Thursday, April 5, 2012

Industrial Chicken and Arsenic

In today's New York Times there is an article about the use of arsenic (among other things) in industrial chicken farming.  While this comes as no surprise to me, it does remind me of the recent study published out of Dartmouth that found arsenic has also made it into brown rice, and particularly organic brown rice syrup, which has found its way into various baby foods.

I've been wondering how this could have happened, and these two articles bring together what I've been thinking.  My hypothesis is fairly simple and rests on the somewhat outrageous fact that organic farmers can use industrial chicken manure as fertilizer.  First, they feed arsenic to chickens in confinement operations.  Then the happy organic farmers comes and gets that concentrated manure and distributes it onto their fields and crops.  And, just like that, arsenic is in the "certified organic" food chain.  Because they have no other way to obtain such high amounts of nitrogen, even small and medium sized certified organic vegetable and grain farmers - including ones at your local farmer's markets - use industrial chicken manure as fertilizer.  Ask your farmer.  Know how your food is grown.

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