In a recent study conducted by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and tested by a private lab, 43 percent of chicken tested positive for fecal matter.
Testing was done in 10 major cities throughout the U.S. among 15 major supermarket chains. Twenty-two brands including Perdue, Nature's Promise, and Sanderson Farms were included in this study. Of the specimens provided, each produced a positive result for fecal contamination.
Tests performed at Kroger's in Dallas, showed that a whopping 100 percent of chicken purchased was contaminated. In the D.C. area, Giant Stores showed 83 percent of chicken purchased to be positive for feces, and a 67 percent result from Safeway stores. Ralph's of San Diego and Winn-Dixie of Miami also showed 83 percent of chicken purchased to be contaminated
Are you ready for the yuck factor (as if you weren't already there yet)? Dr. Neal Barnard, president of PCRM, had this to say, "One in every two supermarket chickens is contaminated with feces. Meat packers can’t avoid contaminating poultry products during production, and consumers are cooking and eating chicken feces in about half the cases".
If you are wondering which type of chicken is likely to have fecal contamination, it's skinless chicken breast. And if you think you are safe with organic, think again. It's just as likely to contain traces of feces as conventional products.
In 2009, a study by the USDA showed that 87 percent of chicken cadavers were tainted with feces prior to packaging. Get a visual of that next time you take a bite.
Where does the excrement come from and why does it remain on your food?
Within the farming facilities, the chickens defecate not only on themselves, but others surrounding them and are left to stand in their own droppings. Add that to the feces still in their intestines during slaughter and chances for E. Coli contamination have just jumped up to about 50 percent.
If you are already grossed out, you may want to stop reading now.
Inside the average processing plant, over one million birds are slaughtered per week. Of that number, just 1 out of every 22, 000 are required to be tested according to USDA.
Chickens are first stunned, then killed and drained of their blood, at which point they are dunked in scalding tanks. These tanks are used to remove the birds feathers, but are essentially a breeding ground for feces to transfer from one carcass to the next.
It is at this point that the intestines are removed by machines leaving a risk for the chicken parts to become contaminated by the feces still left inside.
The next step is a rinse of the dissected bird with chlorinated water (yum), leaving any fecal residue nearly invisible to the naked eye. And with nearly 140 chickens rotating through the slaughter process per minute, who really has the time to check for leftover droppings?
In the final steps, the birds are chilled together in ice water while in large quantities, effectively spreading fecal matter and contaminating the masses of carcasses waiting to be cut up. It is in the final cutting and packaging process that the contamination has it's final chance to shift further into the food chain, just waiting to be purchased by the trusting consumer.
Once taken home and opened, the E. Coli virus quickly spreads onto your cutting boards, countertops, refrigerators, utensils, and finally your body.
Find out more about this study and the spread of E. Coli.
Photo credit:cc: Wikimedia Commons -- Dnor