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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.

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