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General News    H4'ed 11/7/15

Is Chicken Healthier Than Red Meat?

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A few years ago an Oklahoma chicken farmer called to say that the chickens he was raising for the company he worked for were "all rotting in their insides." He asked what it could be. I said it sounds like necrotic enteritis -- one of the many diseases in chickens raised for human consumption. [1]

Karen Davis, PhD
Karen Davis, PhD
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Whenever I hear a health care professional telling people with type 2 diabetes or who are worried about getting cancer from "red meat" or "processed meats" to eat more chicken, I cringe.

For those unfamiliar with necrotic enteritis in chickens, this disease is caused by a bacterium, Clostridium perfringens, in conjunction with the filth and exposure to immunosuppressive viruses in the buildings the chickens are raised in. Chickens with necrotic enteritis cannot digest their food. They suffer intensely and die in excruciating pain. Their ulcerated intestines swell up with gas and a foul-smelling brown liquid. [2]

Chickens in food production also develop a skin disease known as gangrenous dermatitis as a result of the toxins produced by Clostridium perfringens. Poultry researchers describe this disease in terms of "moist raw or dark areas" where the underlying muscles are exposed. "Blood-tinged fluid of jelly-like" consistency appears beneath the skin, and livers and spleens may be "swollen and dark with spots or blotches." [3]
Diseases of Production and Diseases of Consumption: Normalizing the Abnormal

Avian pathologists identify these and other bizarre pathologies rampant in poultry industry chickens and turkeys as diseases of production. [4] Meaning they are not normal in these birds in the natural world any more than type 2 diabetes is normal or natural in human beings who eat, breathe, and exercise healthfully. [5] Like the current epidemic of obesity in America, type 2 diabetes is a disease that has become normalized in modern society as the result of unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise. [6] Diseases of production in chickens and turkeys comprise the effects of manmade genetic abnormalities, filthy living conditions, contaminated food, lack of exercise, and chronic stress. [7]

Not a single piece of retail chicken or turkey comes from a bird who was truly healthy or well treated when the bird was alive. Advertising slogans about "healthy" and "humane" are false. Chickens and turkeys with genetic abnormalities are raised in cesspool conditions, and likely as not they were punched, kicked, even sexually assaulted at the slaughter plant before they died, because this is how workers treat chickens and turkeys in the poultry industry. [8]

Physically, the bird that a person is eating was crippled under the weight of a body wheezing with respiratory infection, crawling with bacteria, plagued with ulcers, oozing foul liquids, caked in feces and other repulsive matter that was either cut off or soaked in chlorine at the slaughter plant. Or fed back to the animals. [9]

Add to the above conditions cancer, which is everywhere in the chicken industry [10], and while there may be no direct link to pinpoint conclusively between chicken cancers and human cancers, there is every reason not to touch or consume any poultry product.

Clostridium perfringens , the bacterial pathogen that rots and liquefies chickens' intestines and skin to pus and jelly, is described by FoodSafety.gov as "one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States." Considered to cause "nearly a million illnesses each year" in the U.S., it sickens consumers of beef, poultry, and gravies -- gravies that are made with animal fat "drippings." [11]

For decades the U.S. Department of Agriculture has warned that the main sources of foodborne diseases in people are "meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs," and that 90 percent of these illnesses are caused by bacteria, specifically: Clostridium perfringens, Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, Staphylococcus, Shigella, and Yersinia. According to the USDA: "Chicken and turkey gravies are specifically identified, along with meat, meat stews, meat pies, and beef, as a major source of Clostridium perfringens." [12]

"The color of meat is irrelevant." [13]

But ever a friend of the meat industry, the USDA recommends as it always does: thorough cooking. However, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine looks at "thorough cooking" from a different angle. If raw or undercooked poultry products are crawling with bacteria that can make people sick, thorough cooking of these products can, the same as with red meat, result in the formation of cancer-causing compounds known as heterocyclic amines. [14]

According to PCRM, "It has long been known that cooked red meat contains cancer-causing heterocyclic amines, which form as the meat is heated." A study by the National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) showed that "oven-broiled, pan-fried, or grilled/barbecued chicken carries an even bigger load of these carcinogens than does red meat," PCRM reports. [15]

Despite this danger, the American Cancer Society, a voluntary health organization that is not necessarily a friend of health [16] advises people to choose poultry, fish, or, oh yes, beans -- a good choice -- "as alternatives to processed and red meat" along with the usual talk about leaner cuts and smaller portions of red meat. [17]

From a healthy standpoint, a choice between red meat versus poultry or fish is about as much of a choice as between foodborne illness and cancer. Fortunately, there's a better way. Knowing what we know, we can choose animal compassion over animal consumption and care for our health and that of our children over the increasingly documented health risks of eating animal products. We can choose vegan. Here are some great recipes to get started. (UPC: Recipes)


  1. Tom Verleyen, "Keeping Clostridial enteritis away from poultry flocks." World Poultry, June 14, 2010.
  2. Dustan Clark and Vijay Durairaj, "Necrotic Enteritis." The Poultry Site, July 2, 2007.
  3. Dustan Clark, et al., "Understanding and Control of Gangrenous Dermatitis in Poultry Houses." The Poultry Site, June 22, 2004.
  4. Calnek, B.W., et al., eds., Diseases of Poultry, 9th Edition. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1991.
  5. "Diabetes Resources." Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
  6. Michael Specter, "Freedom From Fries." The New Yorker, November 2, 2015.
  7. Karen Davis, Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry. Book Publishing Co., 2009.
    See also "Do Chickens Make People Chubbier? Antibiotics and Obesity"
    and "Contamination and Cruelty in the Chicken Industry."
  8. "Tyson Employees Torture Chickens." Investigation by Mercy For Animals, April 12, 2015.
    See also "Watch: Secret Video Shows Baby Turkeys Ground Up Alive by Butterball." Mercy For Animals Investigation, June 3, 2014.
    For more documented investigations of chicken and turkey operations, see UPC: Videos.
  9. Davis, Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs, pp. 105-108, 288.
  10. "Lymphoid Leukosis in Poultry in Poultry." The Merck Veterinary Manual.
    See also Davis, Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs, pp. 34-35.
  11. Clostridium perfringens | FoodSafety.gov.
  12. Jean C. Buzby and Tanya Roberts, "ERS Estimates U.S. Foodborne Disease Costs." FoodReview, USDA, Economic Research Service, Vol. 18, Issue 2, May-August 1995, pp. 27-42. Cited in Chicken for Dinner, It's Enough to Make you Sick.
  13. Shi Huang, quoted in Merritt Clifton, "Oxford study confirms WHO warning of cancer risk from red meat." Animals 24-7, November 5, 2015. For Huang's comments, scroll down to subheading, "The data shows link between total meat & mortality."
  14. David Liu, "Grilled chicken contains cancer-causing agent." foodconsumer.org, October 1, 2006.
  15. Neal D. Barnard, MD, "Foods Against Cancer: An Update." Good Medicine (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), Spring 1996:16.
  16. Karuna Jaggar, "Why the American Cancer Society Must Take a Stronger Stand on Cancer Prevention." Huffington Post, November 3, 2015.
  17. Anahad O'Connor, "Meat Is Linked to Higher Cancer Risk, W.H.O. Report Finds." The New York Times, October 26, 2015.

To learn more about why poultry products are NOT a healthy food choice, see UPC: Health.

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Karen Davis, PhD is the author of Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry and the president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of (more...)

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