So, Are Chickens Fed Hormones or Steroids? – The truth revealed

The Australian Chicken Meat Federation (ACMF) is calling for one of the most long-standing and widely-held myths about chicken to be busted once and for all. The fact is that hormones and steroids are NOT fed to chickens! New research has revealed that nearly 6 in 10 Australians have the wrong end of the chicken drumstick, incorrectly believing the myth that chickens raised to produce meat in Australia are given hormones or steroids. Only 13 per cent of survey respondents were correct in their understanding that meat chickens in Australia are NOT given hormones or steroids.

The research also indicated that more than a quarter of Australians are making a move away from red meat consumption to chicken meat for reasons such as health, budget and the environment. With this fact in mind, the ACMF wants to reassure Aussies that they can continue to eat their favourite meat without worrying about the addition of hormones or steroids.

Dr Vivien Kite, Executive Director of the ACMF says, “It’s time for Australians to get their facts straight about chicken meat production. Australian chickens are not given hormones or steroids in any way. Their size and robust growth occurs naturally due to selective breeding, animal husbandry and optimal nutrition.”

Modern meat chickens have been selectively bred to grow well and put on a lot more muscle, ie meat, more effectively than earlier chicken breeds. This breeding process has also enabled today’s chickens to convert their feed into meat more efficiently, reaching the desired market weight and quality more quickly than the breeds of chickens from which they originated. While meat yield and the efficiency with which birds convert feed to meat are important factors of modern breeding programs, so are traits such as robustness, physical fitness, reproductive fitness and resistance to disease and metabolic conditions.

Dr Sonia Liu, Senior Lecturer in Poultry Nutrition at the University of Sydney, says of modern meat chicken breeds, “The production efficiency and improved sustainability of today’s meat chickens is a combined effort from genetic selection breeding programs, better health and farm management practices, and advanced nutrition and feed formulation.”

Dr Kite added, “The industry hasn’t and doesn’t need hormones or steroids to achieve these improvements. Importantly, they are not approved for use in poultry meat production in Australia, which means that it is illegal to use them.”

To explain how the long-standing myth might have come about, Dr Kite says, “In the 1950s, a synthetic form of the female sex hormone oestrogen started to be used commercially in some parts of the world to increase the growth rate of cattle and to fatten the young male chickens. This was at a time when there were no specially bred strains of meat chickens, and people raised the relatively lean males of breeds used to produce eggs, for the purpose of meat production. As strains of chickens bred specifically for meat production started to be developed, this practice became irrelevant, and the use of such products was discontinued in the 1960s in Australia.

“Quite a few years later, media started speculating that the observed early sexual development in girls in Puerto Rico may be linked to the feeding of hormones to cattle and chickens, and despite the fact that subsequent investigation of the Puerto Rican incident discounted this theory, perhaps that’s where the hormone myth was born,” said Dr Kite.

Despite the facts, the myths around the use of hormones and steroids have lived on over the decades, and the recent research commissioned by the ACMF sought to understand how these myths have been perpetuated. “With this new research finding around 64 per cent of Australians sourced this misinformation from media or online, it’s now time for every Australian to get their facts straight and understand how their favourite meat is responsibly raised and brought to the table,” said Dr Kite. “We urge Australians to visit our website and learn the correct facts for themselves”, she said.

 

 

The YouGov research, undertaken in September 2022, revealed the following:

  • Nearly six in ten (58%) Australians believe that chickens raised to produce meat in Australia are given hormones or steroids with half (50%) of Australians believing that they are given hormones, while one in three (32%) believe that they are given steroids.
  • Only one in eight (13%) Australians believe that chickens raised to produce meat in Australia are given neither hormones nor steroids, and three in ten (29%) don’t know whether this is the case.
  • Over four in ten (42%) say that the reason why they think chickens raised to produce meat in Australia are given hormones/steroids is because they heard/read about it on TV, radio, newspapers, etc.
  • Four in ten (39%) say that they read about it online/on the internet, while one in three (33%) found out from talking to friends/family.
  • Nearly four in ten Australians (38%) are eating/ trying to eat more chicken or other white meats instead of red meat compared to a year ago.
  • Australian men (42%) are more likely than their female counterparts (35%) to be eating or trying to eat more chicken and other white meats instead of red meat compared to a year ago.
  • Interestingly, those who think that chickens in Australian are given hormones or steroids are just as likely as those who believe otherwise to be eating/ trying to eat more chicken instead of red meat.


Five facts about chicken meat:

  • More than 99 per cent of chicken meat consumed in Australia is grown in Australia.
  • Chicken has the lowest environmental footprint of all meats.
  • Chicken is a versatile and inexpensive source of dietary protein.
  • Cooked chicken meat is an excellent source of protein and source of essential nutrients including vitamins B6, B12 and niacin, and minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc.
  • Cooked chicken delivers more protein in fewer kilojoules than cooked legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds.
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