Microplastics in Poultry, swans in the news, chicken backpacks, and more.
Microplastics in Poultry
Earlier this year, researchers from Portugal published “Microplastics in Terrestrial Domestic Animals and Human Health: Implications for Food Security and Food Safety and Their Role as Sentinels.” They explored the exposure of domestic animals, such as pigs, cows, chickens, and ducks, to microplastics, which can be passed onto consumers through their meat.
Microplastics are tiny, smaller than 5 millimeters, and are now being found everywhere. The Portuguese study and others published within the last five years show that microplastics are found in every biome (including Antarctica), and in daily consumed products such as drinking water, sea salt, beer, on plants, and in packaged foods. The tiny particles are also found in human and animal lungs, brains, and placentas.
Production and backyard birds are routinely exposed to microplastics while foraging and the particles have been found in gastrointestinal tissue, gizzard, and crop. Butchering and processing can lead to the contamination of meat for two major reasons. 1) Microplastics are increasingly everywhere in the environment, buildings, and homes which leads to their inclusion in packaged products, including meat. 2) The use of plastic cutting boards and materials can also introduce microplastics to food and poultry products. Chicken meat packed in Styrofoam trays and take-out containers also showed the presence of microplastics.
The paper concludes that we need to find improved methodologies to determine microplastic concentrations and conduct risk assessments for the materials we use to process and store our food. The paper was published on the National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information database.
Swan in the News
The village of Manlius, New York, is mourning the loss of a favorite local swan, Faye, after three teenagers stole, killed, and ate the bird. The teens hopped a fence around Goose Lake Park and killed what they thought was a large duck. They also stole four live cygnets, but left Faye’s longtime mate, Manny, unharmed. The teens took the bird home and prepared a meal for their family. The three teens face felony charges of grand larceny and criminal mischief.
The cygnets were recovered alive and turned over to Michael Bean, a biologist contracted by the city to care for the local swans. The cygnets were cared for before being returned to the pond. Unfortunately, Manny didn’t welcome back his offspring and has since been removed to a pond in Pennsylvania where he can retire in peace.
In other swan news, the mute swans that live on the Thames River in London seem to be happy with their new owner, King Charles III. By a tradition dating back to the 9th century, all swans that inhabit the Thames and its banks can be claimed by the reigning monarch, making them the de facto owners.
Charles III will continue the tradition of having the swans monitored and cared for, by David Barber, who has served for 30 years as the royal “swan marker.”
Prepare for Fall Bird Migration by Strengthening Farm Biosecurity
While there’s been a drop in new cases of avian influenza (HPAI) in the U.S. and Canada, there are biosecurity measures that poultry keepers should review or implement before fall migrations of wild birds.
Biosecurity plans are designed to create barriers between your poultry and wild birds, and to disinfect on a regular basis because contact between bird species is inevitable. Putting up bird netting is not only a good measure to keep out predators, especially raptors, but also to limit wild birds from getting into your poultry’s living area (runs and coops).
Disinfection points allow you to do some quick hand sanitizing between handling birds, and to do some cleaning up before going back into your home. Thorough handwashing before and after handling birds, their feed, their bedding, and cleaning their coop is still the best safety measure you can take to keep you and your birds healthy.
South Charleston Resident Sues City Over Chicken Keeping
Susan Casdorph and Alex Urban live in South Charleston, West Virginia, and want to keep chickens and bees in their urban yards, with written support from their neighbors. The city has denied their requests for the needed permit and has in place a moratorium on issuing any such permits.
South Charleston has an ordinance already on the books allowing residents to keep cats, dogs, and caged birds without a permit, and other animals with a permit. However, no permits allowing residents to keep chickens are being issued. Casdorph has started a petition requiring the city to honor their own ordinance and has thousands of signatures from locals supportive of the challenge.
“I am a mountaineer right down to my bones,” Casdorph said. “I do not want the government telling me that I cannot provide food for my family with the land that I have.”
Backpack-Wearing Chickens Helping Change How We Study Animal Welfare
Dr. Mary Baxter is a Research Fellow in Animal Welfare at Queen’s University, Belfast. She’s developing a new way to study the populations of large poultry operations. Typically, the health and welfare of broilers might be monitored by following a select number of tagged birds, or by isolating 100 birds and then extrapolating the results for thousands or hundreds of thousands. Baxter wants to both monitor individual birds, but also use them to get a bird’s-eye-view of how flocks interact.
Baxter straps small, white backpacks containing wireless tracking devices and cameras to the backs of broilers. She’s found the results provide different information than researchers have previously been able to monitor. In particular, she’s noticed that some chickens will stay within 10 meters of the place where they were originally tagged. Other birds will wander over 97% of the 100-by-20-meter shed. Surprisingly, factors such as weight or leg condition weren’t predictors of how far a bird would travel.
What Baxter has found is that broilers aren’t as homogenous in their behaviors as previous studies have assumed. Baxter and her team are hopeful that this new way of studying broilers will yield more specific information about how to keep the birds healthy.