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Are Herbicides and Pesticides Safe for Chickens?

Last Updated: 06.04.20

 

 

As one of our recent posts shows, the use of pesticides and herbicides is not safe for animals and humans. These chemical substances pass on from the crops they are used on to the animal products and from there into our food and bodies. They are harmful when ingested on a daily basis. 

As many of us already know, the use of herbicides and pesticides in crops has constantly increased over the past decades, as farmers are looking to have as little crop loss as possible. However, the use of these chemical substances in farming has a negative impact on our general health and wellbeing as they are toxic substances that pass on to our food.

Our diet is based on these chemically treated crops, because everything we eat like vegetables, bread, eggs, dairy products, and meat is based on the crops farmers produce. The crops are used to make our food or to feed farm animals that give us part of our diet. And what we do not realize is that these chemicals pass on from the crops into our bodies.

This is precisely the reason pesticide-free crops are in high demand these days, and more and more organizations are raising awareness of just how harmful these chemicals are to us. Let’s take a closer look at how this whole system works and how these chemical substances pass on to our bodies from the food we eat.

 

What are pesticides and herbicides?

These chemical substances are designed to kill unwanted pests or plants in our crops, to help the planted crops grow as much as possible. Besides these types of substances, crops are also treated with chemicals that will help them grow, called crop nutrients that are normally found in the ground in small quantities, and that farmers use in larger quantities.

Pesticides, just like the name indicates, are substances designed to kill any unwanted fungi, bacteria, insects, and snails that may cause damage to the crops, thus financial loss to the farmer. Although, in the beginning, these substances seemed to be the perfect solution to a big problem, nowadays, the use of pesticides has become the biggest problem.

Just like in the case of pesticides, herbicides act as a killer to certain plants that may be in direct competition for food sources with our crops. There are two types of herbicides: one that kills any plant it touches, usually used for clearing out terrains for future crops, and a second type, that targets certain types of weeds, usually used in specific crops, such as corn, to kill off food competition.

The problem with these types of chemicals is that they get sucked up by the plants, through the roots, and thus become a significant part of the food chain, reaching all the way into our bodies, causing damage, especially when ingested in small amounts on a daily basis, especially since they are quite toxic to all living beings.

 

 

Chickens

The first example we should look at is that of chickens since most of us eat chicken meat or eggs on a daily basis. First of all, what do chickens eat? They need a daily balanced diet consisting of corn, sunflower seeds, wheat, with added calcium and minerals, and green grass or lucerne. 

So, if we take a moment and look at what their diet is made of, we will notice that most of it depends on healthy crops. And yet, most of the corn, wheat, and sunflower crops around the world are being chemically treated for financial reasons, as farmers that use these substances get larger crop productions while keeping their loss due to pests to a minimum.

Once chickens eat their food, these substances pass through their liver, kidneys, and bloodstream, causing damage and lowering the quality of the meat we will be eating. They also get into the eggs these chickens produce, and thus, once again, reach our plates. Of course, the quantities we eat are far smaller than the ones chickens eat, but we do that daily, and it adds up.

The new trend here is represented by free-range chickens, that only eat chemical-free crops and greens, and that are allowed to roam around free in a safe environment. Of course, the price tag they come with for the end-user is considerably higher than that of farm chickens and their eggs. It all comes down to a choice of quality over quantity. 

 

Extreme cases

In extreme cases, when the chickens have ingested large amounts of pesticides or herbicides all at once, they may start showing clinical signs consistent with toxic poisoning. These signs include a lack of appetite or the animals just lay there, unresponsive to environmental factors, and die in a matter of hours.

These extreme cases usually appear in free-range chickens that have access to a wider range of food sources. In the case of farm chickens, their food passes through many quality control points, but it still carries the pesticides and herbicides residue in it, so there is nothing we can do to get them out, we can only control the quantity they eat.

So they still get toxic residue in their food on a daily basis, but given their short life span, farm chickens do not have the time to show any clinical symptoms of toxic poisoning or internal organ damage. If we consider that in standard farming, from the day it hatches until it reaches the slaughterhouse, the average chicken lives for 45 days, you will understand why they do not show any signs of illness.

 

Other farm animals

All of the other farm animals that eat crop-based food, such as cows and pigs, also eat some of these substances, and pass them on to our plates. In the case of pigs, pesticide residue can be found in their muscles, meaning the meat we eat. Of course, the amounts found are considerably smaller than the ones they eat from the crops.

That is because they pass some of these chemicals through their kidneys and liver, and excrete them. However, if you choose to eat pig liver, the residue amounts found in it will be higher than the ones found in the muscles. Free-range pigs are becoming more and more in demand, mainly for this reason.

In the case of cows, they graze throughout the day, and if they do so in areas that have been treated with herbicides, they will pass some of those chemicals into their milk. Therefore, when we eat cheese, or drink milk, we will ingest some amounts of these chemicals, which is not a good thing for our health.

Turkeys seem to be the ones that are the least resistant to pesticide and herbicide residue, and they will very quickly fall ill if they eat them on a daily basis. This is one reason why many people choose turkey meat over chicken meat, but it is also why turkey meat comes at a considerably higher price than chicken meat.

  

 

Effects of pesticide use in the environment

Since these substances are released onto the ground, some of them get sucked up by the plants through their roots, but some of them get into the underground water system, especially when it rains. This way they get into the water system of certain areas, causing damage to wildlife that drinks that water and to aquatic animals that live in the lakes of that area.

The underground water systems of the world represent the starting point of most rivers and lakes of the world, and when they are contaminated with chemical substances, they become harmful for most aquatic animals and wildlife that drink it. This has a negative impact on the overall surrounding environment.

It is of utmost importance to our world to better understand how pesticides and herbicides affect our environment and health in order to look for alternative ways of obtaining healthy crops without using these harmful chemicals to better our world and our quality of life. Also, long term use of these substances lowers the quality of the terrains we grow our crops on, making them less fertile over time.

Another important aspect to be mentioned here is that long-term use of chemical substances in industrial farming causes changes in the targeted bacteria, fungi, and insects, as they attempt to adapt to the chemicals we use. This means that, over time, we are creating stronger chemicals that have even worse effects on the environment.

 

 

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