Are chickens fed hormones?
1) Hormone use is illegal: In Canada and many other countries, extremely strict controls are placed on the use of hormones and hormone-like substances in animal feeds. In no case is the supplementation of hormones approved for poultry. While it might be alleged that illegal use of hormones might occasionally be practiced, as will be made clear below, there is no logical reason to use these compounds in poultry production.
2) Hormones are not effective: The administration of growth hormone does not lead to increased growth in chickens. In a similar vein, injecting growth hormone into humans will not lead to development of a winning basketball team. Growth is an extremely complex combination of metabolic functions, depending on a wide array of endocrinological signals.
3) Administration is extremely difficult: Like insulin, which is used in the treatment of diabetes, growth hormone is a protein. If either of these hormones were consumed orally, they would be quickly digested in the same way as protein from corn or soy. As is well known, diabetics must receive injections of insulin. Thus, even if a positive effect were likely, growth hormone would need to be injected into chickens on a very frequent basis. The logistics of injecting hundreds of thousands of chickens with hormone illustrates the impossiblity of this scenario.
Research indicates that the release of natural growth hormone in chickens is pulsatile, peaking every 90 minutes. This could imply that if growth hormone were to be administered effectively, the only feasible way to do this would be through frequent intravenous administration.
4) High cost: As chicken growth hormone is not produced commercially, its cost would be extremely high. If one (1mg.) were to be administered to a broiler, the cost would be far in excess of the value of the chicken itself. Obviously, this makes no commercial sense.
5) Negative impact of chicken performance: The modern broiler has been genetically selected to grow so rapidly that it occasionally encounters physiological limits. All are familiar with the cases of young men who, as they enter puberty, experiance a sharply increased rate of growth. The "growth spurt" is usually accompanied by joint inflammation and other problems. In the same way, the modern broiler lives literally on the edge of its metabolic maximum. In fact, feed restriction is occasionally recommended (either by physical restriction or reduced nutrient density) in order to reduce growth rate and limit the incidence of lameness, heart attack and ascites. In tropical regions, a sharply increased growth rate would almost certainly double, triple or possibly quadruple the rate of mortality from heat stress. Thus, it would be highly counterproductive to suddenly force a higher rate of growth on broiler chickens.
6) What about anabolic steroids? The occasional abuse of anabolic steroids by athletes is periodically documented in the press. There is certainly no question that their use leads to increased muscle mass; however, this effect in athletes is only possible when steroid use is combined with rigorous physical training, such as weightlifting. What makes the steroid question even more unlikely is that the most valuable part of the chicken (the breast) is composed of muscles used to raise and lower the wings. Chickens have not flown for several thousand years. No exercise...no benefit from anabolic steroids.
7) Hormones are simply not needed: The extremely rapid growth of broilers is very easy to explain without resorting to hormones. Reviewing the records of genetics firms, it will be noted that for the past several decades, birds have reached a specified market weight one day earlier per year. The challenge to proultry producers is to provide high quality feed (proteins, vitamins, minerals, etc.), and a healthy environment in the poultry house, including roof insulation, ventilation and adequate numbers of feeders and waterers to meet the broiler's prodigious genetic potential. For those familiar with the technical aspects of poultry production, the rapid growth of modern broilers is a logical consequence of slow but consistent improvements in genetics, nutrition, management and disease control. Hormones are simply not needed.
REFERENCE: The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Cooperative Extension ~ Poultry Housing Tips
How are chickens raised?Chickens are raised in open-floor barns. Most barns are one story, some are two stories. There is a clean bedding of straw or wood shavings placed on the floor. The birds take approximately 6-8 weeks to grow to attain their desired weight and are loaded by 'catchers' onto transport trucks, and then delivered to the processor.
How many chickens can I raise without a quota?The regulation stipulates that you are allowed to raise 2,000 chickens per calendar year.
What do you feed your chickens?Chickens are grain fed. Their feed is comprised of grain (60% wheat, corn or barley), a protein source (soybean meal, canola meal and in some cases meat meal), vitamins, minerals, amino acids and a fat source for energy. The birds have continuous access to clean water. Drinking water must be fresh and uncontaminated.
Do you keep your chickens in cages?No, the birds are raised in climate controlled barns to protect them from harsh winters, hot summers, predators and disease. The birds are not confined but are free to roam.
Do chickens get scared easily?To minimize the excitement of the chickens, attendants working with the same groups of chickens wear clothing of uniform appearance during the whole production cycle. Movement of people and equipment within the barns should be quiet and smooth. Building alterations should be avoided during the production cycle. It is highly recommended that workers, before entering a barn, give an early perceptible signal to the chickens to prevent their being startled. (One of the simplest signals to which chickens can become easily conditioned, is a consistent number of distinct knocks on the door just before entry.)
How can manure be disposed of?Although Alberta Agriculture provides reasonable guidelines for manure disposal and management, producers should consult the environmental departments of both provincial and municipal governments regarding questions of expansion of their operations, manure storage, transportation, and land application. Barns are cleaned out after each flock; the barns and equipment are cleaned and disinfected.
How many birds can be grown in a year?Anyone can grow up to 2000 chickens in a calendar year, per legal land location. Numbers larger than this must be produced under a quota allocation approved by the Board. The average producer raises 6.5 flocks per year.
How can I get into the chicken business?In order to produce more than 2000 birds per year, a person must hold a quota. Alberta Chicken Producers does not have a list of individuals interested in selling quota at any given time, however if we are notified we do run advertisements in our newletters. You can access current and past issues of our newsletter here.
What is Supply Management?
How can I tell if chicken is grown organically?
There are no visual or nutritional differences between two healthy chickens grown organically or commercially.
I want to support Alberta producers? How do I know if I am eating Alberta chicken?Each package has a specific 'code' that identifies the processing plant. The meat manager at a retail grocery store or a chef in a restaurant would be able to identify the supplier.
Is it true the poultry industry injects its products with water to increase profits?Perhaps some cuts of poultry are injected with water and seasoning to enhance the flavor and uniformity of the product. An example would be frozen boneless skinless breast meat and marinated product would have moisture in it.
What is a spent fowl?
Spent fowl are old laying hens that are a by-product of egg and hatching egg production. After about 60 weeks, they no longer produce eggs and are processed for their meat. Spent fowl is ot subject to import controls; there is no limit on how much can be imported. Baed on first quarter statistics, imports are on pace to increase another 10% in 2013.
Where can I purchase bulk chicken?You may contact any of the Alberta Processors:
You may also contact the Food Service Industry Distributors:
How can I transfer my farm and the assets to my children?An in-depth document on the Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development's website will provide you with the information required on what is required when transferring a farm and assets of a farming business.
Please visit http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex6974 for more information. Further, you can call the Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 1-866-882-7677.
How do I know the meat I consume is safe to eat and how does the Animal Care Program and Food Safety Program fit in?
Best management Practices: Raising chickens requires a high degree of commitment and knowledge, and our farmers give constant care and attention to their health and feeding.
Animal Care: Animal Care is a Strategic Priority of the Alberta Chicken Producers and the Canadian chicken industry.
Food Safety: Food safety is among the top concerns for Canadians, and we believe that food safety begins on the farm.
Quota Ownership Limits
The total number of authorized quota units in the province is 6,046,409.
A. As an individual, a producer cannot hold more than 5% of the total authorized quota in the province (As per subsection 31(1) of Alberta Chicken Producers Marketing Regulation).
B. A corporation, partnership or unincorporated organization can own up to 10% of all authorized quota. However, to do this it must have 2 or more owners so that each individual’s proportionate share is not more than 50% of the corporation, which equals 5% of the total authorized quota to be held by that individual (As per subsection 31(2) of Alberta Chicken Producers Marketing Regulation).
Calculating the authorized quota of an individual and a corporation:
Amount of authorized quota held by that individual, plus
That individual’s “proportionate share of any quota in which the individual has an ownership interest through a corporation, partnership or unincorporated organization”, plus
Any authorized quota in which the individual has an ownership interest as a lessee.
Sum of all authorized quota held by each shareholder, partner, or member of the unincorporated organization.