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Chicken

Chicken is a domesticated fowl, and the main source of animal protein in the world. It is a white meat and a good source of nutrients. In the kitchen it is considered one of the most versatile of all meats. Intensive commercial chicken farming is inhumane and often produces many unhealthy chicken needing routine antibiotics. To safe guard your health and the welfare of animals eat only organic and free-range chickens.

Chicken
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What it is

A chicken is a domesticated foul that is now the worlds main source of animal protein. The chicken originated in Vietnam and India, most probably for use in rituals including cockfighting. Chickens spread from India into Greece and then throughout Europe by the invading Romans. From those ancient days chicken has been used for its meat and its eggs, a source of fresh food that can be easily carried on ships and across lands. Through this simple distribution chickens have spread to all parts of the world. 

Until the 1920s chickens were bred on family farm and grown in natural environments with the excess sold to local markets. Delaware in the US in 1923 saw the beginning of the mass production of chicken for meat. Scientific chicken research began to produce birds that reached maturity at a younger age and grew with a higher level of meat. In 1900 an average chicken reached eating maturity at 16 weeks with a weight of 0.9 kg while today, a meat chicken reaches eating maturity in about 6 weeks and weights about 1.8 kg.

In all of Australia and Much of the US and UK, these massive increases in the growth rates and sizes of commercially produced meat chickens, also called broilers, is not a result of hormones being added to the diets of the chickens (as is often thought), but as a result of selective breeding and high yield feeding. This selective breading has produced a bird that can better withstand the often cramped and harsh conditions of its short life. Still, modern intensive chicken farming practices have brought with it many health issues for chickens that require the use of medications including antibiotics. 

The inhumane aspects of commercial farming as well as the increased risks to human health have lead to a return in the popularity of more naturally grown chickens for both meat and egg production. Looking for certified organic, then certified free range products will give you the knowledge that the animals have been treated in a humane way and that the food is healthier to eat.

Chickens in a natural environment may live for 5 to 11 years, although in intensive farming the chicken is usually slaughtered when it has lived for just six weeks or a little more for a roasting chicken. A free range or organic chicken will normally be killed at about 12 to 14 weeks. The laying ability of Intensive egg laying chickens tends to drop after about a year so these chickens are killed and used in baby foods, pet foods, pies and other processed chicken products. 


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What is in it

The most important nutritional feature of meat is that it has a similar cell structure to humans. That means that the nutrients in meat are rapidly absorbed into the body and easily transformed into tissue and blood. This can explain the rush of energy that comes from eating meat.

Chicken is a very good source of Protein and vitamin B3 (niacin) and a good source of the minerals selenium and phosphorus as well as the Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Chicken is low in Carbohydrates and contains no fiber. 


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What it is good for

Meat should always be eaten in moderation. 

Chicken 
• Builds and maintains bones and tissues
• Improves the condition of bone marrow
• Aids lactation in mothers
• Protects against some cancers
o Colon cancer
o Breast cancer
o Prostate cancer and others
• Helps protect against Alzheimer’s disease
• Boost the body’s production of energy.
• Used in spleen-pancreas imbalance 
o Anorexia
o Edema
o Diarrhea
o Vaginal discharge

Avoid in cases of excess, heat and exterior conditions.

Chicken livers,
• Strengthen the liver and kidneys
• Treats impotence
• Improves blurred vision
• Treats childhood deficiency and malnutrition.

BEWARE: organs, particularly the liver and kidney, trap the toxins that are in the animal, for this reason only eats organic meat.


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When you get it

Chickens can be found in markets all year around. Naturally grown Paddock raised, Organic and free-range chickens are more plentiful in the late summer and autumn as they are raised in the late spring and reach maturity about 2 to 3 months later.


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Which to select

If you select well and use properly, chicken is a safe and nutritious food although chicken is known to cause some major health issues if misused. For full details on the possible health issues of chicken see “Things to watch out for” below. 

Always look at the use-by date on pre-packaged chicken to ensure it is in date. Do not buy out of date chicken. The chicken should be well rounded with pliable flesh that does not have an “off” smell.

If you buy frozen chickens ensure that it is frozen solid. If you find any frozen liquid in the bag, outside the body of the chicken, be aware that it may have been partly thawed and refrozen. This may be very dangerous to your health.

The skin may be yellowish or white; the color may depend on the diet of the bird, or the type. This does not reflect the nutritional value of the meat

Breeding and Growing Methods

Whenever possible choose organically raised chickens, then certified free-range chickens. These will be explained in full detail below. 

We recommend that you avoid eating mass produced intensively farmed chickens as these production methods are not considered humane to the animals and also produce meat that is less tasty and contains impurities, chemicals and medicines that are easily absorbed by your body.

Commercial Chicken
Most commercial meat, broiler, chickens live in overcrowded conditions where the average chicken has a average of about a fifth of a meter of floor space. They are given antibiotics and other drugs on a regular basis to maximize meat production and reduce the chances of diseases. If the chicken is free of disease at the slaughter age of about 6 weeks it will be killed for human consumption. These chickens never see the outside world and eat no fresh naturally grown food. These birds are not considered humanely grown by most animal welfare organizations. 


Organic Chickens – Certified
Organic chickens are fed on diets prepared from ingredients that are not treated with insecticides or pesticides. In addition, space allowances are higher, and only chickens that have not been given antibiotics at any stage during their life should be sold under the organic label. Certified organic chickens in Australia must be at least 70 days old to be certified.

Ensure that the chicken is certified as organic by a relevant government of industry body.

Free Range Chickens – Certified
As the name indicates, free-range chickens are allowed access to an outside run in which they can freely range outside their sheds during the day. Only chickens that have not been given antibiotics at any stage during their life should be sold under the free-range label. Free-range chickens may be fed with intensively formed feed that contains pesticides that are passed onto the birds.

Ensure that chicken is certified as free range, in Australia this will have the Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia Ltd (FREPA) certification

To ensure the chicken you are purchasing is truly organic and free-range always look for certified organic chicken. The certifying bodies strictly enforce and test for organic conditions.


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Where to store

Chickens are highly perishable and should always kept cold and wrapped tightly to reduce air contact. Store it in the coldest section of the refrigerator where it will stay fresh for 2 or 3 days.

To freeze chicken, rinse and pat dry then wrap so that it is airtight. This preparation will allow the chicken to be kept for six months in the freezer.


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How to use

Be very careful when handling and preparing chicken as there are health issues to watch out for as chicken can contain salmonella. Cooking the chicken well can destroy much of this salmonella.

Ensure that raw chicken does not come into contact with an other foods, particularly foods that will be eaten raw or only lightly cooked. One of the most common food contaminations is to cut vegetables or salad on a chopping board that was used to prepare chicken but not cleaned well. Be sure to wash all boards, surfaces and utensils well in hot soapy water before you use them to prepare other foods.

If you need to thaw frozen chicken, do it in the refrigerator as chicken is very sensitive to heat and in worm weather the outside of a whole chicken can easily spoil before the center is thawed.

When marinating chicken, do so in the refrigerator as in the time taken for the flavors to absorb is enough for the chicken to spoil.

Chicken is one of the most versatile of foods, it can be baked, fried, boiled, stir-fried, prepared whole, in pieces on the bone or chopped off the bone. It all ways it is a tasty easy food.

• Stuff a whole chicken with a stuffing of herbs and rice or bread crumbs and rub with oil and your selection of spices or salt then roast in the oven.
• Add chopped chicken pieces on the bone into your favorite Indian curry
• Stir-fry chicken pieces off the bone into your favorite Asian stir-fry.
• BBQ chicken filets or pieces on the BBQ. 


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How much you need

Limit your consumption of white meat to twice a week (or about 1000g maximum) and red meat to once a week (or about 1000g maximum). Eat as little cured or processed meat as possible. 

Eating red meat more that 2 times a week and white meat more than 3 times a week is considered excessive and may lead to many health problems.

Enjoying more meals with fish, whole grains, legumes and eggs will help to fill out the meals for the week.


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Things to watch out for

Bacteria
Chickens often contain salmonella; a bacteria that can lead to severe illness that can result in death. Cooking the chicken well can kill salmonella. Also avoid contamination of other foods during the preparation process.

Antibiotics

The use of antibiotics in commercial chickens has led to a rise in antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in the human population. . It has been seen that the increased use of particular antibiotics in the treatments of chickens causes resistance to these antibiotics in humans.


Processed meat

Do not eat processed composite meat products like luncheon meats or commercially produced sausages. If you cannot see the whole piece of chicken before you buy it, then it is best avoided as the cuts of meat usually used to produce these products are often of the lowest quality and can often be contaminated in the process.

Chicken can transmit diseases, but complete cooking and avoiding recontamination can reduce this risk. 

Eating chicken means that the body will absorb the toxins that are in the meat. This is one good reason to eat only organic meats. Particularly when eating animals organs like livers or kidneys.


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References

Free Range Egg & Poultry Australia Ltd. is a group of dedicated Free Range producers who are setting high standards of production and quality.. www.frepa.com.au, Retrieved 03/2009.

Wikipedia, Chicken - Food, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_(food), retrieved 03/2009

Wikipedia, Chicken,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken, retrieved 03/2009

The Organic Federation of Australia (OFA) was established in 1998 as the peak body for the organic industry in Australia. www.ofa.org.au, Retrieved 03/2009

Davis, Karen. Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs,  Summertown, Tennessee: Book Publishing Company, 1996.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.


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