Maryland Law Takes Effect: Arsenic Banned from Chicken Feed

Written by Erica Meier

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Yes, arsenic. It’s a known toxin and carcinogen, yet it’s commonly used as an additive to chicken feed. Why? It’s been fed to chickens since the 1940s to promote growth and kill parasites.

Sound shocking and dangerous? Maryland Delegate Tom Hucker thought so, too. So in 2010, he introduced a bill in the state legislature aiming to prohibit poultry companies from adding this toxic drug to feed given to chickens who are raised for their meat.

As expected, the chicken industry and drug companies put up a fight, heavily lobbying against the bill. After a hard-fought battle, it was finally passed in 2012 — and the Arsenic Prohibition law officially went into effect as of January 1, 2013.

Although arsensic-based feed additives have been banned throughout the European Union since 1999, this law makes Maryland the first state in the US to ban the use of arsenic in chicken feed.

Maryland is one of the top chicken-producing states in the US, raising more than 300 million birds each year (that’s about 50 chickens for every one person living in the state). Adding arsenic to chicken feed not only raises concerns about trace amounts of the toxin being consumed by those eating meat, but arsenic also ends up the birds’ waste, which is referred to as “chicken litter.”

Can you guess where all of this arsenic-laced chicken litter ends up? It’s commonly used as a fertilizer spread across agricultural fields, some of which can accumulate in the soil at toxic levels and some of which runs off into local waterways. In Maryland alone, it’s estimated that over 22,000 pounds of arsenic are dumped onto fields through the spread of contaminated chicken waste.

Learn more about arsenic and the health risks associated with eating chicken by watching this short video (below) by Dr. Greger from NutritionFacts.org.

Most importantly, be sure to take steps to protect your health, the environment, and chickens by choosing meat-free options, including veggie “chicken” patties, nuggets, buffalo wings, and more!