Modern living has brought with it modern but more virulent diseases. Medical discoveries like antibiotics, starting with penicillin were initially hailed as the ultimate cure only to be found that bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms evolve to become resistant to them. Then comes the never ending phenomenon to discover newer versions of antibiotics just to combat resistant bacteria.
In earlier decades, antibiotics were also included in the feeds for livestock. The argument was that it was best to incorporate them so that they would be ingested and thus act as prophylactic or as prevention. It was later found that the regular use of these substances will also cause bacteria to evolve and thus become resistant. The more alarming findings however is that livestock grown on antibiotics have residue build-up in their bodies that when these animals are slaughtered for human consumption, these residues will also be ingested and will eventually cause bacterial resistance. People would then need higher doses and newer and more expensive versions of antibiotics.
Even the administration of antibiotics to treat livestock diseases should follow the correct and precise protocol to ensure that treatment is total and that the animal is treated successfully. Incorrect use of antibiotics will only enable surviving pathogens to resist a particular type and persist to survive within the body of the animal and cause further damage and eventual death.
This is exactly the phenomenon in chickens. In commercial broiler chicken production, the chickens are given prophylactics at about 12 to 16 days so that by the time of harvest which is about 28-32 days, they would appear healthy and pass the standards of the integrator. This period which is about 14 to 16 days from slaughter is considered safe as the withdrawal period of at least 7 days had been met. However there are cases that the flock is affected on the 24-25th days and at the time of harvest, would appear healthy and thus, pass the standards for slaughter.
This situation is even more serious in commercial egg production. When layer chickens are affected with bacterial infection, the raisers often times administer antibiotics without isolating the sick birds which continue to lay eggs. Antibiotics ingested are not totally synthesized and rendered inactive within the fowls’ bodies and a large concentration is still found in the eggs laid. The correct protocol for this is to destroy the eggs by composting and not fed to other animals like pigs. But the common attitude among the farmers is to include the eggs in the batch for sale, after all, our country still lacks sophisticated systems for monitor food safety.
Thus the alternative to commercial chicken raising (both meat and eggs) is still the traditional way where the chickens are raised sans antibiotics and other dangerous substances such as growth hormones which are as dangerous as antibiotics. While at the early stages, the chickens are raised in confinement or semi-confinement to give them a head start, they are then hardened to be released on full range after a while where they will forage the major portion of their diet and are supplemented with nutrient rich feed only when necessary. The range is developed fully and planted with nutrient rich feed like grasses, legumes and medicinal plants which can directly cure or boost the immune system of chickens.
A particular example is to grow malunggay along borders and in straight rows while planting sorghum, grains like the barnyard grass, legumes like rice-beans and munggo in between. The tauri and munggo are allowed to pod and shatter so that the free range chickens can feed on them. The tender leaves are also rich fodder for them as they are high in proteins and amino acids. On certain portions of the range, medicinal plants are established like oregano, lagundi and apat-apat which are considered medicinal and immune system boosters. Oregano is an important plant in livestock raising as they are also grazed or fed on instinctively by chickens to treat their respiratory diseases.
Farmers who raise chickens on the free range also claim that their chickens are tastier than the commercially raised versions. For one, chickens harvested at 4-5 months old have started to develop a stronger tissue system which is already rich in glutamine which is an amino acid known to give flavor to meat. But the best premium for chickens raised naturally is their total absence of antibiotics in their meat. Eggs from chickens raised on the range are also said to be of deeper yolk color than their commercial cousins. This is due to the diet of fresh grasses which contain high levels of natural beta-carotene which is responsible for the yellow pigmentation. Commercial eggs are also yellow colored because of the chemical ingredients which is given through the feeds. (to be continued)