Animal protein is an essential part of our diet for many of us and we get our share of that protein from the meat we eat. Considering the health benefits of lean meat, chicken became the staple for many American families. We buy our chicken from the grocery stores and supermarkets without even knowing where the chicken comes from or how it has been processed before ending up on the store shelves. Dr Oz in a recent episode of his show, sat down with investigative reporter Christopher Leonard who is also the author of his new book, “The Meat Racket” and discussed the ins and outs of the chicken industry.
Chris Leonard spent years researching into what goes into America’s chicken and what goes on behind the scenes in the chicken industry. His new book as well as his interview with Dr Oz was illuminating and thought provoking. At the same time, for many viewers it might have changed the way they think about chicken or buy chicken.
Dr. Oz: Inside the Chicken Industry
For Mr Leonard, it almost started by an accident. He still remembered how awestruck he was by the vastness of the first chicken processing facility he visited as a business reporter. The more he wanted to know, the more intrigued and fascinated he became. How the entire chicken industry is regulated by one company, how starting from the conception of an egg, few giant corporations regulate the farm and slaughterhouses forms the content of his book. The company that is at the heart of his book is the ‘Tyson Foods‘ which, he considers is the pioneer of the system that exists today or the way chicken is farmed in modern America. Small farming companies that existed before were all gobbled up by Tyson during the sweeping wave of mergers in the meat industry in the 1970s and 80s. Currently, only four companies make almost 84% of the meat in the USA compared to about 36 companies 40 years ago. These mergers meant more consolidation of business by them and more power over the regulation of the entire industry. With a backbreaking effort from collecting information at the ground level for years to actually meeting the senior people that built Tyson, Mr Leonard could put together a clear picture of how these companies operate and how this system was built.
Dr Oz gave the viewers a quick ride through the process. First thing is the genetics. Through selective breeding, Tyson produces eggs that when hatch into chickens grow bigger and faster bulking up more meat in less time.
The next step is the hatchery. Tyson owns all the hatcheries and there the eggs are industrially processed through controlled temperature and ambience to allow them to hatch.
Next, the chickens are transported to another farm that rears them. Tyson provides feed and veterinary assistance to those farms. When ready, those chickens are shipped out to Tyson’s slaughterhouses.
Every week about one million of chicken are slaughtered in them. Finally the packaged meat in the grocery store that consists everything from chicken nuggets to boneless breasts are sold under many different brand names. So what’s wrong if a company gets big? It could actually be helpful because they can sell products cheap. Mr Leonard agrees, however, he argues that too big is actually counter-intuitive. One company controlling everything from what chemicals are used in the hatchery and slaughterhouse to what drugs are given to the animals gives that corporation enormous power to determine consumer health single handedly. This also gives enough political power to influence the rules of the trade. In fact, Tyson’s reach is so much broad, it can cut supplies and hike up the price in the absence of any competitor.
Dr. Oz: ‘Tyson Foods’ Uses Many Harmful Chemicals!
Mr leonard could actually infiltrate into Tyson’s inner circle to get a glimpse of the real scenario. Many of the chemicals and reagents used in Tyson’s hatcheries and slaughterhouses are often harmful. Peracetic acid and liquid chlorine, two chemicals used in the slaughterhouses to clean the chicken of any harmful bacteria are themselves quite harmful if ingested. There is no study or data available that examined if any residue is left after the chickens come out of the slaughterhouse, although these companies have shown in a lab setting that upon contact to air these chemicals are destroyed. However, this claim has not been rigorously tested in an industrial setting. Also, there are studies that detected fecal bacteria like E.Coli in chicken that are on the shelves in grocery stores. Although, USDA has oversight of the chicken industry, a lot is really manipulated or influenced when it comes to these huge corporations who play a big part in writing the rules in Washington.
Dr. Oz’s Final Thoughts
While a lot goes on inside the chicken industry, what does that mean to a lay man who buys chicken and feeds his family? Well, Christopher Leonard’s recommendation is to talk to the butcher when buying the meat to know more about where it comes from, how it is processed and what drugs the chicken are fed in order to avoid unhealthy chemicals or contaminants or bacteria and protect personal health. Finally, he recommends cooking the chicken fully to atleast 165 degrees in order to kill all the bacteria that could be present and also, never to wash the chicken that comes from the supermarket because that may spread the bacteria to kitchen sink and elsewhere.
Read more about the biggest takeover in American business that you’ve n ever heard of in Christopher