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Organic chickens are genetically different from conventional chickens

Thursday, February 18, 2010 by: Ethan Huff
Tags: organic chickens, genetics, health news

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(NaturalNews) Researchers from the Netherlands have found that organically fed chickens develop different genes than their conventionally fed counterparts. The result is that the genes responsible for creating cholesterol have a higher expression in organically fed chickens, yet these birds do not have elevated blood cholesterol levels.

Commissioned by the Louis Bolk Institute in Driebergen, the study compared two groups of chickens from two generations that were each fed the exact same things with the exception of one group receiving organic feed and the other conventional feed. Upon completion, scientists took RNA samples from all the chickens' intestines in order to compare and contrast gene expression.

Researchers were surprised to discover that simple differences in cultivation methods can have such a drastic outcome in how chickens process their food and express it in their genes. Dr. Astrid de Greeff from Livestock Research and her colleagues came to find that 49 genes ended up regulating differently in the organic group.

Seven of the different genes are involved in cholesterol biosynthesis. Since cholesterol is necessary for the production of hormones and is a building block for many other substances, it is unclear to exactly what extent conventional feed is negatively affecting chickens. What is clear, though, is that feeding chickens organically is even more important than previously thought.

Amazingly, the research did not even involve genetically modified feed which carries potentially worse effects; all such gene differences occurred only because one group of food was grown organically, meaning it was free from pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Scientifically demonstrable differences in gene expression should cause consumers to think twice before purchasing conventionally raised chicken.

According to a 2006 Consumer Reports study, chicken is one of the most important products to purchase organic. Organic chicken does not contain the toxic hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides that commercially raised birds do. According to the report, even low levels of artificial hormones can increase one's risk of developing cancer. Commercial chicken may also be tainted with toxic heavy metals.

Pasture raised, organically fed chickens that are free to peck at grass and bugs are the best birds to buy as their meat will be leaner and more flavorful. Pasture raised chicken meat has a healthier composition that is higher in vitamins, minerals, and omega 3 fatty acids than its conventional counterpart. Pasture raised chickens also naturally produce rich, healthy eggs that are unmatched by anything sold at the grocery store.

Sources:

Organic feed influences gene expression in chickens - PhysOrg.com

Organic Feed Shown to Affect Genes in Chickens - Popular Science

Benefits of Organic Chicken - LiveStrong.com

About the author

Ethan Huff is a freelance writer and health enthusiast who loves exploring the vast world of natural foods and health, digging deep to get to the truth. He runs an online health publication of his own at http://wholesomeherald.blogspot.com.

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