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Friday, August 12, 2011

Organic Chicken Actually Proven to Be Safer

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 7:30 AM

freerange_chicken_1.jpg

Alarmed by the recent outbreak of drug-resistant salmonella in ground turkey, which killed one Californian woman? The way to protect yourself might be to buy organic.

Yesterday, NPR reported that a University of Maryland study found that big organic chicken farms have much lower levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventional poultry farms. Fewer antibiotics in the feed = fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Though the bacteria the researchers studied was enterococci, not the dreaded salmonella, it's good news.

More of it: Another recent study tested raw packaged chicken meat bought at grocery stores, and found that organic chicken was one-seventh as likely to be contaminated with salmonella as conventionally raised chicken. The growing body of research into organic farms supports the push to feed farm animals fewer antibiotics -- which necessitates, SFoodie would hope, giving them more humane living conditions that keep the animals healthier.

Realistically, though, even organic chicken meat isn't risk-free. The U of Maryland study still found 18 percent of the bacteria found on the organic chicken farms was resistant to erythromycin (just one of 17 antibiotics whose resistance was checked), and the second study still found salmonella present in 4 percent of organic meat. So if you're going to indulge in a little chicken tartare, you're just improving your odds of avoiding the bugs by buying organic, not eliminating it altogether.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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