How Antibiotics Beefed Up The Chicken Industry


Modern Chicken Farm. photo: shutterstock

Science Friday airs on WSQX Fridays 2-4pm.

Before the 1940s, chicken was rarely seen on the dinner table. “Birds for eating were byproducts of egg production of ‘spent’ hens,” writes journalist Maryn McKenna in her book Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats.

McKenna traces how the use of antibiotics not only turned poultry into everyday meals, but how it has contributed to the current antibiotic resistance crisis. She follows Salmonella outbreaks, small farmers, and big industry producers to reveal how these drugs have led the poultry market (and our taste) to embrace the prized protein. She discusses how these two industries can break their dependence on one another.

Read an excerpt of McKenna’s new book, Big Chicken.