Dr. Oz Wrong About Poultry Production
October 13, 2010 - The October 7 episode of the The Doctor Oz Show promised to reveal to viewers the "truth" about the chicken industry. Unfortunately, host Dr. Mehmet Oz repeated many myths about poultry production to his studio audience that simply aren't true. Viewers of the program should remember that 97 percent of America's farms are still family-operated, not faceless "factory farms," a loaded term coined by activists. Farmers understand the importance of providing safe food products- after all, they shop in the same grocery stores that you do.
Dr. Oz led viewers astray by showcasing a panel of activists who have past used scare tactics to confuse consumers about the safety of animal protein products. Dr. Urvashi Rangan of the Sustainable Consumption Project at the Consumers Union openly rejects modern food technology, despite the many advancements that it has provided. Dr. David Kessler awarded the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an alarmist group best known for its constant demonization of modern food production and its push to eliminate meat from our diet, with the FDA's top honors when he served as the agency's commissioner.
The third panelist, Dr. Robert Lawrence, was the founding director for the Center for a Livable Future, an organization that promotes "Meatless Mondays" and has ties to the GRACE Factory Farm Project, which produced egregious anti-livestock movies including "The Meatrix". The CLF also supported the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, a biased attack on today's farm practices.
Antibiotics are not used in all flocks and are never "pumped" into birds, as was stated on the show. Farmers may use antibiotics to help maintain bird health, prevent or control infections, or treat sick birds. A mandatory withdrawal period regulated by the Food & Drug Administration is included in the directions for each product and ensures that no antibiotic residues are present when the birds are processed.
Furthermore, no scientific study has shown that antibiotic use in food animal production is to blame for resistant bacteria. In fact, several types of the antibiotics mentioned on The Dr. Oz Show, including ciprofloxacin, ampicillin, and amoxicillin, are not used in chickens at all. Most scientists agree that the extensive use of these drugs in human medicine is likely the cause of bacterial resistance.
The National Chicken Council's response to the segment is correct:
"Fresh chicken is a wholesome, safe, nutritious food that is produced and processed under government regulations. Nothing is given to chickens that is not approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration."
Dr. Oz also confused viewers when he showcased clips from the fictionalized movie Food, Inc. during the program to imply that chickens are routinely "genetically modified". Today's birds are larger because of improved nutrition and animal husbandry. There is no "bio-engineering" involved in poultry production and hormones are never fed to birds to make them grow faster or larger.
Producers practice selective breeding to pass on specific traits such as hardiness, efficient feed conversion, and disease resistance to the next generation of birds. The result? The average broiler today is about 67 percent larger, eats less feed, and arrives to market faster than that of the 1950s. Bird health has been improved and the environmental impact of each chicken has been decreased.
America's farmers and ranchers constantly adapt to meet the changing needs of consumers. Today's poultry production techniques provide affordable, nutritious, and plentiful animal protein products that millions of Americans enjoy each day. It is projected that global meat production must double by 2050 due to expanding demand. Forcing farmers to revert to 1950s style production practices would make this impossible.
Today's food system is truly a miracle made possible by science and hard work. Farmers and ranchers, including poultry producers, deserve to be celebrated, not unfairly criticized on daytime television.
1. Tour of an American Chicken Farm
2. FDA Approval Process for Animal Drugs
3. National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines
4. 2010 USDA Structure and Finances of Farms
5. Animal Agriculture Alliance Coalition Statement on Antimicrobrial Resistance
6. Animal Agriculture Alliance Statement on Animal Welfare
About the Alliance:
The Animal Agriculture Alliance, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is a broad-based coalition of individual farmers, ranchers, producer organizations, suppliers, packer-processors, private industry scientists, veterinarians, and retailers. The Alliance's mission is to communicate the important role of animal agriculture to our nation's economy, productivity, vitality, and security. The Alliance shows how animal well-being is central to producing safe, high-quality, affordable food and other products essential to our daily lives.