firefighter fitness training

Tylenol and Chicken

Waiter, is that Tylenol in my chicken?

Tylenol and Chicken. No this isn’t a recipe, it’s a scary finding from Dr. Keeve Nachman of John Hopkins’ University’s Center for a Livable Future which shows that nearly 66% of all commercial chicken feed contains drugs such as Tylenol, Prozac, and Benadryl.

In the April 2012 issue of Environmental Science and Technology, Dr. Nachman publishes his study that researches a little-known but major component of the commercial chicken feeding process – feather meal. Part of the poultry slaughtering process results in feathers being further processed into what’s called ‘feather meal’. This is used to actually feed the chickens and fatten them up for human consumption. Adding the previously mentioned chemicals to the food supply is illegal… here in North America… but the big commercial farms get around this by imported chicken feather-meal from China. We all know how great food-safety standards are in China, right? According to his study, the amount of chemicals in feather meal is downright redonculous (not an exact quote).

Not only were nearly 66% of Chickens fed Tylenol, Prozac, and Benadryl – but nearly 9 in 10 of them were found to have varying levels of arsenic.

Okay, so what’s the deal?

Apparently feeding caffeine to chickens makes them eat more – this caffeine can be in the form of Coffee Pulp and Green Tea Extract (which on the surface sounds ‘sort of’ healthy as both of these are antioxidants right?). But the problem is that it makes them anxious – this results in a tougher meat and bad for business. So in order to calm them down, they are fed Tylenol, prozac, and Benadryl – depending on where it comes from and what deals the poultry farmers in China got… the feathers from these chickens are then processed into feather-meal which in turn gets shipped out to massive commercial farms here in Canada and the US. Thanks to a commerce-first free-trade policy and the removal of all those ‘pesky’ anti-business regulations (food safety rules, etc) importing this stuff is beyond easy. It then finds its way into the food-supply and eventually into the chicken you eat.

Oh, and the arsenic? Yeah, that’s used to ensure a nice pink shade for the breasts… because apparently nature didn’t get it right the first time.

So what are your options here?

I believe there are two options here – better, and best!

Better: Eat grain-fed chicken. If you go to the grocery store today you almost always have three choices for chicken – you have the store-packaged ‘no-name’ stuff, the ‘Maple Leaf’ type chicken breasts which state that they are grain-fed only (meaning they will not contain feather-meal), and the organic chicken. If budgetary pressures are such that organic chicken is not an option for you, the grain-fed chicken will be a better choice for sure.

Best: Organic chicken. Ever notice how organic chicken breasts actually look a bit different? That’s because they are! They are the best possible option for you. Plain and simple. Organic Chicken from farms in Canada and the U.S. are produced using proper health and safety standards and are for the most part smaller outfits that care about their products and will also usually allow you to visit their farms to see for yourself (try that at a commercial farm!). The chickens are predominately free-range and eat natural seeds, grasses, and even bugs. They are chemical-free, certainly Tylenol-free!, and thanks to a ‘natural’ diet, they have higher levels of Omega 3’s (the grains from ‘grain-fed’ chickens would elevate the Omega 6 content to have a ratio that is less ideal for you – but certainly better than having chemicals added!). Omega-3 vs Omega-6 is discussed in-depth in the ‘Nutrition’ chapter of my eBook.

A lot of people complain about the price of organic products – but as with anything in life you get what you pay for. I have friends who complain to no end about this but yet have no problems dropping 200$ a week eating at restaurants and going out on weekends. No one said being healthy was going to be easy – you simply have to decide on what’s best for you and what you consider to be important. As a firefighter I am exposed to enough garbage in the form of smoke that when I do have control over what enter’s my body, there really isn’t an option!

Cook your own meals and you have full control over what is entering your body! Stay fit and healthy!


Research article that is referenced:

Love D.C., Halden R.U., Davis M.F., Nachman K.E. Feather meal: A previously unrecognized route for reentry into the food supply of multiple pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) (2012) Environmental Science and Technology, 46 (7) , pp. 3795-3802.


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