September is Chicken Month! Who would have thought? But, it is a great opportunity to talk about chicken and how it fits into a healthy diet.
Chicken can be a wonderful protein source for many individuals. However, there are some issues to watch out for when choosing chicken and chicken-based products.
What to be aware of:
- Meat glue in chicken nuggets
- Antibiotics and other drugs
- The importance of pasture-raised
If you are like me, I had to do a double take when I read that. Meat Glue?!? A friend had it come up in a food allergy panel and when I read up about it, I knew I had to share what I learned with you.
Just like I teach in both my Nourishing Hope for Healing Kids and my BioIndividual Nutrition Programs, food additives, such as preservatives, colorings and fillers, are commonly used in the food industry to improve the taste, texture and color of products. However, they may not always be good for you and some are actually harmful.
Meat glue, aka Transglutaminase, is a controversial food additive that many people choose to avoid due to health concerns. It is an enzyme that’s found naturally in humans, animals and plants that helps link proteins together by forming covalent bonds.
In humans and animals, transglutaminase plays a role in bodily processes like blood clotting and sperm production. The transglutaminase used in food is manufactured either from the blood clotting factors of animals like cows and pigs or bacteria derived from plant extracts and is typically sold in powder form.
As its nickname suggests, it acts as a glue, holding together proteins found in common foods like meat, baked goods, cheese, and you guessed it, chicken nuggets! It allows food producers to improve the texture of foods or create products by binding different protein sources together.
So, if that doesn’t give you reason enough to make your own chicken nuggets, I don’t know what does. This information sure made me double check labels and verify whether it is in the ones I give my own daughter (it is not in every product, so check those labels). But, just to be sure, making your own chicken nuggets ensures that you know exactly what is in yours and that you are feeding your child(ren) the best quality, allergen free version. And, to make it easy, see below for my own recipe for gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and egg-free chicken nuggets that are easy to make, delicious, and meat-glue free!
Researchers from John’s Hopkins and Arizona State University tested chicken for antibiotics. But because it cost no more to check for other chemicals, they did that as well! The first surprise was the discovery of a class of antibiotics that included Cipro, fluoroquinolones. This was found in samples of feather meal, a product made from chicken feathers that is added to feed for chicken, swine, cattle, and fish. The FDA banned use of these antibiotics in poultry production in 2005 because they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistance in bacteria that could be very harmful to human health. According to the Infectious Disease Society of America, just one organism – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) kills more Americans every year than emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and homicides combined.
Antibiotics are added to chicken feed to make them grow faster, not to treat diseases in the birds! The researchers found that all 12 samples of feather meal they tested had residues of between two and 10 antibiotics. The meal also contained acetaminophen which is the active ingredient in Tylenol; an antihistamine that is the active ingredient in Benadryl; fluoxetine, an antidepressant used in Prozac; and caffeine. You probably didn’t know you were getting a serving of drugs with your chicken, did you?
Benadryl is added to chicken feed to reduce stress and anxiety in the birds, which can slow growth and make the meat tougher. Caffeine is added to keep the birds awake so they can eat more. As you can see, there are a number of reasons to avoid factory farmed chicken.
The arsenic found in chickens comes from a drug called roxarsone. It is added to chicken feed to fight parasites, make meat pinker, and make more plump. On April 9, 2012 The Washington Post reported that the Maryland legislature had voted to ban use of additives containing arsenic in chicken feed, they were the first state to do so. (Maryland is the 10th largest producer of broiler chickens in the U.S.) The product is also banned in Canada and the European Union. In 2011, the FDA tested 100 chickens by giving them feed containing roxarsone. Half the birds later showed trace amounts of inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, in their livers.
This type of chicken is nutrient-dense because of their fresh, natural diet. Compared to barn-raised birds (and even “free range organic”), pasture-raised chickens actively graze on vitamin- and protein-rich pasture and hunt for seeds and insects. Some benefits of pasture-raised chicken:
- Higher concentrations of vitamins D and E
- Other vitamins, like vitamin A and beta-carotene, and micronutrients may also be higher but there’s isn’t sufficient data to say this with confidence
- Gelatin-rich broth and healthy organs and, therefore, increased value of the whole bird
- More good fat (OMEGA-3’s) depending on the ingredients in the chicken feed and what they have access to eating
- Chickens also require grain and the ingredients in the feed contribute to the ratio of bad fats to good fats (OMEGA 6:3). Corn and soy, especially, increase the amount of bad fat (OMEGA 6) compared to good fat (OMEGA 3) so if you raise your own chickens, this is a good reason to choose a feed without corn and soy.
Egg-Free Chicken Nuggets
GFCFSF/Low Oxalate/Low Salicylate, Egg-Free, and Nut-Free
- Chicken breasts or thighs
- 2/3 cup GF flour (I use 2/3 brown rice flour and 1/3 potato starch or tapioca starch or a combo of both)
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or other GF vinegar
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1/3 cup water
- ½ tsp salt
Cut up the chicken into nugget sized pieces.
Measure out your ingredients so you can combine everything fairly rapidly. Mix the flour and salt in the bowl you will use for dipping the chicken. Combine the soda and vinegar and quickly add it to the flour as it fizzes. Quickly add the water next. Mix it together with a fork.
Heat oil in a pan. Dip the chicken in the batter. When the pan is hot enough, place the nuggets in the pan and cook on medium heat. Turn them over half way through cooking so they cook on both sides.
Drain on paper towel. Serve alone or with a dipping sauce. Freeze leftovers.