Chickens Fed Feed Containing Arsenic, Study Says

Meanwhile, Maryland's Senate moves to ban additive-filled chicken feed

A side of arsenic for your chicken? As if ammonia-treated "pink slime" wasn't bad enough, new studies show that chicken feed contains a slew of additives, including banned antibiotics and arsenic.

Researchers from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Arizona State University tested for drugs in feather meal, an additive that's found in chicken feed (and feed for several other animals). The drug residues found sound like a recipe for a bad bender: caffeine, antihistamines (the same in Benadryl), acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Prozac, arsenic, and fluoroquinolone. Fluoroquinolones are the most damning on the list; not only are they banned from use, they're the same antiobiotics used to treat bacterial infections — and are meant to treat infections resistant to older antibiotics. The FDA banned them from use in 2005 but according to the study, they're still cropping up in your chicken sandwich. 

Why the medicine cabinet in your poultry? Mother Jones Network breaks it down simply: "The caffeine keeps chickens awake so they eat more. The Benadryl, acetaminophen, and Prozac reduce their anxiety in order to speed up their growth and improve the taste of their meat. The arsenic is used to give poultry meat a pleasant pink color. It also reduced infections in chickens." The list of drugs can do some potential harm to humans, say the researchers, especially when found in fertilizers and animal waste.

Meanwhile, Maryland State Senate recently OK'ed a bill that would ban the sale of roxarsone, the organic compound of arsenic that is added to chicken meal. It's added to help chickens grow and fight infections, says CBS, but supporters of the bill claim it is polluting soil and the Chesapeake Bay.  After all this, we may just stick to the organic chicken.


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f.ben38's picture

Anyone concerned about factory farm cruelty should OPPOSE recently introduced federal legislation, HR 3798, that would keep hens in cruel metal battery cages forever, while eliminating the rights of voters. Learn more and take action at

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