The most formidable challenges of my veterinary career in food safety can be boiled down to the two primary foodborne pathogens of poultry: Salmonella and Campylobacter, says Robert O’Connor, DVM, senior vice president at Foster Farms. August 11, 2019.

Plant-Based Chicken vs. Contaminated Corpses

Highlights from “Chicken: The Most Contaminated Food Ever?” in Good Medicine, published by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Summer 2019.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture in April 2019 for ignoring concerns over widespread fecal contamination of chicken products.

Chicken may make you sick

Chicken “Fecal Soup”

Although USDA implements a “zero-tolerance” policy for fecal contamination, this policy applies only to visible fecal contamination. Chicken products pass inspection as long as feces are not visible to the naked eye.

Cooking chicken does not remove the feces, which may contain roundworms, hair worms, tape worms, and leftover bits of whatever the bird excreting the feces may have eaten, not to mention the usual components of digestive juices and various chemicals the bird was in the process of excreting.

In addition to feces, pathogens, carcinogens and cholesterol are also hiding in every bite, increasing the risk of foodborne illness, urinary tract infections, breast and prostate cancers, and heart disease.

Poultry Pathogens

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every year about 1 million people get sick from eating poultry products contaminated with harmful germs. New CDC research shows that foodborne illnesses from bacteria found in chicken products are on the rise, in particular Salmonella and Campylobacter infections.

Urinary Tract Infections

E. coli, another bacterium found in chicken feces, may be a major cause of urinary tract infections (UTIs). A 2018 study found that a strain of E. coli – E. coli ST131 – found in retail chicken products can be passed to people, leading to UTIs. E. coli ST131 is particularly adept at traveling from the bladder to the blood, killing thousands of people in the United States each year, according to the study.

Carcinogens and Cholesterol

Carcinogens occur naturally in chicken products. In a PCRM study compiled from independent laboratory tests, 100 percent of 100 grilled chicken samples from top restaurant chains in California contained a federally recognized carcinogen linked to breast, prostate, and other cancers.

Chicken products contain nearly as much cholesterol as red meat. Four ounces of beef and 4 ounces of chicken both contain approximately 100 milligrams of artery-clogging cholesterol, which contributes to heart disease.

Choosing Plant-Based Chicken

As the danger of eating chickens becomes more evident and the popularity of a vegan diet grows, even Chick-fil-A and KFC are looking at plant-based chicken options. A KFC spokesman told the media recently: “Veganism as a trend has really blown up. We’re currently in the process of working on both vegetarian and vegan options in the innovation kitchen.”

United Poultry Concerns Postscript: Please choose vegan over “vegetarian.” For delicious animal-free vegan recipes, visit, and check out our latest recipe in the Vegan Recipe Corner of this magazine.