Why You Shouldn't Wash Your Chicken

Why You Shouldn't Wash Your Chicken

Washing Your Chicken? Read This Now.

Washing raw chicken before cooking can increase your risk of food poisoning from fecal bacteria - if your chicken is contaminated with bacteria.

This is because splashing water from washing chicken under a tap can spread the bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment.

A USDA study showed that 60% of people who wash raw poultry bacteria from that poultry in their sink after washing, 26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce, and 14 percent of those still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink. 

Why is Chicken So "Dirty" or Contaminated?

People have been told to wash chicken because they are concerned it’s dirty – well, they are right: almost half of American chicken is contaminated with fecal matter.

We are going to say that again so it sinks in: Almost half of American chicken is contaminated by fecal matter.

The Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine (PCRM) — a group of 12,000 doctors – conducted a study that tested 120 chicken products sold by 15 grocery store chains in 10 U.S. cities for the presence of fecal bacteria. Forty-eight percent of the products tested positive.

The PCRM actually sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2019 as a result of their findings - the USDA announced that it would take no action to address these concerns because USDA argued, “fecal contamination is a visible defect” only – so chicken products pass inspection as long as feces are not visible to the naked eye. 

However, inspection lines move at rates up to 175 birds per minute—about 3 carcasses per second—making visible detection of feces impossible. Also, the food borne illnesses that result from fecal contamination are not visible to the naked eye (you can’t see salmonella).

 

The Government Admits Freely that Dirty Chicken is the “Norm”

According to the CDC, “Raw chicken is often contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria and sometimes with Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens bacteria.”

Where do these pathogens come from? 

 Campylobacter, Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens all come from fecal matter.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

 The CDC website itself states that raw chicken is “often” contaminated with fecal matter and the USDA, when sued about this matter, stated that “fecal contamination is a visual defect”. 

Why is chicken so frequently contaminated with feces? 

Chicken are small animals with small fragile intestinal tracts. When they are processed, it is very easy for the intestines to break and/or feathers and other matter to transfer fecal matter onto the flesh of the bird. It is much easier for a chicken to be contaminated with fecal matter during processing than a cow or a pig just due to the physiology of the animal.

Additionally, the majority of chickens are cooled after slaughter via immersion in cold water treated with bleach and lactic acid. This liquid – although treated with antimicrobials – is also very effective at contaminating meat from chickens with fecal matter.

This is All Really Disgusting…But What Can You Do?

Buy clean birds - from us or other small-scale operations that process chickens slowly and use “air chill” to lower carcass temperature not a water bath. 

There is data that shows that smaller pastured operations have higher rates of contamination due to the very small scale of their operations, but additional data show that mid- and large-scale organic and pastured operations are HALF AS LIKELY to be contaminated with salmonella. Additionally, types of salmonella that are resistant to multiple drugs (the superbug strains) are far less prevalent in organic chicken: 

If you can’t access Organic and Pastured birds, please still don’t wash the chicken, but cook your chicken to the point at which you are sure all pathogens are killed. This is the recommendation of the USDA – to cook chicken to an internal temperature that exceeds the kill point of these common pathogens, which are as follows:

Salmonella – 165º

Campylobacter – 145º

Clostridium perfringens – 140º

Sources:

https://www.idsociety.org/news--publications-new/articles/2019/antibiotic-free-or-organic-poultry-half-as-likely-to-be-contaminated-with-multidrug-resistant-salmonella-new-research-finds/

https://www.pcrm.org/news/news-releases/usda-refuses-protect-consumers-fecal-contamination-chicken-and-other-meat

https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2019/08/20/washing-raw-poultry-our-science-your-choice

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/chicken.html

https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/03/study-salmonella-prevalence-less-in-organic-chicken/

 https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/05/how-safe-is-that-chicken/index.htm