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Researchers selected and bred birds who were larger and faster-growing to create a new type of chicken, “a broad-breasted bird with bigger drumsticks, plumper thighs and layers of white meat,” according to writer and broadcaster Lowell Thomas, who narrated a documentary sponsored by Texaco.It would be, proclaimed the film’s title, “The Chicken of Tomorrow.” Over decades, America got all that and more.
Fresh from the trauma of World War II, mid-century Americans imagined a peaceful, prosperous future. Instead, they looked forward to the bird of the future—bigger, better.
And, after years of rationing, they hoped for bountiful meals. But not the scrawny, spent laying hens, exhausted from their lives producing eggs, that Americans ate when beef and pork were scarce.
The most important findings to date have come from the Study for Future Families, a multicenter study of prenatal clinics in California, Minnesota, and Missouri. Researchers measured the levels of phthalates flowing through the bodies of pregnant women, and then later measured the size and characteristics of their infant sons’ genitalia between ages 2 months to 3 years.
There was one phthalate particularly associated with a smaller penis, mono 2-ethylhexyl phthalate, MEHP.
Unable to escape the pain, they lie in litter strewn with their own waste.
Ammonia burns their breasts and often blisters their skin and feet.What has taken place is the opposite of Darwinian selection, Webster says, “They’ve destroyed the fitness of the bird in order to produce the most meat.” With approximately 9 billion broilers raised and slaughtered each year in the U. alone (60 billion worldwide), Webster calls the broiler industry the single greatest example of human inhumanity toward another animal.It’s why Shields chose chickens as the subject of her doctoral dissertation.The team of researchers conclude: “These changes in male infants, associated with prenatal exposure to some of the same phthalate metabolites that cause similar alterations in male rodents, suggest that commonly used phthalates may undervirilize humans as well….” So what foods should pregnant women stay away from to avoid the “phthalate-related syndrome of incomplete virilization” in their sons?In the study published last year, the urine phthalate levels of thousands of Americans all across the country were measured, along with their diets, to find out which food was most significantly associated with phthalate body burden.A recent paper shows the consequences: Scientists at a research farm in Alberta that has continued to breed earlier strains of chickens took pictures of a 1956 type broiler, a 1978 broiler and a 2005 broiler, all 8 weeks old, and placed the photos side by side.The result is unsettling: On the left, a comparatively fit bird (1956), in the center a plump chicken (1978) who appears “normal” (if you don’t know how chickens used to look), and on the right, the “chicken of tomorrow,” a morbidly obese bird (2005) who appears monstrous next to the others.By modern standards, she’s a week or two past the date when she would be slaughtered for meat and she’s at high risk for heart failure.She’s a juvenile, but the size of her body has outgrown the capacity of her bones and joints, muscles and organs to support it, says John Webster, professor emeritus of animal husbandry at the University of Bristol.They looked at dairy, eggs, fish, fruit, poultry, potatoes, tomatoes, vegetables in general, and red meat.The most statistically significant finding in their analysis was the link between poultry consumption and MEHP.