You know that feeling of ordering chicken nuggets from McDonald’s? You place your order, drive up to pay, and drive to the second window to receive your nugget goodness. It’s a good day.
Well almost any TV commercial or Facebook post you see about chicken is saying “Stay away form chickens with antibiotics!” or “Our chicken is always growth hormone free!” Needless to say, we have a thing or two to say about that.
The Poultry Industry is basically any bird raised for consumption: chickens, turkey, duck, etc. Your meat birds are called Broilers/Fryers and birds used for egg laying are called Laying birds (duh). Today we will focus on Broiler birds and if they are raised with growth hormones. We will save antibiotics, free-range and cage-free chickens for another time.
Now you may have seen the above picture before that shows how chickens have grown over the last few decades. Some people automatically associate this with growth hormones even though the FDA made growth hormones illegal on U.S. poultry in 1960. The growth in these chickens is a result of selective breeding, where we can take chickens with the best traits (feed conversion, weight, growth rate) and use those as parents to produce offspring with the same desired traits. This is what has been done to produce the broilers we use today.
Now lets say we did use growth hormones on chickens, how would they be administered? Check out what The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension has to say on this:
2. Growth hormones must be injected to work.
They do not work when added in the feed or
water. If fed, hormones are digested into their
basic amino acids which destroy their function as
hormones. The only way to maintain their action
as a growthstimulating steroid is to inject them
into each bird almost daily.
So growth hormones can’t be added to feed, therefore must be given by injection. One of my old professors from the University of Florida, who was a Poultry Scientist (so he pretty much was THE expert on all things poultry) told us how inefficient it would be to give chickens shots, yet alone shots of growth hormones. He stated that to give all the chickens in the U.S. a shot, assuming it took a skilled vet 1 second to administer it, would take 9 years. 9 years to give shots to just the chickens we have today. 9 whole years. Seems pretty inefficient, right? Yet another reason poultry are never given growth hormones.
Ever see a label for chicken that says “Raise without antibiotics/growth hormones”? Labels that have this are required by law to have an additional section that states that no hormones are used in the production of any poultry.
Hopefully, this post will help ease your fear about growth hormones in your chicken, because there is none. If you would like to know more please feel free to check out our sources below.
Wanna learn more? Disagree with something we said? Leave us a comment. We would love to hear from you!
Chickopedia: What Consumers Need to Know
Click to access FSA-8007.pdf
Click to access nass-poultry-stats-factsheet.pdf