Frequently Asked Questions
- Are hormones used in the raising of chickens?
- Are your chickens raised in coops?
- What is Salmonella and how can I tell if chicken is contaminated by Salmonella?
- How can I be sure chicken is done?
- What color should the chicken skin be?
- Why are chicken bones dark in color? Does darkening around the bones mean the cooked chicken meat is spoiled?
- Is white meat chicken healthier than dark meat? Which chicken parts are white meat and which are dark meat?
- Are the amino acids Gerber Amish Farm Chickens consume derived from animal proteins?
- Does the mineral mix for Gerber Amish Farm Chickens include calcium derived from animal bone?
- In one of your website articles you say that chickens will "eat anything they can peck at". Could this include the fecal matter of nearby chickens?
- With the above being said, how often are the chicken houses cleaned?
- You say your chickens are grown on "family owned Amish farms". Does one family own many farms? Or is each farm independently owned by an independent family?
- Are your chickens grown on "Family owned Factory Farms?"
Gerber Poultry answers your avian influenza questions:
Answer: Chickens produced or sold in the United States contain no added or artificial hormones. The U.S. government strictly regulates all feed additives and has never permitted any type of hormones to be added to feed or otherwise given to chickens. Federal regulations also prohibit the use of added steroids in poultry.Question: Are your chickens raised in coops?
Answer: No. Our chickens are raised in large, temperature controlled houses, have room to move about freely and have light and fresh air. Clean water and feed also are available at all times.Question: What is Salmonella and how can I tell if chicken is contaminated by Salmonella?
Answer: Salmonella is a bacterium widely prevalent in the environment. It may be found in water, soil, in the intestinal tract and on the skin of humans and all other animals and birds. Because of its prevalence in nature, salmonella may sometimes be found in raw foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, unpasteurized milk and raw vegetables. Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, an illness that results in flu-like symptoms. Because you cannot see, smell or otherwise detect the presence of Salmonella, it is best to be sure you cook and handle all foods properly to avoid a problem. Salmonella is easily destroyed by heat, you can eliminate any threat to health by cooking foods to recommended temperatures and by following good food handling practices.Question: How can I be sure chicken is done?
Answer: The most accurate way to ensure your chicken is done is to use a meat thermometer. Whole chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 180°F. Insert the tip of the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. Bone-in parts should be cooked to 170°F, and boneless parts should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F. Other tests to ensure that the chicken is thoroughly cooked include: the juices should be clear, not pink, when the chicken is pierced with a fork; the meat should be opaque and no longer pink in the center or near the bone when cut with a knife; and the chicken should be “fork tender.”Question: What color should the chicken skin be?
Answer: The skin color of chicken varies from cream-colored to yellow. The color is simply a result of the type of feed given the chicken and is not a measure of wholesomeness, nutritional value, flavor, tenderness or fat content. Various areas of the country have different color preferences; therefore, growers in a particular area feed chickens a diet to produce a desired color.Question: Why are chicken bones dark in color? Does darkening around the bones mean the cooked chicken meat is spoiled?
Answer: Darkening around bones occurs primarily in young chickens. Since their bones have not calcified completely, pigment from the bone marrow can seep through the porous bones. Freezing can also contribute to this seepage. When the chicken is cooked, the pigment turns dark. It is perfectly safe to eat chicken meat that turns dark during cooking.Question: Is white meat chicken healthier than dark meat? Which chicken parts are white meat and which are dark meat?
Answer: White meat chicken is not healthier than dark meat. Chicken breast, white meat, is generally lower in calories than dark meat, but all chicken has a high nutritional value. It is one of the best sources of low-fat meat protein. It is low in calories, sodium and cholesterol and a good source of iron and other key vitamins and minerals. Chicken breasts and wings are white meat while drumsticks and thighs are dark meat. The wishbone or keel and tenderloins or tenders are part of the breast, therefore are white meat.Question: Are the amino acids Gerber Amish Farm Chickens consume derived from animal proteins?
Answer: No. The source is methionine, which can be found in sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, and some vegetable sources, the best being peppers and spinach.Question: Does the mineral mix for Gerber Amish Farm Chickens include calcium derived from animal bone?
Answer: No. Our lime calcium is calcium carbonate; found in limestone and most of the worlds rocks.Question: In one of your website articles you say that chickens will "eat anything they can peck at". Could this include the fecal matter of nearby chickens?
Answer: It could, and this sounds a bit gross, but not to a bird. In any rural setting, or county fair or circus where there is manure one can see birds (sparrows, etc.) pecking through the piles. We see this often enough on our roads due to the large quantity of Amish horse buggy traffic. The birds do not eat the manure; they are pecking through it to find seeds, bugs and other edible delicacies (to a bird). Chicken house floors are covered with several inches of dry, friable litter. The litter, in our area hardwood sawdust, is used to absorb urine and feces. There are bugs and delicacies in the litter that the chickens pick through. Like their wild cousins, chickens do not eat feces, and picking through fecal material, litter, is not socially improper (for a chicken; do not try this at home; they are the professionals) nor injurious to the healthy development of the chicken.Question: With the above being said, how often are the chicken houses cleaned
Answer: Every time the house is emptied it is cleaned out; chickens are raised to an age of about six weeks and the house sits empty for up to two weeks. This sit-out time gives the grower time to prepare the house for the next delivery of chicks. Therefore, about once every seven to eight weeks the house is cleaned. Cleaning involves: removal of all litter from the brood area; that is the area (about 1/3 of the house) where chicks are placed upon initial delivery before the whole house is opened to them as they grow. It also involves "decrusting'; the removal of the top layer of litter from the rest of the house. New litter is then placed in the brooding area and on the surface of the remainder of the house. There are micro flora and biological activity in old litter that are important to the natural development of the chicken's antibodies and disease protection abilities. These physical qualities develop in the growing chicken as it ages, but not as a chick; which is one reason why the litter is the brooding area litter is replaced, but not in the whole house.Question: You say your chickens are grown on "family owned Amish farms". Does one family own many farms? Or is each farm independently owned by an independent family?
Answer: Most of the houses our chickens are raised in are 400 feet long. It takes a lot of land for a building that large. Therefore most of the farmers growing our chickens only have one house on their land. However, of the 125 families who raise chickens for us we do have about twenty farmers with land enough for two houses and we actually have three farmers with land enough for three. In all cases the houses are on family owned farm land managed by the families and extended families of growers.Question: Are your chickens grown on "Family owned Factory Farms?"
Answer: As noted above, the farms where our chicken houses are located are family developed and maintained farms where the families generally live (there are a few where the chicken house is down the road or on someone else's land). The farms were not produced in factories. "Factory farm" is a really impossible-to define-phrase; which is why it is used in certain circles (Food, Inc., etc.) to garner support for specific issues. It has an immediate emotional impact that leads, often enough, to specific actions or convictions, though unsupported by facts. "Factory farm" is a really clever phrase; it works well for those opposed in some degree to animal agriculture or modernization. Perhaps farm and agriculture folks could come up with a similar phrase in defensive response to 'factory farm'. But probably not; most of those folks are too busy trying to produce safe, quality food in a sometimes hostile environment.Question: Should I be alarmed by the stories in the news about the Asian bird flu?
Answer: No. The strain of Asian bird flu in the news, highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza, has never been found in the U.S. All Gerber products sold in the U.S. come from poultry raised by farm families in the U.S. Our poultry are raised in environmentally controlled houses, protecting them from contact with potential carriers of disease; we maintain strict biosecurity procedures covering all aspects of the bird's life; and we carefully monitor the health of every flock. This is very different from some parts of Asia where chickens are raised in close quarters with humans.Question: Should I be concerned about eating poultry products?
Answer: Absolutely not, because avian influenza is not a food safety issue. No one has been known to be infected by eating poultry meat, even in Asia. Furthermore, proper cooking kills any germs that may be present, including avian influenza. Of course, we always recommend you follow proper handling and cooking methods, including washing your hands, avoiding cross-contamination, cooking thoroughly and refrigerating leftovers promptlyQuestion: If Asian bird flu isn't in the U.S., why is everyone so concerned?
Answer: In rare cases, the current Asian strain has infected humans, but it is not easily transmitted from bird to human; only people who have had close physical contact with sick birds have become ill. While the virus has not yet shown the ability to move readily from person to person, it theoretically could mutate into a form that could be spread by infected people. It is this possibility that has health officials concerned.Question: What's being done to protect U.S. flocks?
Answer: The U.S. has multiple lines of defense to prevent the introduction of Asian bird flu here, including bans on the importation of bird and bird products from affected areas and aggressive surveillance of migratory birds and domestic flocks. U.S. poultry from companies like Gerbers are raised in environmentally controlled houses, which protects them from contact with potential disease carriers. Strict biosecurity procedures for all aspects of live production are designed to prevent the introduction of disease onto a farm. Our producers, flock supervisors and poultry veterinarians monitor the health of every flock. In addition, 100% of Gerber flocks are being tested for key strains of avian influenza before processing. These tests are conducted on the farm using National Poultry Improvement Plan protocols established through state and federal partnerships. Any flock found to have avian influenza in the H5 or H7 types will be promptly and humanely destroyed on the farm and disposed of in an environmentally acceptable manner. None of the birds will be sent to the processing plant or otherwise enter the food chain.Question: How I can be sure the Gerber poultry I buy is healthy?
Answer: Our producers, flock supervisors and poultry veterinarians monitor the health of every flock. Our monitoring system assures the detection of any disease affecting the birds' health. In addition to our many quality and food safety checks, USDA inspectors ensure the wholesomeness of every Gerber product.For More Information regarding avian influenza:
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