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Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Anxious Chicken

As a middle school teacher, I hear from a lot of parents who believe that medication is what their children need in order to succeed in school. With the right prescription, they will be able to pay attention. They'll be able to focus. They'll be able to interact more appropriately with others.

Now, don't lump me in with Tom Cruise just yet (if you click the video, you'll see his famous battle with Matt Lauer about his belief that no one needs any medicines for psychiatric conditions).

There are conditions that require medication as a remedy. However, in my opinion, there are way too many medications out there slowing kids' brains down and altering their personalities. Instead of prescribing new medicines, it may be high time for new ways to organize the ways teachers present information to the children in front of them.

Or, it may be time to clean house in the poultry industry (and other food processing industries as well). According to Nicholas Kristof's piece in the New York Times, researchers that were studying the feather meal from rendered poultry found that industrially farmed chickens receive all kinds of mood-altering substances in their feed.

For example, they get Benadryl. Not because of allergies, but to calm them down. Apparently, chickens suffering from stress end up producing tougher meat. Every masseuse knows this to be true in people -- so why not in chickens too?

Chickens also get acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) -- probably for the same reason.

However, they also get green tea powder and coffee pulp, so that they will stay awake longer and eat more. So the same chickens are getting uppers and downers?

And if that's not enough, chickens also receive arsenic. Yes, that's right, the same poison that these women used to eliminate pesky men in this classic Cary Grant movie:

Apparently, arsenic in low levels is "safe," and it makes chicken (and pork) a more attractive shade of pink. Well, carbon monoxide makes you turn a nice cherry red color, but that doesn't mean you should inhale it. And if you've been feeding your families more chicken because of the health benefits, you've just experienced a classic case of irony.

So, we're going to look more into organic poultry and meat at our house. Just remember, though, even life on a traditional poultry farm isn't all that great for most of the residents:

On the other hand, maybe cage-free chickens do have more fun...

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