Is it Worth Paying More?
Normally, organic chicken is more expensive than normal or conventionally-raised chicken. This is generally because it costs more to produce organic chicken – normal chickens are raised in vast quantities with economies of scale and less labour.
The question is, is it worth paying that premium for certified organic chicken?
The choice is yours. But you can only make an informed decision if you know all the facts.
Here they are, one-by-one:
Organic chicken frequently has higher levels of bacteria present then conventional chicken. However, organic chicken does not normally contain drug-resistant bacteria (see Antibiotics below).
The good news from our (consumer) point of view is that these bacteria are normally killed off when we cook chicken, as well as by normal handling precautions such as washing our hands and cleaning knives and chopping boards.
Because conventional chickens are squeezed together while growing indoors, they’re more likely to develop infectious bacteria. This could of course cause serious losses for the farmer / producer. So normal chickens are routinely fed anti-biotics to keep them disease free.
There is nothing illegal about this; many anti-biotics are approved for use with chickens.
There is however a growing concern about the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, due to such widespread use of anti-biotics.
Organic chickens grow in less crowded areas and thus do not have such high risk of disease. They are not fed antibiotics. (Should disease occur which requires antibiotic treatment, it is administered and then the chickens are no longer classed as Organic).
Nutrition and Taste
Organic and conventional chicken are both good sources of protein. Some studies have shown that organic chicken has higher levels of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids; however, chicken breast meat has a low fat content so the difference isn’t necessarily significant.
There’s no strong argument either way for chicken nutrition.
Also, there is little or no taste difference between conventional and organic chicken.
Conventional chicken (which by the way includes “natural” chicken – “natural” is not regulated and essentially means nothing), often has salt, water and preservatives added to it. Organic chicken producers are not allowed to add anything.
GMOs and Chemicals
- GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
- Non-approved synthetic chemicals
- Sewage sludge as fertilizer
Conventional chickens are crowded together, and over-fed to reach slaughter-weight quickly. Such rapid growth leads to heart and leg problems for the birds. They are never allowed outside and are handled by people paid a minimum wage who are often not animal lovers.
Organic chickens must have living conditions which allow healthy and normal chicken behaviour – outdoor access, sunshine, and space for grooming and exercise.
An issue I have with some producers of organic chicken is that they follow all the rules for organic chicken farming, but then have their birds slaughtered in conventional processing factories.
Raising chickens organically is better for the environment, particularly in terms of greenhouse gases and waste management, but also for energy conservation and water resources.
So, Is It Worth It?
The choice is yours to make.
From a nutritional point of view, there’s very little difference between organic chicken and conventional or ‘natural’ chicken.
If you want to avoid GMOs, anti-biotics, additives and synthetic chemicals in your food, and /or if you prefer animals to be treated more humanely, then you’ll want to pay the premium for organic chicken.
If you do wish to buy certified organic chicken, try to source local birds which are slaughtered more humanely and in better conditions than processing factories.
If you can’t go organic on every food item you buy, you may find it more beneficial to buy organic fruit (especially apples, peaches, strawberries, spinach and peppers) because these have the highest pesticide residues.
Tips for Safe Eating
- Keep chicken well-wrapped and chilled,
- Wash your hands before and after handling raw poultry
- Keep chopping boards and knives clean
- Cook chicken to 165 degrees F or 74 degrees C.
If you enjoyed this article, please Share, Like or Tweet it (buttons below) – thank you!
Photo Credits: all Microsoft