxarsone isn’t a necessity—it’s easy to raise healthy birds without feeding them poison—eliminating the use of roxarsone and similar drugs is an easy way to avoid exposure to arsenic.