MUST READ: Things Have Gotten Fishy in the Chicken Industry

Contributed by Sam Bocetta, SGT report:

We all grew up on that urban legend about the lady who bit into a piece of chicken at her neighborhood KFC and discovered that it was a deep-fried rat. Most rational people realize at once that this is the stuff of folklore or myth. But the truth may be just as strange as the fiction.

A recent report on fast-casual restaurants found that the vast majority of fast food joints use meat that has been treated with antibiotics that are believed to create bacteria that is immune to traditional antibiotics. What this means is that if you eat their meat and then you get sick, the drugs your doctor prescribes to treat your illness may not work.

In other words, the chicken and sausage at your local Popeye's or Dunkin Donuts could be just as unhygienic and unhealthy as eating a deep-fried gutter dweller.

And it doesn't stop there. A larger problem is also afoot and it involves the food industry's fudging of numbers when it comes to food safety dates.

In late-September, the Guardian blew the lid off UK-based 2 Sisters Food Group. The food group in question is the top supplier of supermarket chicken in the United Kingdom allegedly misled customers into purchasing out-of-date meat. The evidence pointed to the tainted meat being distributed to no less than five chain grocers in the region, including Aldi.

Even those companies that received passing scores in that recent survey aren't above suspicion. McDonald's, a chain that scored a B+, just introduced their Buttermilk Chicken Tenders and they are definitely cause for raised eyebrows. In a taste test earlier this month, I found them to be the grisliest meat on the fast-casual scene.

When you attempt to rip one in half, you are met by resistance. Instead of tearing, the meat twists like you are wringing out a washcloth. If it is, indeed, chicken, it is some sort of mutant chicken that's pure sinew. If these things aren't on steroids, I'll eat my hat (at least my hat is hormone-free).

It would appear as though there is no safe place to get meat these days unless you kill the chicken and cook it yourself in your own backyard. And it's hardly a conundrum that's brand-spanking new. Back in 2014, companies like Burger King, McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks were involved in a toxic food scandal after it was discovered that they were supplying their Chinese branches with expired meat.

What's worse is the fact that we're not only forced to cope with the questionable quality of the chicken we purchase from grocery stores and fast food restaurants. We also must grapple with our meals being potentially compromised by unethical employees.

Earlier this year, a Mississippi Jack's Family Restaurant location came under social media scrutiny for alleged food contamination after a 16-year old girl reported an employee for smearing menstrual blood on a customer's hamburger.

The madness doesn't stop there either; Burger King has admitted in the past that they sell “beef” burgers that actually contain horsemeat. In 2016, a Mirror expose revealed that Mickey D's so-called “chicken” McNuggets only contain 45% of actual chicken.

Among the other ingredients in McNuggets, there is dextrose, a sugar that shoemakers use to make leather more pliable. It's not uncommon for fast food joints to add fillers as well. Oftentimes, they will use additives to beef up their chicken tender's profile and use the excuse that the ingredient limits oil spatter during the frying process.

Fortunately, we live in more self-aware, health-conscious times and reputable companies are beginning to take notice. Several poultry purveyors advertise the fact that their meats are antibiotic and non-GMO on their labels.

Here is a short list of supermarket brands that you can trust:

  • Whole Foods

  • Katie's Best

  • Readington Farms

  • Feel Good Foods

Unless you're a scientist, you will likely never know exactly what you are getting from any frozen food provider which is why the best option is to go directly to the source. In a perfect world, everyone would be able to buy from a local farm, right?

Well, the truth is that you can. By joining a club like Local Harvest or Eat Wild, you are guaranteed to get fresh, farm-raised meats. They connect you to nearby farmers who are committed to promoting the benefits of choosing 100% grass-fed animals and other animals that have been given natural diets.

If you're hankering for the fast-casual experience, there are still fresh options available to the public. According to nutrition specialist Dr. Josh Axe, the healthiest fast-food restaurants include Chopt, Freshii, Pizza Fusion, Tender Greens and Veggie Grill.

If none of these region-specific restaurants have locations in your area, you're not alone. Of the ten that Dr. Axe mentions, I've only ever heard of two of them and seen one. So for those of us who don't reside in major cities, here is my list of the healthiest fast-casual dining establishments in America:

  • Panera Bread (Their chicken is hormone-free and their organic whole wheat wraps are awesome)

  • Chipotle (Unlike Taco Bell, you won't get leathery chicken strips or pale tomato chunks here, everything is certified fresh; you get robust, natural ingredients freshly prepared in front of your very own eyes)

  • Taco Del Mar (Low-cal burritos with less sodium and fat than the competition...just don't eat their Mondo Breakfast Burrito or you'll be on that treadmill all day long)

Now that we've taken a look at the best of the best, let's take a look at the worst of the worst.

  • Zaxby's (Grilled chicken with more calories than a McDonald's cheeseburger and more sodium than a serving of canned soup)

  • Chick-Fil-A (MSG-loaded breading is just the beginning of my problems with this one)

Now that we've seen how fishy the meat industry can be, it should be easier to select a healthier option. When in doubt, make sure to pay extra attention to what the packaging says. For one thing, “organic” does not necessarily mean “antibiotic-free.” Always research the meat you eat before you eat it. That being said, don't be a chicken because, as we've seen, there are plenty of reputable sources available for quality meats.

About the author

Sam Bocetta is a retired defense contractor for the U.S. Navy, a defense analyst, and a freelance journalist. He writes at Gun News Daily about program management, export control, international commerce, patents, InfoSec, cryptography, cyberwarfare, and cyberdefense.