It’s no surprise that conventionally factory farmed chickens aren't fed the best diet. We already knew that they were routinely fed arsenic.
In fact, a 2004 study from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy showed that more than half of store-bought and fast-food chickens contained elevated levels of arsenic. Roughly 2.2 million pounds of it are being used every year to produce 43 billion pounds of poultry. It's called roxarsone and it's used to fight parasites and increase growth in chickens.
New research not only confirms use of arsenic, but finds the addition of a frightening elixir of drugs that includes caffeine, banned antibiotics, and even Prozac. Researchers started off testing just for banned antibiotics but went ahead and looked for other substances because it didn’t add to the cost of the test. What they found even surprised them, according to a story in The New York Times.
Their Feathers Tell the Tale
By doing a test on their feathers, which is similar to that of human fingernails in the way it accumulates chemicals, they found caffeine, antihistamines, acetaminophen, fluroquinolones (banned antibiotics), arsenic, and even Prozac (in chicken imported from China). Fluroquinolones are illegal because they have been proven to cause antibiotic resistant superbugs.
Prozac was added to feed because stressed out chickens produce tough meat and brutal conditions often mean a constantly nervous bird. Chickens are fed coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them up longer so they eat more food, according to a story in The New York Times.
Farmers Often Unaware
But even more surprising is that many farmers aren’t even aware that they are feeding their chickens this extreme elixir, rather, they use a certain food mix mandated by the food companies that buy their products.
Organic chicken feed prohibits the use of roxarsone as an additive, so while this is currently your best bet, it's no perfect remedy because one organic brand tested still showed traces of arsenic. So the next most rational step is to give up the bird completely.