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Chicken Eat Arsenic, You Eat Chicken: How to Stop Big Ag's Poisoned Poultry

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.

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This Is Your Chicken on Drugs: Count the Antibiotics in Your Nuggets

Scientists have found traces of banned antibiotics, arsenic, and seven other household medications from Tylenol to Prozac in factory-farmed poultry.

Forget a secret blend of herbs and spices: Your factory-farmed chicken is packed with hidden pharmaceuticals, too.

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U.S. Government Buys $40 Million Worth of Chicken Nobody Wants

The demand for meat is declining, but that hasn't stopped meat producers from pumping out more product—with the help of the USDA.


As Americans become more and more conscious about what they put into their bodies, it makes sense that the need for factory-farmed meat—which is as bad for your health as it is for the Earth—is not what it used to be. Many people are choosing to eat less meat or abstain entirely, causing demand to level off. Common sense says that trend would lead to factory farms tapering production—when people don’t want something, you don’t make a lot of it. Alas, as we already know, little about modern animal agriculture makes sense. Which is why we’re stuck with this latest bit of absurdity from the U.S. meat industry.

Put simply, despite the fact that people are eating significantly less chicken, the U.S.'s chicken inventory is up more than 13 percent since last year. Any other business that ignored consumers' desires would be forced to suffer the consequences of their negligence, but not chicken growers. The USDA, which already buys millions of dollars of meat per year for the school-lunch program, has agreed to purchase the extra $40 million worth of chicken in order to "provide support to the broiler industry," according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. In 2009, the government bought $60 million in surplus turkey.

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How Feather Extensions Are Changing the Way Chickens Live (and Die)

Whether it’s Steven Tyler, Miley Cyrus, or sorority girls all across the country, demand for long "saddle feathers" is way, way up.

Almost 30 years ago, Tom Whiting got some eggs from Henry Hoffman, a chicken farmer and breeder in Oregon, who had been raising 2,500 chickens in his backyard. Hoffman was a fly fisherman who was breeding the birds for their feathers—the long, skinny, variegated feathers that fishermen use for tying into flies.

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