Saint Cloud, Minn. (August 18, 2006)
From concerns about antibiotics and other additives to the current bird flu threat, there's a lot of confusing talk about chicken today. For the average American who eats 85 pounds of chicken every year, the ambiguity begs the question: how do you ensure the chicken you eat is safe?
According to Mike Helgeson, CEO of Gold'n Plump, one of the leading poultry producers in the Midwest, American consumers can empower themselves by uncovering the truth beneath the current buzz.
"Quality and freshness used to be the standard of good chicken, but today's consumers are overwhelmed with words like antibiotics, hormones and even bird flu," Helgeson says. "The truth of the matter is that the chicken supply remains wholesome and safe to eat. There's no need to worry if you understand how chicken is produced and can identify what the various labels mean."
To help you choose the best chicken for your family, Helgeson offers answers to some of the common questions plaguing meat eaters today.
Q. Can I get avian influenza or "bird flu" from chicken?
A. The fact is, you can't get the bird flu by eating properly cooked chicken. Cooking chicken to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit ensures it is safe to eat.
Q. What is being done to protect the chicken I buy from having "bird flu "?
A. Even though the bird flu poses no food safety threat, chicken companies are working hard to ensure the chicken supply remains safe and healthy in case the bird flu does appear in the United States.
At Gold'n Plump, for example, the local family farmers who raise our chickens have all implemented strict security safeguards at their farms. The chickens are raised in enclosed barns and access is limited to those who care for the chickens or provide a service related to their care. This ensures they're protected from the environment and from contact with wild birds (known carriers of avian influenza).
As an added precaution, every Gold'n Plump flock is voluntarily tested for the presence of H5/H7 avian influenza before leaving the barn. Since this testing began, every Gold'n Plump flock has tested avian influenza-free. Furthermore, every bird is inspected by the USDA before it is packaged and leaves the processing plant to be sold.
If avian influenza is found in a commercial flock (which is extremely unlikely due to the strict bio-security safeguards in place), the entire flock will be humanely euthanized and will not enter the food supply. The area will also be quarantined to prevent spread to wild birds or other chicken flocks.
Q. Should I be concerned about hormones in chicken?
A. The use of hormones has been illegal in U.S. poultry production since 1952, according to USDA regulations. If you're eating American-grown chicken from a reputable source, there's no need to be concerned about added hormones or other growth-enhancing agents.
Q. What does "all natural" mean?
A. To be labeled as "all natural" according to USDA guidelines, chicken must be minimally processed. All-natural chicken has simply been cleaned, cut up, trimmed and packaged without adding artificial ingredients, preservatives, colors or fillers. Only products that meet these criteria can display all natural on the label.
Q. Are there antibiotics in the chicken we eat? Why are people concerned?
A. Stringent FDA and USDA regulations require chickens to be weaned from all antibiotics well before processing, so there are absolutely no antibiotics or antibiotic residue in the chicken you buy and serve to your family.
Because many consumers are worried that overusing antibiotics will make them less effective and could lead to antibiotic-resistance, many chicken producers are working to find new ways to reduce their use without compromising the quality of their animal care or products. At Gold'n Plump, for instance, nearly all flocks have been raised without antibiotics.
Q. What should I look for -when buying chicken at the grocery store?
A. Start by choosing a trusted brand that is dedicated to providing the high quality, fresh and flavorful poultry. If you are unsure of which product to buy, look for brands that have completely clear packaging to ensure the meat is healthy, free of bruising and has nothing to hide.
Always select chicken that is clean, cold and tightly sealed. For extra precaution look for products that have a current sell-by date imprinted on the package to ensure its freshness.
Try to pick up fresh or frozen poultry toward the end of the shopping trip, so it stays cold for as long as possible, and refrigerate your chicken products within half an hour of buying them at the store.
For more information about the safety of America's chicken supply visit www.goldnplump.com and click on "Get the Facts."
About Gold'n Plump
Based in St. Cloud, Minn., Gold'n Plump Poultry is a family-owned provider of premium chicken products to retail, deli and foodservice customers throughout the Midwest and in other parts of the country. The company employs about 1,600 people and partners with more than 250 growers in Minnesota and Wisconsin to produce wholesome, high-quality chicken.
For more information on its full line of poultry products, as well as side-dish suggestions, innovative chicken-based recipes, general cooking and safe handling tips, nutrition information and Gold'n Plump's company background, visit goldnplump.com.
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