Ellen Magner, Australia - March 2010
A recent advertising campaign by supermarket company Coles, promoting their chicken as being hormone free, has been called ‘dodgy’ by consumer group Choice. Choice says while Coles’ claim is true, it is deceptive, as it suggests some chicken does contain hormones.
Coles defend their advertising campaign, citing a 2010 Newspoll commissioned by chicken producer Steggles, which shows 76 per cent of the 1 000 people surveyed still believed hormones were used in chicken production.
Hormones have not been used in chicken production in Australia since the 1960s.
However, it is a common urban myth that hormones are still used to make chickens grow faster, and that these added hormones are responsible for things such as breast development in men.
In reality, selective breeding and rapid growth practices by farmers are what cause chickens to grow quickly. These practices have been condemned by animal welfare organisations, as they are cruel to chickens. Chickens bred for meat, known as ‘broiler’ chickens, are raised in crowded sheds, and kept in darkness to discourage movement and increase weight gain. This rapid growth puts stress of the bones and hearts of chickens, who are usually slaughtered at six weeks old.
Four per cent of all broiler chickens will die in the sheds before reaching maturity, and this is accounted for by those who raise broiler chickens.