Eating chickens is the most common source of Salmonella poisoning. A 2014 issue of Consumer Reports published that 97 percent of chicken breasts found in retail stores were contaminated with bacteria that could make people sick, and 38 percent of the Salmonella found was resistant to multiple antibiotics. And, according to a national retail-meat survey by the Food and Drug Administration, about 90 percent of retail chicken showed evidence of contamination with fecal matter.
Viruses may also potentially pose a risk. Might chicken cancer viruses be transmitted to people through the handling of fresh or frozen chicken? A study of 30,000 poultry workers found that those who slaughter chickens have about nine times the odds of pancreatic and liver cancers. For context, the most carefully studied pancreatic cancer risk factor is cigarette smoking, but smoking for 50 years “only” doubles our odds of getting pancreatic cancer.
What about people who eat chicken? The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study followed 477,000 people for about a decade and found a 72 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer for every 50 grams of chicken consumed daily, which is about a quarter of a breast. When a similar result was found for lymphomas and leukemias, the EPIC team acknowledged that while the growth-promoting drugs fed to chickens and turkeys could be playing a role, it might also be cancer viruses found in poultry.
White meat consumption also appears to be worse when it comes to colon cancer risk. A study of about 30,000 Californians found that those who ate red meat at least once a week had about double the risk of developing colon cancer. That risk appeared to triple, however, for those who ate chicken or fish once or more a week.
And prostate cancer? A Harvard study of men with early-stage prostate cancer found those with more aggressive cancer who regularly ate chicken and turkey had up to four times the risk of prostate cancer progression.
Poultry may also be the most fattening meat. Those eating even one ounce of chicken a day (think two chicken nuggets) had a significantly greater gain in body mass index over a 14-year period than those who consumed no chicken at all. Chickens have been genetically manipulated through selective breeding to now contain two to three times more calories from fat than from protein, and even skinless chicken may have more fat, and more artery-clogging saturated fat, than a dozen different cuts of steak.
Image Credit: Magone / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Chicken
All Videos for Chicken
How to Prevent Toxoplasmosis
The risk of contracting the brain parasite toxoplasma from kitty litter vs. meat.
What About Kosher & Organic Chicken?
Comparing contamination rates for antibiotic-resistant E. coli and ExPEC bacteria that cause urinary tract infections
Pros & Cons of a Macrobiotic Diet
What happens when you put diabetics on a diet composed of largely whole grains, vegetables, and beans?
Urinary Tract Infections from Eating Chicken
Can UTI-causing ExPEC E. coli bacteria be transferred human-to-human from those who eat chicken?
The Best Advice on Diet and Cancer
What the best available balance of evidence says right now about what to eat and avoid to reduce your risk of cancer.
How to Shop for, Handle, & Store Chicken
Poultry is the most common cause of serious food-poisoning outbreaks, followed by fish, then beef. But wait, aren’t people more likely to order their burgers rarer than their chicken sandwiches? The primary location where outbreaks occur is the home, not restaurants.
Is Organic Meat Less Carcinogenic?
Researchers tested 76 samples of different kinds of meat, both organic and conventional, for 33 different carcinogens.
Carcinogens in Meat
Eight preparation methods to reduce exposure to carcinogens in cooked meat.
Do Chia Seeds Help with Belly Fat?
The secret to the benefits of chia seeds may be that you have to grind them up.
How to Lower Heavy Metal Levels with Diet
What dietary change can simultaneously help detoxify mercury, lead, and cadmium from the body?
How to Reduce Cholesterol Oxidation
Chicken, fish, and egg powder in processed foods present greater risk from cholesterol oxidation byproducts, but there are things you can do to reduce exposure.
How Much Lead Is in Organic Chicken Soup (Bone Broth)?
Lead from occupational exposures, shooting ranges, eggs and bone broth is reviewed.