Dr. Abby Campbell is a Naturopathic Doctor & President of 911 Body ResQ, an online store providing organic and non-GMO supplements.
About the Author
Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan, one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)
Hormones In Chicken - Is It a Myth?
Health conscious people are always trying to find the best foods to feed their bodies. Consumers are moving from chemically sprayed and genetically modified produce to organically grown vegetables and fruits. Hydrogenated vegetable oils have been replaced with extra virgin olive and coconut oils. Beef is even exchanged for chicken breast due to fat content. But, is your choice of chicken all it's cracked up to be?
Hormones, chemicals, and drugs have been used for the growth of animals for human food consumption since the 1950s.1 Steroid hormones are made into pellets and implanted behind the ears of certain food-producing animals. Though the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes claim that the dosages are too low to affect humans, there is still great concern by the population that consumption of these meats is not healthy. With four well-known companies selling more than 50 percent of the chicken we consume in the United States, many want to know if these same chemical and drugs are used on chicken.
Estrogen - A hormone primarily for female reproductive growth, bone strength, and menstrual cycle regulation.
Progesterone - A hormone primarily in female for menstrual cycle regulation and maintaining pregnancy,
Testosterone - A hormone primarily for male reproductive growth, as well as bone and muscle strength.
Natural Hormones in Meat
Since 1950, the FDA has approved naturally-occurring hormones in meats. Estradiol (estrogen), progesterone, and testosterone are the names of some of these hormones. The FDA claims that hormones are necessary for normal development, growth, and reproduction. Because they are naturally produced in the human body, they declare that hormone induced meats are not harmful for human consumption.
POLL: Natural Hormones in Chicken
Trenbolone Acetate - A steroid hormone used for muscle growth and appetite in livestock.
Zeranol - A non-steroidal estrogen antagonist used for growth in livestock.
Synthetic Hormones in Meats
In addition to natural-occurring hormones fed to animals, the FDA has approved several synthetic hormones in meats. Some of the synthetic hormones used include trenbolone acetate and zeranol. The FDA declares that safe levels are used in meats for human consumption. What do you think?
While the FDA states that they have not approved "steroid" hormones for chicken (though approved for beef cattle and sheep), they have allowed the use of antibiotics on chicken which have similar results as steroid hormones.
There's no doubt that antibiotics are necessary when either humans or animals get a bacterial infection. However, the use of antibiotics on livestock, including chicken, have risen into the millions. What's the reason? Antibiotics have also been shown to increase growth rate in meats and chicken.
Penicillin and tetracycline are two of the most widely used antibiotics. According to Dr. David Wallinga earlier this year [Huffington Post], 38 percent of all penicillin sales and 98 percent of all tetracycline sales were for livestock. The latest statistics gathered in 2011 indicate that 29.9 million pounds of antibiotics were used on animals while 7.3 million was used for humans.
Myth? Don't buy the lie!
Chicken producers have spent countless dollars on advertising that hormones fed to chickens in a myth. Don't buy into their propaganda. All you have to do is look at two packages of chicken at your local grocery store. Compare the big manufacturer-produced chicken to organic. Do you see a difference in size, texture, and color? They may not allow actual or what they call 'naturally occurring hormones' in chicken. However, the fact is the FDA has approved antibiotics and other chemicals that act as hormones in the chicken we consume.
Why Are Antibiotics and Hormones in Meats Bad for Health?
Have you ever wondered why food manufacturers are using antibiotics and hormones in the chicken and meat you eat? Will it harm your body if you consume it? Unfortunately, business is a profit-seeking entity. It's also unfortunate that more than 50 percent of the chicken and other meats offered at your local grocery store can cause harm to your health. Following are just a few health issues that can arise from eating meats produced with hormones and antibiotics:
- early puberty in children
- breast, prostate, and other cancers
- inability to fight bacterial infections
Other Chemicals in Chicken
On top of the hormones and antibiotics fed to chicken, numerous chemicals are added. Following are just a few:
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). As a food additive that enhances flavor, it is typically used in Chinese food, canned vegetables and soups, and processed meats. Because it crosses the blood-brain barrier after consumption, it has been known to cause neuro-toxic symptoms such as headache; flushing; sweating; facial pressure, tightness, numbness, and tingling; heart palpitation; chest pains; nausea; weakness; and sometimes even seizures. It can even be fatal when combined with other chemically altered food additives such as aspartame.
- Sodium Erythorbate. As a food additive, it is typically used in meats, poultry, and soft drinks. It cures meats and chicken quickly as well as preserves color.
- Trisodium Phosphate. Though it is typically used as a cleaning agent, stain remover, and degreaser, it is also used as a food additive. It is considered a "strong" chemical and poison that can cause a variety of symptoms when large amounts are either swallowed, breathed in, or spilled onto the skin.
- Roxarsone. An organic arsenic, it is used in chicken feed to ward off parasitic diseases. High levels of arsenic are fatal. In lower levels, it can cause a host of symptoms including nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation of "pins and needles" in hands and feet.
- Salt. Though sodium can be beneficial to our health, too much can be detrimental. Sodium helps to balance body water levels as well as contract muscles. However, anything more than a teaspoon per day is too much, and most Americans are already doubling or quadrupling their intake already through pre-packaged, processed, and fast foods. In the case of salt-injected chicken, a four ounce serving equates to a serving of fast food French fries.
Buy Organic Chicken to Stay Healthy
Now that you know what is in your chicken, what can you do to stay healthy? Buy organic chicken. As you can see in the picture above, both chickens are the same age. The smaller chicken has a healthy pink and white skin while the larger, chemically-induced chicken has a gross yellow skin. Make sure the chicken you buy is labeled organic with the official seal. Does it cost more? Most organic products do cost more. However, you may find organic chicken more economical when on sale. There is nothing more important than your health. You may pay a little more for healthy food now, or you will pay a much higher cost later with prescription medications and other medical treatments. Why not choose the healthier option? You can find a farmer near you who takes the time to care for his chickens as well as your health. A few have been listed below, but you are welcome to to check out Local Harvest for other farms near you.
Tell Us What You Think
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About the author
Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author. For over 10 years, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Her clients have lost thousands of pounds, reclaimed health, and call her “Coach No Gimmick.” She is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby has been married for more than 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 20+ year cancer survivor.
 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2011, February 8). Steroid Hormone Implants Used for Growth in Food-Producing Animals. Animal and Veterinary. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm055436.htm.
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on January 02, 2015:
Thanks for asking, peachpurple. Regarding your questions on "yellow skin chicken," I was not intending to say that it is non-organic. I was pointing out which chicken in the picture was grossly, and it was the one that was yellow. It wasn't due to the color but the "non-freshness" of it. Some chicken will be more yellow in color due to what they eat. If your packaging states it is organic, then I would not worry because organic foods go through much scrutiny.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on December 20, 2014:
you mean all the while i ate the yellow skin chicken is non organic??
Mike Giles on September 09, 2014:
Thank you Abby. Your open mind and willingness to have a productive dialogue is appreciated very much!
Safe travels... I'm glad you are willing to take a fresh look at the article when you return.
As you guessed, I do have a very specific interest in poultry. My job is President of the Georgia Poultry Federation. Our organization represents poultry growers, processors and allied industry in Georgia, the nation's leading poultry producing state.
If you talk to anyone in the poultry industry, one of their disappointments on the communications front I would say is the myth about Hormones in Chicken. So when I saw your article, I thought I would reach out and try to start a dialogue with you.
I think it is a very positive development that consumers are more interested in learning about the food they eat and feed to their families. The frustrating thing is that the internet is not always the best source for facts. There tends to be a bias against conventional agriculture -- I'm not talking specifically about you -- If you browse the internet, the message to consumers seems to be that larger scale agriculture and conventional practices are bad and that organic and local is the only healthy choice. I don't agree with that notion. At the same time, I fully respect a person's decision to select those food choices. I just think that for the average consumer, those choices should be made with good facts at their disposal.
So that's my background... and my bias if you will.
Thanks again... talk to you soon.
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on September 09, 2014:
Good day, Mike. Thank you for your dialogue. I appreciate everything you have said. I definitely want my viewers, like yourself, not to feel mislead. I am going out of town soon and won't be able to review and edit my article for a couple of weeks. However, I want you to know that I will definitely revise what is necessary for a more balanced view. I wrote this article two years ago, and it really does need a lift. I appreciate you taking the time to discuss this with me.
As far as my last comment to you about the picture, I wasn't intending to say that all chicken with the yellow coloring looks "old and sickly." However, this picture shows that a chemically induced chicken does not look healthy. If you can increase the size of the picture, you may be better able to see what I see in comparison to the healthy chicken next to it.
By the way, I am curious on what your interest in chicken is. It seems that you have a story to tell defending conventional chicken farmers or manufacturers. Would you mind sharing what your background is?
Mike Giles on September 08, 2014:
Thank you Abby -- I appreciate the edit and acknowledgement that poultry is not fed or injected with hormones.
Do you think a reader would come away with that impression if they navigate to your blog from an internet search? Your blog is the third result returned on Google when you search for "hormones in chicken."
I doubt many readers get to the bottom of the comment section to learn the whole truth. I know you value your readers and want to give good and balanced information. With respect to "hormones in chickens", do you think your article is balanced? Is there any chance your readers could be mislead unintentionally by the headline and content of the blog?
At one point you say "chicken producers have spent countless dollars on advertising that hormones fed to chickens is a myth. Don't buy into their propaganda." Is that accurate and fair to your readers now that you know hormones are not fed or injected into chickens in any way whatsoever?
Your blog has a high profile and being accurate is a great responsibility that I'm sure you take seriously. Would you be willing to revise it so that readers would know clearly that hormones are not used in chicken production?
I would be pleased to get into a discussion about antibiotics and chemicals (though I'm not sure what you mean by chemicals). Believe me there is a balanced side to that story too... but one thing at a time!
And we could go back and forth on the picture. Bottom line is that yellow doesn't mean anything. In fact, it is desired by some consumers. Are you being fair when you say "the conventional chicken is old looking and sickly - not just yellow." How can anyone tell that from a picture?
Thank you again for participating in a dialogue!
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on September 06, 2014:
Thank you, Mike, for your insight and providing the information you have. I really appreciate you clarifying some things regarding hormones and chicken.
As far as my blue block in the article, "Myth? Don't Buy the Lie!" - I have made some changes and removed the link as it did not belong in that area. Though the FDA has not approved the 'natural occurring hormones' for chicken, they do allow antibiotics, additives, and other chemicals in chicken that do act as hormones. This can be read within my article as well. Though hormone injections are still allowed in cattle and sheep, which consumers should also be aware of.
As far as the skin coloring of chicken, you are absolutely correct. The coloring of the chicken skin can be obtained by what is fed to the animals. That also includes the feeding of additives, antibiotics, and other chemicals. I was not stating that "yellow" means that the chicken is unhealthy. However, you can see in my picture above that the yellow skin is not healthy compared to the organic chicken. The organic chicken is silky smooth while the conventional chicken is old looking and sickly - not just yellow.
Thank you again for adding to my article. I appreciate you! :-)
Mike Giles on September 04, 2014:
Thank you Abby! I appreciate the opportunity to establish a dialogue with you on the topic of hormones and chickens. It is one that is often misunderstood and is certainly the most persistent myth about chicken.
The short answer is that no hormones or steroids, whether natural or synthetic, are fed to or injected in poultry in any way. It simply does not happen. There are no caveats, no loopholes and no exceptions.
I’ll answer your question above directly. You say “the FDA has decided that naturally occurring includes the injection of these hormones: estradiol (estrogen), progesterone, and testosterone in an unnatural way. Would you consider that naturally occurring?”
My answer: The FDA does not allow this in poultry production. In your sidebar entitled “Myth? Don't buy the lie!”, you link an FDA document as evidence. I encourage you to read this source document closely. The naturally occurring hormone injections referred to in the document allowed by FDA are for cattle and sheep. In fact, the FDA document that you link clearly states that hormones are not allowed in chickens. Would I consider it naturally occurring if chickens were injected with natural hormones? No. And this does not happen.
Here is a link to USDA’s site explaining labeling requirements: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/fo...
In order for a chicken producer to claim “no hormones” on the label, they have to follow it with a statement that says "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones." This is so that consumers aren’t confused by these labeling claims. There is enough confusing and misleading information on the internet about this topic already!
Here is a link to a video by Dr. Nick Dale, one of the world’s foremost experts in poultry nutrition. He explains the science behind why feeding hormones to chickens will not work and why injecting hormones in chickens is impossible. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpxMdqUKP5U
Here is another technical article on the subject with a number of academic citations: http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/2812/chicke...
You say, “From the research I've completed, organic chickens are not fed these pellets of hormones.” You are absolutely correct. It is also correct that traditionally raised or non-organic chickens “are not fed these pellets of hormones” either. There is no difference whatsoever.
You ask me to “Just look at the difference in quality in the picture I posted.” I did and I can’t tell anything about the quality of the chicken from the picture. No one can.
In your blog you state about the picture, “The smaller chicken has a healthy pink and white skin while the larger, chemically-induced chicken has a gross yellow skin.” The color of a chicken’s skin has nothing to do with whether it is organic or not. I did a quick Google search, and here is an explanation from a small free roaming natural chicken producer -- http://www.wellingtonfarmsma.com/qanda.html#1 – see question 11. Simply stated, a chicken derives its skin color from the pigments in the feed that it eats. More ingredients like marigold and corn tend to make the chickens skin yellower… more wheat or milo and the skin will be whiter. A freshly dressed organic chicken of perfect quality can be a yellow skinned chicken. And a traditionally raised non-organic chicken can have a lighter skin color like the one in your picture.
These are the facts. As you said in your reply to me above, if you have any research (or other information for that matter) I would love to see it.
Thank you again for providing a forum where these important issues can be discussed. Hopefully a better educated consumer will be the result.
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on August 28, 2014:
Mike - Thank you for your comment. I do apologize as I never saw any comments from you in the past. I do allow just about every comment to come through, unless it is blatantly spam. IMHO, "naturally occurring" hormones are those that the body produces naturally (whether human or animal). However, the FDA has decided that naturally occurring includes the injection of these hormones: estradiol (estrogen), progesterone, and testosterone in an unnatural way. Would you consider that naturally occurring? To be certified "organic," chickens must be fed certified organic feed for their entire lives. Organic feed cannot contain animal by-products, antibiotics, or genetically engineered grains. The feed also cannot be grown using persistent pesticides or chemical fertilizers. From the research I've completed, organic chickens are not fed these pellets of hormones. Just look at the difference in quality in the picture I posted. I'm assuming you disagree as you have asked me to be fair from "all viewpoints." If you have research that shows otherwise, I would love to see it. Thank you for your comment, and have a great evening.
Mike Giles on August 27, 2014:
Abby -- these hormones you are referring to are naturally occurring. Are you suggesting that organic chickens would not have these naturally occurring hormones as well. I submitted another comment months ago, but it hasn't shown up. I assumed the blog was inactive, but I see that you have posted within the past two weeks. Please be fair and discuss and answer questions from all viewpoints.
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on August 14, 2014:
Thank you for your comment, Ms. Rice. Yes, it's a scary thing, and many people aren't knowledgeable in this area. Many of our illnesses come from foods that aren't treated properly, and it seems very unfair when we have to go through treatments. Kudos to your sister for taking a stance against anything that isn't natural. :-)
Ms. Rice on July 16, 2014:
I am very aware of the differences in chicken. I wont buy yellow chicken...can't look at it. Or chicken that's too large...not normal. My sister is on a new weight management that doest allow hormone or antibiotic meats. She eating cage free eggs and meats. I just am upset at the fact that my 8 yr old granddaughter has breast too!!! And I know its the food!!! I will pass the information on. Thank You!!
Lori McCormack on April 24, 2014:
I appreciate the information you have given, however I am a little confused. I have been doing some research and I have found out that the FDA has never allowed hormones or steroids in poultry. They can use antibiotics, but the amount is regulated. I don't know about other animals. I try to buy organic and hormone free foods because I have had hormone receptive cancer. I am concerned for my children because I also have the gene for cancer.
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on February 10, 2014:
Thank you very much, Bill. I appreciate your message here, and you have encouraged me to get back to writing. I have been out of commission for the last four months because my mother is going through chemo and radiation due to cancer, and my adopted father is in rehab after open heart surgery four weeks ago. I take your message as a sign to get back to writing so that I can get my message out. THANK YOU!!!
Bill Black on January 29, 2014:
I strongly believe the FDA is unethical to allow these food companies to put these chemicals and hormones in our foods and claim it is safe. What the FDA is saying then is let's go ahead and put a very small amount of gasoline in a glass of water and claim it I safe. It is absolutely ridiculous that the FDA can claim these processed and hormone infested foods are SAFE. The only way to stop these corrupted food companies putting poisons in our foods is to change policy and educate the general population. I try very hard to explain to people what is really in the foods they eat. People tend to take it very personal when you attack the foods they eat. For example, I was telling an individual the hormones and antibiotics McDonalds has in their beef and chicken and their higher chances of getting cancer and heart disease from eating those food. The person looked at me like I was crazy and responded by saying "everything will give you cancer". This is telling me the government is killing people very slowly and people seem to think nothing is wrong with it.
I live in Michigan near Detroit, and I was talking to a ten year old kid the other day and I asked him what kinds of foods do they have available for the school lunches. The kid told me they have pizza, fries, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, and cheese sticks. I asked the kid if they had any vegetables to eat. The kid responded they put broccoli and spinach for a topping on the pizza. This explains a lot to me that the government doesn't provide healthy foods for school lunches and that many of these kids will be overweight as adults and suffer from many major health issues. I think your article was very well done. I want to thank you for making people more aware of what's really in their foods and the consequences from eating these foods. I definitely believe that God has a great purpose for you to educate people and change their lives :). I think you and I are the same in relevance to always seeking the real truth behind things and finding ways to make a difference. God Bless :).
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on May 27, 2013:
Thank you for your comment, collegedad. That is very disturbing to say the least... kind of scary. No... it is scary. By buying the good stuff, hopefully it will encourage poultry farmers as there are ways to make money rather than selling out.
collegedad from The Upper Peninsula on May 27, 2013:
We spent 20 years living in big poultry country and I can tell you first hand that the children in our area matured quickly. My daughter had multiple eight year old classmates that were going through puberty. The chicken was cheap and plentiful, but the health implications disturbing. Great hub. Up and shared!
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on May 12, 2013:
ketage - Thank you for responding. It's truly sad. Many chicken farmers unfortunately have had to succumb to the rules of the manufacturers in order to get paid. Because more and more people are looking for "natural" or "organic" chicken, hopefully the market will take a turn for the better.
ketage from Croatia on May 11, 2013:
My friends family breeds and sells chickens, he says its like a chemical lab, the amount of stuff they pump into chickens would amaze the average consumer. great hub, voted up interesting
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on April 29, 2013:
Thank you for your response, Bill. Congrats on surviving cancer. I too am a cancer survivor. It's been 19 years for me. I was 24 when diagnosed. I wasn't expect to live more than 5 years, but it seems God had other plans for me. Maybe it's my fiction writing to come. LOL. I'm glad you got your voice back too. It's great to meet you, and I look forward to reading your hubs and learning from you. :-)
Bill Russo from Cape Cod on April 29, 2013:
Great job on this topic. For the last ten years, I have cut back on the red meat in favor of chicken. Some days I leave a big hole in the middle of my plate and go meatless. I still eat too much and have too many of the wrong foods, but at least I am now thinking about my choices. Keep on writing....and I will soon be looking for some fiction from you.
PS... cancer survivor nine years. Vocal cord cancer. Four operations did not stop it.............but the radiation worked and today, surprisingly, I am able to speak clearly despite possessing vocal cords that resemble pretzels.
Cat from New York on April 28, 2013:
I will never under the government's priorities myself, seems much of it has to do with greed. You're right... those are things we might not be able to change, but we can be informed and make better choices. You keep screaming and people are bound to hear you!
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on April 28, 2013:
Cantuhearmescream - I will never understand why the government and certain companies do the things they do. You would think the government would want us to be healthy, but there is so much red tape in approving and disapproving anything. All we can do is be better informed, educate others (including our politicians), and do what is right to set examples. :/
Cat from New York on April 27, 2013:
I just don't understand how the FDA can support this. Don't they understand the consequences of this? Don't they understand that there must be some correlation to this and medical issues. Aren't we supposed to be looking for ways to keep health up and medical expenses down? This is just crazy. Arghh!
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on April 25, 2013:
Thank you, sarifearnbd. You also have a great day! :-)
Dr Abby Campbell (author) from Charlotte, North Carolina on April 25, 2013:
Thank you, Cantuhearmescream. It's definitely disturbing. I remember doing an article a couple of years ago (I've since removed it from the internet) where I mentioned that it is illegal to use hormones in meats. That is what I was taught as a nutritionist and have read numerous and credible sources stating the same thing. When I saw that the FDA actually approves it and states so on their own site, I was appalled. No more confusion for me! I just thought that the meats were larger than organic because of antibiotic use. Just looking at the picture between hormone-induced and organic chickens made me want to hurl. On the note about early puberty, my niece went through this as well. She started developing at age 8 and was a EE by the time she was 15! This is just not normal and scary!
Cat from New York on April 24, 2013:
Excellent! I'm so glad you wrote this article. I have been trying to figure out what contributing factors are responsible for kids today growing up so fast. I'm not talking about mentally, emotionally or psychologically, because that is the case as well, but the cause of that would be a whole different conversation. Why are elementary-aged girls developing breats, why was my son starting to grow a mustache in 5th grade last year? Learning Disabilities? What is causing this? I have been blaming much of this as a result of our hormone riddled meats! Let us produce more meat, bigger meat... let us make more money... forget what it will do to those consuming it. Arghhh! I loved this!
Voted up and Useful!