Chicken Sex

By Mario Fiorucci, Co-Founder of The Healthy Butcher

This article was originally published in Tonic Magazine November 2011

 

Introduction

I have to start by admitting that I am not an expert in the field of pediatrics (although my wife would tell you that I think I’m an expert on everything).  But, the topic of early maturity in girls instantly tickled my spider sense because I have a three-year old daughter.  A few months ago, Pediatrics – the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics – published a report out of Copenhagen University which showed that between 1991 and 2006, the average age of breast development in girls (called thelarche, which is the first sign of impending puberty) – decreased from 10.88 years to 9.86 years.  Along that theme, there are no shortages of similarly concluding studies;  another I came across found that the average age of first menstruation (called menarche) decreased from 15 in the 19th century to 13.5 in the 1960s, to 12!

In this super sexualized world where “sexting” is part of everyday teen language and YouTube posts are beginning to look more and more like XXX porn, I don’t have to explain how early puberty can wreak havoc on a girl’s long term social stability.  (Wow, I felt old writing that sentence… it must be the new dad in me).  Moreover, earlier puberty means more estrogen; more estrogen in the system means increased risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular implications, and even obesity.  So, the million dollar question is:  Why is puberty occurring at a younger age?

I don’t know; there’s never been a conclusive study, nor will there ever be because the number of potential factors is huge – environment chemicals, junk food, hormones in meat, lack of physical activity, watching Paris Hilton on TV, the list goes on.  I posed the question to Dr. Alvin Pettle, MD F.R.C.S., a physician who practiced obstetrics and gynecology for 25 years at the Etobicoke General Hospital before opening his own clinic and becoming a world expert on the use of natural bio-identical hormones (www.drpettle.com). “Estrogen is the answer.  It’s everywhere, you can’t get away from it,” he answered matter of factly, “we are bombarded with estrogen through our environment, pills, food, everywhere.  It’s not just a problem for women, men too are suffering from higher levels of estrogen causing low sperm counts and even impotence.”

RealFoodToronto-Hen_OutsideSo ladies and gentlemen, we have a huge problem on our hands and we should be doing everything possible to avoid potentially catastrophic health issues.   Of course, I could give the generic recommendation: Eat a balanced diet and get plenty of exercise.  But I’ll give you another tip:  Eat more male chickens instead of female.  Chicken is the second-most consumed meat, and the majority that we eat are female.

You see, chickens are sexed shortly after hatching.  In the world of broiler chickens – that is, chickens raised for meat – male birds (called cockerals) are raised separate from female birds (called pullets) because they grow at different rates and in our industrialized society, consistency is key.  Males also grow to become much larger than females, and depending on the ultimate goal that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Think about KFC™ and Swiss Chalet™, smaller birds are obviously preferred, and that tends to come from buying pullets.  Judging by the small size of chickens found in the average grocery store, I would guess that most of those chickens are female as well.

Now, let’s for the purposes of this discussion, set aside a discussion of all of the unnatural chemicals used in the conventional meat industry (such as antibiotics), female birds are naturally going to contain higher levels of estrogen in their meat.

RealFoodToronto-Rooster_HenIt is for this reason that a growing number of doctors, homeopathic practitioners and naturopaths, recommend to their clients to eat meat from male animals more often than female animals.

Here’s the problem; you try asking the kid in the meat department of your grocery store what sex the chickens are and you might get security called on you.  That’s when it pays to have a relationship with your butcher who knows intimately what’s being sold at the counter.

Fenwood Farms has been the primary provider of Organic and naturally raised chickens at The Healthy Butcher for the last six years.  I called up Carol and John Fenemma (the farmers and owners) during the writing of this article, not knowing the answer I was going to get.  Carol picked up the phone and answered my sex question with “all of our chickens are male for a couple reasons, the [female] pullets tend to be fattier which we don’t like and years ago we found out there was a demand for male chickens to reduce estrogen levels in the meat so that’s the direction we took.”

Talk about being ahead of the curve.