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Volume 9 Issue 4
Nov/Dec 2003

Rebounding: A Defence Against Cancer

Why Choose ORGANIC Poultry?

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
A Medicinal Fungus

Death, Dying, and Spirituality

Natural Reflections
The Planet is a Single Integrated Life Support System

Editorial

Why Choose ORGANIC Poultry?
by Paulette Millis


Whow! What would we do without our favourite chicken dinner, or our roast turkey for Christmas? Upon reading the research on the quality, or more aptly, the lack of quality in our poultry supply, I can see where one might choose to become vegetarian! People born before World War II often say, “Chicken doesn’t taste like chicken anymore.” But listen, read on for how to source quality birds!

First, why NOT eat non-organic poultry?

1. Commercially raised chickens are often fed antibiotics and much of the feed routinely has antibiotics. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics – about 70% of total US antibiotic production – are fed to livestock animals such as chickens, pigs, and cows for non-therapeutic purposes. (Associated Press Feb. 16, 2001.) The concern with this constant, involuntary medication in our food supply is the new strains of bacteria and disease resistance in humans. In other words, antibiotics have become ineffective in controlling many bugs. The National Academy of Science (American) says, “Factory Farming would not be possible without the routine use of antibiotics and other drugs. Only with drugs can animals survive the overcrowding, stress, and severe deprivation. The practice of feeding livestock a variety of antibiotics at sub-therapeutic levels has become commonplace as producers have adopted confinement practices. The widespread use of antibiotics has reinforced a trend not to manage for disease prevention but rather to accept the costs of antibiotic feeding as a routine production expense.” (Alive #173). Elmer Laird, president of the Back to the Farm Organization in Davidson, SK, says poultry can be raised quite successfully without antibiotics. This is more in evidence as the number of farmers raising organic chickens grows.

2. Poultry are fed artificial growth hormones to stimulate birds to kill size in 8 weeks (Rohe) thereby reducing costs of production. Egg layers have their hormone systems overworked so that they lay eggs at a much higher rate than is natural. (Colbin)

3. Genetically engineered (GE) plants and seeds are widely used in commercial agriculture and often poultry are fed GE soy. No one knows how this new unnatural process is going to affect us down the road, not to mention the problem of anyone with allergies or food sensitivities.

4. Salmonella contamination has steadily increased and according to Dr. Douglas Archer, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition: “There’s no question that the extent of the salmonella contamination is due to the way chickens are raised, the crowding and the stress.” A l978 report by the US Advisory Committee on salmonella stated that salmonella could be reduced by: 1) producing salmonella free food, 2) developing clean breeding stock, 3) improving processing, and 4) educating the public. One wonders what, if anything, has improved since then with all the food poisonings we hear about.

5. In 1991 the Atlantic Constitution reported: Of 84 federal poultry inspectors interviewed, 81 said thousands of birds tainted or stained with feces, which a decade ago would have been condemned, are now rinsed and sold daily. 75% of the inspectors said that thousands of diseased birds pass from processing lines to stores everyday.

“Fecal Soup” is created when thousands of dirty chickens are bathed together in a chill tank which spreads contamination from bird to bird. Up to 15% of poultry weight consists of fecal soup, for which we consumers pay. A l988 study by USDA reported that even 40 consecutive rinses did not adequately remove salmonella germs left by fecal contaminants.

Poultry plants salvage meat by cutting away visibly diseased or contaminated sections and selling the rest as packaged wings, legs, or breasts, as reported by 70 of the inspectors. One ConAgra plant inspector said he would NEVER buy cut up parts in a store. Mechanical eviscerating machines and feather pickers further increase contamination by ripping open intestines and spilling feces as well as pounding dirt and manure into pores. Some poultry plants also use chlorine to wash chickens, bleaching feces rather than removing it. Ingesting chlorine is as scary to me as ingesting feces!

6. Commercially raised chickens lose all natural hen behaviour patterns such as nest building, perching, foraging for food, dust bathing, and wing stretching. Often all lighting is artificial, sometimes to promote laying of eggs and forced moulting, to keep egg production cycles in place. Battery cages (wire cages where each bird has 64 square inches) and de-beaking are other practices used for maximum production.

7. Large commercial operations that are non-organic are causing concerns, for example, with groundwater. “Roughly 80% of BC’s poultry industry is located in the Fraser Valley on lands above valuable aquifers. Nitrates and other pollutants from manure piles seep down through sandy soils into the groundwater.” (Alive #172) Non-organic farms do not support soil health; organic farms focus on naturally replenishing the soil to ensure mineral rich soil with the proper balance of nutrients. Keeping chemicals used in grain productions off of our plate benefits our water, our land, our atmosphere, and our bodies.

What do I want when purchasing poultry? Ideally, organic, for the above-mentioned reasons. Certified organic means no antibiotics, hormones, or chemicals, or GE food. I want birds raised with humane practices and the slaughter process to be safe and health-promoting. I want to know we are leaving the soil and water supplies uncontaminated and healthy for future food supplies. I want to support the family farm and all that entails rather than the large “agri businesses” with their cost saving production practices.
When faced with lack of organic poultry suppliers check with the farmer: Do they have a stress free environment, such as open pasture and natural roosting, which supports a strong immune system for the birds? Are the birds given space, natural light, and non-medicated feed? hormones? antibiotics? GE soy? How do they slaughter them? Are they allowed to grow at a natural rate? Free range poultry is leaner, the colour and texture are richer, and there is very little fat.

When I raised my own chickens and turkeys it was easy to control the conditions and the feed. Finding suppliers for organic peas and grains was relatively easy. My 82-year-old father still raises chickens and hens for egg production. I found organic screenings at the Haubold farm in Glenbush, SK, and we do the best we can with grains and non-medicated feed. If you have a farm supply, or find a concerned farmer, educate and support them if possible to improve the flock’s health.

We are lucky in Saskatoon as there are a growing number of farms raising chickens and turkeys in Saskatchewan in a healthier manner. Check the health food stores in your area as they often keep a list of these resources; watch the classifieds, and ask! ask! ask! at supermarkets for better quality poultry. We need to demand changes to eliminate antibiotics and hormones from our food supply. Pop’s Farm in Manitoba’s Interlake Region and the Fron Tier organic wild turkey farm in the Pembina Valley, Manitoba, have stress-free environments, and the latter allows 25–30 weeks for maturity as compared to 14–16 weeks for domestic turkeys. These companies ship frozen product to retail outlets if you cannot find local supplies.

There is an effort taking place to produce healthy pure food but these efforts need the support of consumers; as the demand increases, the greater the quantity available and the lower the prices.

NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICINAL INFORMATION

Use more chicken and turkey in your diet as they are less fat than most red meats. When fatty meats are cooked the lecithin is destroyed, which contributes to fat deposits on artery walls, as lecithin is needed to keep cholesterol in liquid form. (Jensen)

Chicken has a larger percentage of water than red meat and contains no carbohydrates. Fowl is a “buildup” food, meaning it creates more cells and repairs and builds up our body. It is less “warming” than red meat.

If you feel hungry after a meal it usually indicates the nutrients are out of balance. Fowl corrects this most efficiently. (Colbin)

Remember how our mothers always told us to have a glass of warm milk to help us sleep? The reason was milk contains tryptophan, abundant in chicken and turkey. Four ounces of chicken or turkey contains 390 mg of tryptophan which raises seratonin and seratonin tends to bring on feelings of drowsiness and sleep. Try a chicken or turkey snack before bed or at the last meal of the day if your digestive system cannot handle bedtime snacking. Turkey salad made with good quality mayonnaise on whole grain crackers combines protein and complex carbs for balancing blood sugar and helping with sleep.

Poultry is low in fat, high in protein and tryptophan, and a source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and B vitamins. According to the USDA Nutrient Data Library, three and one half ounces of chicken or turkey is about the size of a deck of cards and contains 30 grams of protein for turkey breast without skin and 28 grams of protein for dark meat without skin. Chicken may contain slightly less protein, according to some sources, but it is not significant.

BUYING, COOKING, AND STORING

Once you have found your source of good quality poultry buy only whole birds. This saves money as well as being healthier. Freeze immediately or store in the fridge and cook the next day. Frozen poultry is best thawed overnight in the fridge. A large turkey may take up to 48 hours to thaw completely.

To cut up a whole bird, all you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board. A chilled chicken or turkey is easiest to cut up, and after a bit of practice, takes about 10 minutes. I like to place whole fresh turkey breasts in the freezer for 20–30 minutes to chill well, and then slice into turkey steaks. I buy whole fresh turkeys and cut into steaks, legs, thighs, and wings, then I grind up any small pieces and make lots of fresh turkey soup with the carcasses. This takes a lot less freezer room and provides fresh meals to serve one or more as needed. Wrap the pieces in freezer paper, not plastic wrap, as chemicals in the plastic may leach into the meat. Place two layers of wax paper between slices for easy separation when frozen.

Steps for cutting up a whole bird:

1. Wash, drain. Pull on legs and wings as you cut through the joints to separate. Open up and cut between legs and thighs if it’s a large bird, disjoint and separate.
2. Place sharp knife between breast and back just under where you removed the wing and slice firmly through the ribs. Repeat on other side. Separate the joint below the wing to separate the breast and the back.
3. Break the backbone by bending and cut it in half.
4. Cut straight down between wishbone and point of breast to remove the wishbone with meat intact.
5. Remove breast meat from centre bone by carving down the bone on one side of breast. Repeat on other side of breastbone.

Ground turkey or chicken can be used by itself in place of beef, or mixed with ground beef or lamb to replace in any recipe calling for ground red meat. It makes an excellent chili or spaghetti sauce; add a bit of tamari soy sauce to boost the flavour if desired, and add eggs to hold it together if necessary for burgers, meat balls, or meatloaf.

If you must buy poultry from a supermarket, avoid “butterballs” as they are injected with cheap oil. (Rohe) Buy grade A birds as any others are less fully fleshed and/or may have parts missing. Older birds are identified as, “mature,” “stewing,” or “old,” and are useful for soups and stews.

Leave all of those turkey-ham, turkey, or chicken hot dogs, and lunch meats on the shelf if you want healthy nutrient-dense food, as they have many fillers, additives, and the regular dose of nitrates and nitrites.

Roasting whole chickens or turkeys is a simple elegant meal. Place skinned onions or garlic in the cavity in place of stuffing, as stuffing tends to dry the meat. Or stuff with a mixture of chopped onions, celery, and herbs. If I want a stuffing, I usually use a wild rice, onion, and herb mixture.

Some resources say to place roaster in a 450º F oven for a few minutes and then reduce heat to 350º F. I prefer to cook my birds in a slow oven (300º F) for a longer time, with some rosemary and a bit of vegetable broth, and then remove the cover to brown at the end of cooking if necessary. I always cook them breast down to keep the breast moist. Chickens are well done when the legs twist out of the sockets easily, or use a meat thermometer. An eight pound unstuffed farm chicken usually takes about 3 hours.

Freeze all leftover broth from simmering carcasses or parts. Use to cook any grain. Freeze leftover veggies, any extra chicken or turkey, and make what I call Scrappy Soup: veggies, broth, chicken, garlic, onions, herbs, celtic salt, and a few sea veggies. Add leftover grain or whole grain noodles if desired.


RECIPES

CHICKEN WITH BROWN RICE

1 medium stewing hen
1 cup brown rice
2 small onions
3 cloves garlic
1 large ripe tomato (optional)
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp minced parsley
one tsp basil
celtic sea salt and sea veggies to taste

Place clean cut-up chicken in large pot with chopped onions and garlic. Simmer with enough pure water to cover until tender (usually 3 to 4 hours). Or use a crock pot. Amount of stock needed at end of cooking should be about 3 cups. Melt butter in sauce pan, add washed brown rice, brown and transfer to chicken pot along with rest of ingredients. Continue cooking until rice is tender.


ROSEMARY CHICKEN OR TURKEY*

One of my favourite quick meals!
1 tbsp olive oil
4 boneless chicken breasts or
turkey steaks
celtic salt to taste
1 tsp crumbled rosemary leaves
(or fresh)
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp yogurt or soy milk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken to the pan and cook for about 4 minutes. Turn and cook 4 minutes more, adding rosemary during the last minute of cooking. Whisk chicken broth, mustard, yogurt, and lemon juice together. Remove chicken to a plate and keep warm. Drain fat from pan, add broth mixture and boil until thickened to a sauce-like consistency. (You could use arrowroot or another thickener if necessary.) Return chicken to pan, coat in sauce and serve.


HONEY CURRIED CHICKEN*

My favourite chicken dish!
Combine the following to create the sauce:
1 tbsp melted honey
3/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp curry powder or to taste

Place cleaned, skinned, cut-up chicken in baking dish and cover with sauce. Cover and bake at 300º F until nearly cooked, uncover and bake until done. Serve with long grain brown rice.


SIMPLE SESAME CHICKEN***

Simple and delicious!
8 chicken pieces or breast on bone
2 tbsp tamari soy sauce
3–4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 375º F. Place chicken pieces in baking dish; sprinkle with soy sauce, rub with crushed garlic, and sprinkle with sesame seeds on top. Bake 50 minutes or until done. Serves 4–8.


CHICKEN SALAD IN ASPIC**

5 slices of tomato, 1/2 inch thick
lemon juice
1 tbsp unflavoured gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1-1/2 cups seasoned chicken stock
2-1/2 tbsp mayonnaise
1-3/4 tbsp chopped green pepper
1/3 cup slivered blanched almonds
1-3/4 tbsp diced celery
1-1/4 cups chopped cooked chicken

Marinate tomatoes in lemon juice. Chill. Soften gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes. Heat chicken stock to boiling. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Cool. When syrupy in consistency, add remaining ingredients and place in individual molds. Chill until firm. Unmould each portion on a slice of tomato and serve with lettuce and mayonnaise.

*taken from Nutrition, Cooking and Healing, Paulette Millis, RNC.
**taken from Gourmet Health Recipes, Paul and Patricia Bragg.
***taken from Cook Right for your Blood Type, Dr. Peter D’Adamo.


References: Alive Magazine, #172, #173, #228; Nutregram 2001: Organic Chicken is Best; The Complete Book of Natural Foods, Fred Rohe; Food and Healing, Anne Marie Colbin; Anti-Aging Bible, Earl Mindell; Foods that Heal, Bernard Jensen; Cook Right for Your Blood Type, Peter D’Adamo.

The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.

Paulette Millis lives and works in Saskatoon as a nutritional consultant. Her cookbook, Nutrition, Cooking, and Healing, is available in health food stores or by calling (306) 244-8890.

For more information about organics in Saskatchewan check out www.organicsguide.com.

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