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SUNDAY MARCH 7

HEALTH DEBATE

SHOULD WE EAT ONLY ORGANIC CHICKEN?

THE NATUROPATH LEAH HECHTMAN

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here remains a strong misconception regarding growth hormones and chickens. Using growth hormones to boost chickens has been illegal since the 1960s. There are three different types of chicken farming practices: conventional, free range and organic. All adhere to The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals. However, the way in which each method adheres to the code differs. The processor’s

farming manager and vet generally control conventional farming and often free range as well. Free range can be monitored by industry associations, but organic farms are independently accredited by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service. Conventional chickens are kept in a shed and given antibiotics and vaccines. They can roam around but are not allowed outdoors. They are fed non-organic food that often contains

genetically modified (GM) products and are about 35 to 55 days old at harvest. Organic chickens live longer (65 to 80 days), have more room, go outside, are fed organic food and are not given antibiotics or vaccines. Chicken is a lean, healthy source of protein, but where possible, encouraging organic farming practices is optimal.

■ Leah Hechtman is a naturopath and fertility specialist. She is a lecturer, author, researcher and industry consultant and has her own clinical practice in Sydney, NSW. She specialises in fertility, reproductive and psychological health. For more information visit www.naturalhealthfertility.com

THE DOCTOR DR CINDY PAN

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he idea that the chicken we eat contains hormones is such a popular myth it is almost a pity to debunk it, but the fact is that no hormones have been used in chicken-raising in Australia for more than 40 years. Some chickens are labelled as “hormonefree” but this may just be a deceptive form of marketing, suggesting that other chickens may contain hormones, when in fact none do. It is commonly believed (in fact by around 80 per cent of the population, according to one survey) that growth hormone is given to chickens to make them bigger. In fact it was oestrogen (female sex hormones) and not growth hormone that was used in the 1950s to increase the size, meatiness and growth rate of chickens. Fortunately however, since the hormone ban came into effect in the mid-1960s, no hormones whatsoever have been used. The quality of chicken produced has changed over the years with chickens tending now to be bigger and leaner than ever. This is not the result of hormone use, but rather selective breeding (using the strongest, healthiest chickens to spawn subsequent generations of chickens), as well as improvements in overall health of the chickens. Small quantities of antibiotics are used by some chicken farmers to manage overgrowth of unwanted gut bacteria and enhance proliferation of healthy bacteria in the chicken’s gastrointestinal system, which help to improve their digestion and thereby optimise growth. However, there is no residue of antibiotic in the meat that is sold and this is regulated by the government, which conducts a National Residue Survey every year. People concerned about the use of antibiotics may choose to buy organic chicken or chicken that is labelled as having never been exposed to antibiotics, however, there is no proven health advantage in doing so, and the increase in cost may be prohibitive for some. ■ Dr Cindy Pan has had over 10 years of clinical practice experience. Her books include Pandora’s Box: Lifting The Lid On Life’s Little Nasties (HarperCollins) and Playing Hard To Get (HarperCollins). She appears on television, lectures and speaks about all aspects of health, relationships and wellbeing.

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Organic chicken  

09 SUNDAY genetically modified (GM) products and are about 35 to 55 days old at harvest. Organic chickens live longer (65 to 80 days), have m...