Whether it’s a succulent Sunday roast chook, a midweek chicken schnitty or a chicken salad sanga, Australians love their chicken meat. In fact, it’s the most frequently consumed meat product in most Aussie households.
So we thought it’s about time to debunk the fibs that get us in a flap over chicken meat. From furphies about Herculean-sized hormone-loaded chooks to cage rearing, we’re putting the myths about chicken meat to roost once and for all.
Myth 1: Chicken meat isn’t good for you
Chicken is actually a great source of protein and a source of essential nutrients. Stir fried chicken breast packs a protein punch – it provides around 35g of protein per 100g of food eaten. And it’s also lower in fat and saturated fat than either stir-fried beef or lamb.
Chicken meat also delivers more protein and less kilojoules than cooked legumes/pulses, nuts and seeds. And the nutrients it contains – including vitamins B6, B12 and niacin, and minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc – help support our bodies in all sorts of ways. From muscle growth to building strong bones and fuelling our brains, cooked chicken meat helps to build, support and maintain healthy bodies.
Myth 2: Chickens are pumped full of hormones to make them bigger
Let’s put this myth to bed once and for all – no, Australian chickens are not given hormones. At all. In any way. Hormones haven’t been used in the chicken meat industry for more than 60 years.
So why are Aussie chooks larger? That’s all due to selective breeding and optimal nutrition. The ongoing, extensive breeding programs that have been used in the industry over the past six decades have seen an increased growth rate in chickens. Simple.
Myth 3: Oh, and they’re also given ‘roids
While we’re at it, let’s quash another popular myth – no, Australian chickens are not pumped full of steroids. They are not given steroids in any way, shape or form. Again, the reason the chickens have become larger is from selective breeding and nutritional improvements.
Meat chickens have been selectively bred for the past six decades to ensure they convert the feed they’re given into meat more efficiently. So they hit their weight and quality targets quicker. Myth busted!
Myth 4: AND antibiotics – phew!
Even with the best care, sometimes animals get sick, and it’s the same for chickens. So if a vet thinks it’s the right thing to do, chickens are sometimes prescribed antibiotics – because nobody wants to see chickens suffer with illness or pass disease onto the whole flock.
It’s all part of the industry’s responsibility to maintain the health and welfare of the chickens in its care. So, antibiotics are one of the tools that can be used to keep chickens healthy, along with good biosecurity, optimal nutrition, vaccines, and good husbandry and hygiene practices.
When antibiotics are administered to chickens, they are only those that have been approved by Australia’s regulatory authorities, and they’re not the antibiotics that are important for human health. And if they are used, there are mandatory withholding periods between when the antibiotics are given and the chicken is processed, meaning there are no traces left in the meat that we eat.
Myth 5: Lots of our chicken meat is imported
Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost all fresh, frozen, raw and cooked chicken meat available in Australia is bred, born and raised right here.
Our chickens have been grown on Aussie farms, and processed at Aussie processing plants to Australia’s very exacting and high standards. In fact, more than 99 percent of chicken meat consumed in Australia is grown in Australia.
Raw chicken meat can only be imported under strict protocols to help protect our local chicken flocks from diseases, but no other country except New Zealand meets our strict standards. Some raw chicken meat is imported from New Zealand and a small amount of ‘cooked in a can’ chicken meat is also imported – for example in canned soups. But this equates to less than one per cent of all chicken meat products sold.
Myth 6: Meat chickens are raised in cages
This simply does not happen in Australia – meat chickens are never raised in cages here. Australian meat chickens are grown on the floor of large barns on farms. The floor of the barn is always covered with some form of bedding material, like wood shavings or straw. Chickens have unlimited access to food and water, and the barns are ventilated to provide their ideal climate. Some Australian meat chickens also have access to the outdoors.
It’s important to keep in mind that the chicken meat industry is completely separate from the egg industry.
Myth 7: Chicken meat production is bad for the environment
Chicken meat actually has the lowest environmental footprint of any meat – with chickens being the most efficient converters of feed into meat of all land-based livestock species.
The way that most chickens are reared on modern farms – being housed in large barns – is the optimal way for them to grow. They have everything they need; the ideal climate, the best possible diet and unlimited food and water, to grow quickly and efficiently. It’s all carefully balanced to ensure that the most efficient use of feed, energy and water is used to produce each kilo of chicken meat. Which translates into less greenhouse gas emissions created.
What about the waste created from growing chickens? The chickens’ bedding and manure is taken out of the shed once the chicken has been collected, and is trucked for use in compost or organic fertiliser. There’s virtually no wastage from chicken meat production.
If you’re keen to read up on more chicken meat facts, head to Australian Chicken Meat.
Wanting to use chicken for dinner this week? Check out our delicious Chicken Lasagne with Pumpkin recipe, it’s a wonderfully filling and warming family dinner for any night of the week.We may get commissions for purchases made using links in this post. Learn more.