The $4.99 Costco rotisserie chicken is such a great deal and so easy to grab for dinner who wouldn’t grab and go?  It seems so easy and a quick healthy alternative.  Not so fast….  Sometimes quick and easy is not always the best.

READ ON to learn why the supermarket rotisserie chickens might not be the healthiest choice….

PS…you will be shocked to see the link from chicken to urinary tract infections in humans!

Most supermarkets these days offer pre-cooked rotisserie chickens that are so yummy and easy.  Take a look at the labels on the chickens, most are not organic and I am seeing more and more dyes and additives to the labels.

To keep up with the demand for what is called broiler chickens, farming turns to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO).  Costco is getting ready to build its’ own CAFO facility in order to produce their own rotisserie chickens.  Yes, they sell that many.  CNN reported  91 million were sold in Costco alone last year.

This is not a new way to raise chickens or other animals.  Chickens have been raised in CAFOs since the 1950’s.  A large CAFO will house 125,000 or more chickens.  These operations have some environmental impacts because of the waste water (the EPA actually has guidelines to try to regulate what they do with this waste).  There can be some serious water issues in regard to our ecosystem especially with the larger animal lots (cows, pigs, etc).  This wastewater contaminates the groundwater as well as surface water.  Even though regulations are in place smaller operations don’t have to meet as stringent regulations and opponents question if there is good monitoring in place.

What about the differences between CAFO and pasture raised chickens?

  1.      Chickens in CAFOs are at higher risk of harboring bacteria. The close quarters inside CAFOs promote sharing of pathogens between the animals so most will incorporate low doses of antibiotics into the feed to reduce the chance of infection.  More about this below…
  2.      Higher fat content compared to pasture raised chickens. A study by the American Pasteurized Producers Association found that pasture raised chickens had HALF the fats of CAFO chickens.
  3.      Lower vitamin E (pastured raised chickens have more than 400% more vitamin E)
  4.      Higher Omega 6 fats. The ratio of good to bad Omegas (the omega 3:6 ratio) is more like 1:15 rather than a healthier 1:5
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What about bacteria?  An extensive year long study actually linked a strain of the bacteria, Ecoli, found in poultry to urinary tract infections in humans.  The disturbing part was 80% of the poultry in the supermarket tested over a year had this bacteria! This particular strain was more resistant to standard antibiotics and can travel quite easily from the bladder to the blood and has resulted in some deadly infections.  Bottom line, your UTI might be caused by the chicken you are eating!

Chicken farms are not allowed to use antibiotics for weight gain or growth but they are allowed to use antibiotics to treat and prevent disease.  The antibiotics that are given to the chickens are in the form of antibiotic infused feed.  Labels in the grocery store saying they are antibiotic free simply means that the antibiotic has cleared the system prior to slaughter.  There are strict guidelines by the FDA that mandate this.  I just think it is common sense, the more crowded and the worse the living conditions, the more susceptible to disease and the higher the need for antibiotics.

Now, here is the other side. In order to keep up with the demand larger chicken houses are created.  The industry is strictly regulated and there is a lot of quality control mandated.  I have actually toured a chicken facility in southern Florida many years ago.   This organization was running a spotless facility with state of the art handling of their chickens even before many of the mandates were in place.

It is easy to say no animal should be raised in a CAFO facility but then how many of us are going to raise our own chickens in our backyards?  I am glad to see more and more facilities changing their approach and working on even healthier processes.  Hopefully this trend will continue.  In the meantime will I eat a rotisserie chicken?  Yes, but I am not going to reach for them as often as I used to.  If you have the desire then start raising your own chickens or buy organic free range chickens.  Be careful though because anyone can say it is free range if the chickens spend any part of their day outside so get to know the brand.  For now, organic still means something so you can trust that designation.  Also to cut down on bacteria please make sure the chicken is fully cooked.

To your health,