2018 Gluten Free Halloween Candy List
The research-based short answer to the question Will Gluten or Other Grains from Chicken Feed Get into the Meat? is No.
And from Dr. Ruth MacDonald, Department Chair in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University:
“The simple answer is no. The animal converts food proteins into animal proteins by breaking down their structure during digestion (amino acids are separated and then repackaged during metabolism). Therefore, the meat will never contain any consumed proteins in their intact form. Meat, regardless of what the animal is fed, will not contain any gluten. The only way gluten could be in the meat is if the meat has been processed using fillers or if breading or some other type of preparation is done that adds a product containing gluten. But meat, by itself, is always gluten-free.”
So, if you’ve heard otherwise, I have the facts so that you can help me spread the word, clear up the misinformation and set the record straight. ;-)
Let’s start with this juicy chicken feed fact:
Most poultry for consumption in the USA is from commercially grown broiler chickens. Those birds consume a high protein, nutritionally enhanced ration of corn (70%) and soybean (20%) meal. The remaining 10% of the ration consist of vitamins and minerals.
Why the supplements in that corn-soy ration? Because chickens are omnivores. The oft-touted “vegetarian” diet they are fed is nothing more than a marketing ploy. In fact, it is not the best diet for a chicken.
In the wild, chickens eat insects, worms, seeds, and nibble on green leafies and berries when they can find them. A chicken will even snag a small creature like a frog given the chance. As more and more people want to get back to what is most natural for the animals, we see some farmers raising pastured chickens.
While it sounds magical and lovely for chickens to roam the meadow and frolic their (short) feathery lives away, it’s probably not exactly like you imagine. They do live outdoors quite a bit, with room to roam, but they are also provided shelter from inclement weather, predators, etc. They also still eat chicken feed. Check out these pastured chicken facts.
And if you’re thinking organic is the only way to go, here are a few organic chicken facts. I’m betting the last one will surprise most of you.
The point here is that regardless of the type chicken you eat – standard commercial, pastured or organic – you still eat chicken fed a grain ration.
First, we must consider the animal’s digestion.
My training in animal husbandry and pre-veterinary medicine, not to mention my research science background, comes in handy here.
There’s more, but it’s on the neuro research side and will probably bore you to pieces. Let’s just say, I know my way around a chicken.
Now that we know those fun facts, let’s look at how chicken digestion works.
Domestic fowl have a unique digestive system that differs from that of humans. The specific organs and their detailed function aren’t necessary to know to understand the basics of how the ration is broken down in commercial fowl, but here’s the short version.
After food is ingested by fowl, saliva breaks it down. Next, the food undergoes a series of chemical and mechanical processes, further reducing it to a form that can be readily absorbed into the bird’s system.
These processes involve various organs. Some, like the gizzard, used for mechanical breakdown of food, are unique to birds. Other organs, like the pancreas and small intestine, which release digestive chemicals, are familiar to us and resemble those structures in our body.
Ultimately, what is important to understand about chicken digestion is that the ration they eat is reduced to simple building blocks (amino acids) that can be absorbed through the wall of the small intestine and into other structures to be used by the bird for maintenance of normal bodily functions and growth.
Particles that escape this breakdown and absorption process are not lost. These are acted on by bacteria in a unique structure (the caeca), then absorbed into the system.
What remains after digestion is nothing like the starter ration. Everything ingested is reduced to very basic molecules and anything beyond that exits as waste.
As stated, chickens are not typically fed wheat; however, if they were, the gluten protein would be broken down into individual amino acids (the basic building blocks of proteins), which are very small, short-chain fragments. No gluten protein would make it into the meat and onto our plate.
The resulting poultry we buy in the local grocery store, then, would be gluten-free (barring the addition of any seasonings, breading, sauces or marinades that may possibly contain gluten, of course).
And if you’re confused by hearsay about hormones, steroids and such, here are a few fun fowl facts.
Now we know, like we’ve always known, that chicken is naturally gluten-free.
And if you’re hungry, try my favorite chicken recipe, Baked at 420 Chicken!
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