Why Keep Chickens, Part 1

Dec 16th
Why would you feed me arsenic?

Why would you feed me arsenic?

My husband and I are pretty new to the chicken keeping world. We’ve only had our small flock for a little over six months. We had contemplated getting chickens for a while, but the final push was when I came across references during my research of phytoremediation that chickens were regularly fed inorganic arsenic as feed supplements for “growth promotion, feed efficiency and improved pigmentation” (FDA).

WHAT?!?!

Arsenic is a known carcinogen and has been found to cause multiple types of cancer, skin legions, developmental complications, nuerotoxicity and many other negative effects (WHO). While arsenic is both naturally occurring and a result of human activities (like feeding it to our chickens to make them fat), contamination is a concern regardless of the source.

Pfizer voluntarily stopped selling it’s version of a livestock arsenic supplement, Roxarsone(TM), in the United States in 2013. However, my guess is that it will take a couple of years for existing stocks to be completely exhausted from all the factory farms that likely stocked up before the product was pulled (as part of the voluntary withdrawal, a 30 day waiting period was agreed to in order to allow farmers to source alternatives). And note, this voluntary withdrawal is just applicable in the United States.

If you are like my family and regularly purchase organic eggs, then you should be safe from arsenic contamination, as under the USDA regulations for organic labeling, arsenic is not allowed to be fed to livestock.

However, we felt this was really the final straw. The only way to assure that our eggs are from happy, healthy, organic fed chickens was to keep them ourselves or find a farmer we trust. And since we live pretty far away from farm country, we decided to to raise them ourselves. We’ve been very satisfied with our decision!

To read more about arsenic in poultry feed, consider reading this article: What Was Arsenic Doing in our Chicken Anyway?

References:

  1. FDA, Questions and Answers regarding 3-Nitro (Roxarsone)
  2. WHO, Arsenic Fact Sheet