We eat scrambled eggs for breakfast; we eat boiled eggs for lunch; and after dinner we eat desserts prepared with eggs. No doubt about it, those single cell wonders are an intrinsic part of our diet. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that, including organic eggs, about 70 billion eggs are produced annually for consumption. Compared to the total number of persons living in the United States, about 300 million, that averages out to about 233 eggs per person, per year. Put another way, if every person in the United States ate three meals a day, every day for 365 days a year, every fourth meal would include an egg; or nearly every day of the year every person in the United States eats an egg. That’s a lot of eggs! Not including the organic eggs, at the very least, a fraction of those mass-produced eggs contain arsenic, as difficult as that is to stomach.
What’s heartening though is the dramatic increase in organic egg consumption. More and more discriminating consumers are choosing organic eggs rather than eggs that aren’t produced through organic means. The USDA reports organic layer hens increased from about 538,000 in 1997 to about 2.5 million in 2005, or every year an average increase of 312,500 organic layer hens. That’s chicken feed though compared to the increase between 2005 to 2008, when organic layer hens increased from about 2.5 million to about 5.5 million, or every year an average increase of a million more organic layer hens. Though in the pecking order, organic layer hens still only account for 1.5% of the total number of layer hens in the U.S.
When it comes to eating the chicken itself, the present day annual ratio between healthier and humanely-raised organic chickens and chickens that aren’t organic is a few tens of millions compared to upwards of ten billion. Each American is eating on average three times as much chicken today than a few decades ago. Unfortunately, that’s also a lot of arsenic consumption.
While most of the chicken-buying public are unaware they’re also ingesting arsenic with nearly every chicken they eat ( about 70% of all broiler hens contain arsenic ), the U.S. Federal government has known since as early as 1944, when it started allowing poultry farmers to feed its hens chicken feed with an arsenic-compound as an additive. Sixty years later, the government and the poultry industry are now forced to realize the resultant omnipresence, both in humans and on the land, of this debilitating and deadly toxin.
Organic chicken is the only chicken that U.S. law explicitly states cannot contain arsenic. On the other foot, Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 specifically states Roxarsone ( the trade name for the most commonly used arsenic compound additive in chicken feed ) is approved for use in broiler hens.
As for arsenic in eggs, those same federal regulations state ( egg ) laying hens are not to be fed Roxarsone. Yet, since arsenic speeds up the growth of chickens, thus speeding up egg production, and history has basket loads of examples of businessmen breaking the law in the name of a dollar, combined with the fact the federal government very rarely tests eggs for arsenic, it’s not beyond possibility to believe, as Mark Kastel, Co-Founder of The Cornucopia Institute, and others, arsenic is in eggs. Beyond arsenic in mass-produced, factory farm eggs, do feed stores inadvertently fill orders for layer hen feed with broiler hen feed, in which an arsenic-compound additive is ubiquitous? Yes, they do. Do new egg farmers without a firm grasp of chicken feeds, egg farm operations and federal law collect eggs for both personal use and for sale? Yes, they do.
Peck around and do a little research. This article only scratches the surface of the ruination that’s been happening. I’d encourage you to fly the coop too and only eat organic chicken and organic eggs from reputable organic poultry and egg farms, from farmers that positively don’t serve arsenic eggs and arsenic chicken.
Cornucopia Institute just released a report and scorecard on a great many organic egg farms. Nowadays, knowing how your food arrived at your table is nothing at which to cluck, especially when arsenic is involved. Call or visit whomever provides your eggs, even organic eggs, and inquire whether or not the chickens laying the eggs are somehow, directly or indirectly, ingesting arsenic. Good health to you!
Charlotte Valleays, Mark Kastel et al, Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture, http://www.cornucopia.org/egg-report/scrambledeggs.pdf
Marketing U.S. Organic Foods: Recent Trends From Farms to Consumers, Carolyn Dimitri and Lydia Oberholtzer, USDA, http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib58/eib58.pdf
USDA Economic Research Service, Data Sets, Organic Production, http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/Organic/
USDA Amber Waves, America’s Organic Farmers Face Issues and Opportunities, http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/june10/Features/AmericasOrganicFarmers.htm
USDA Economic Research Service, Data Sets, Organic Production, http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/Organic/#national
Arsenic found in Utah kids’ pee traced to their pet chickens’ feed, Bonnie Azab Powell, Grist, http://www.grist.org/article/food-arsenic-found-in-utah-kids-urine-traced-to-their-pet-chickens-fe/
Holcman A and Stibilj V, Arsenic Residues in Eggs from Laying Hens Fed with a Diet of Arsenic (III ) Oxide, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9175507
The Baltimore Sun, Arsenic and Chicken Feed, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/2010/11/arsenic_and_chicken_feed.html
Food and Watch, Poison Free Poultry: Why Arsenic Doesn’t Belong in Chicken Feed, http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/report/poison-free-poultry/view-in-full/
Lasky T, Sun W, Kadry A, Hoffman MK, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Mean total arsenic concentrations in chickens 1989-2000 and estimated exposures for consumers of chicken, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14698925?ordinalpos=5&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
American Chemical Society, News Release: Arsenic in chicken feed may pose health risks to humans, C&EN reports, http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_ARTICLEMAIN&node_id=222&content_id=CTP_003407&use_sec=true&sec_url_var=region1&__uuid=12cb29fd-56a3-46ff-8925-196808dd004f
Bette Hileman, Arsenic in Chicken Production, Chemical & Engineering News, http://pubs.acs.org/cen/government/85/8515gov2.html
G Halder et al, Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Elimination of Arsenic Toxicity in Some Organs and Tissues by Supplementing Methionine and methionine-Betaine in Laying Hens, http://docsdrive.com/pdfs/academicjournals/jpt/2008/246-253.pdf
U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, http://books.google.com/books?id=uWcVk2B_IysC&pg=PA475&lpg=PA475&dq=roxarsone+for+layer+hens&source=bl&ots=dRx7LKcg48&sig=ukQmZh3OmVm-krhjUNz-mp1nhbE&hl=en&ei=K38STe34MsWblgfoo7jDCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CE0Q6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=roxarsone%20for%20layer%20hens&f=false
Judy Fahys, Utah Study Points to Arsenic in Backyard Chickens, The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/49868991-75/arsenic-eggs-feed-levels.html.csp?page=1
Backyard Chickens, http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=4534917