Chicken anxiety” is a term gaining traction on TikTok, reflecting a growing concern about the risks associated with undercooked chicken. This fear is not unfounded, as undercooked chicken can indeed lead to foodborne illnesses caused by harmful bacteria like Salmonella or Campylobacter. To address these anxieties and promote ethical eating, it’s crucial to take food safety seriously.

Eating chicken that is not cooked enough can pose several health risks due to the potential presence of harmful bacteria and pathogens.

CDC estimates Salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the United States every year.

Here are some of the downsides and risks associated with consuming undercooked chicken:

Foodborne Illness: The most significant risk of consuming undercooked chicken is food poisoning. Bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and muscle aches. These symptoms can be severe and may lead to hospitalization, especially in vulnerable populations like young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.

Cross-Contamination: Handling raw chicken improperly, such as using the same cutting board or utensils for other foods without proper cleaning and sanitation, can lead to cross-contamination. This can spread harmful bacteria to other foods that will not be cooked, increasing the risk of foodborne illness.

Antibiotic Resistance: Consuming undercooked chicken that has been raised with antibiotics can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Overuse of antibiotics in food animals is a significant concern for public health, as it can reduce the effectiveness of these drugs in treating human infections.

Parasitic Infections: While less common than bacterial infections, undercooked chicken can also carry parasites like Toxoplasma and Trichinella. These parasites can cause serious health issues if ingested, leading to conditions like toxoplasmosis and trichinosis.

Long-Term Health Effects: Repeated consumption of undercooked chicken over time can have long-term health consequences, including chronic gastrointestinal issues and a weakened immune system.

This is No Laughing Matter

Sadly, as people make jokes about “Chicken Anxiety,” millions of chickens are slaughtered daily, often in conditions that prioritize quick meals and fast-food delights over their welfare. The number is between 136 million to 197 million chickens daily, equating to billions per year. Factory farming conditions for chickens are often inhumane, characterized by overcrowding and stress.

In addition to these concerns, the widespread use of antibiotics in factory farming contributes to antibiotic resistance, posing a significant public health threat. In some cases, undercooked chicken can also carry parasites, leading to serious health issues.

To minimize these risks, it’s essential to cook chicken to an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C) and practice thorough food safety measures.

But beyond individual safety, there are broader ethical and environmental concerns associated with consuming animal products, particularly those from factory farms.

Consider These Impacts

Environmental Impact: Factory farming contributes to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and water pollution. Opting for plant-based alternatives can mitigate these environmental issues.

Health Benefits: Some people avoid chicken due to health concerns such as saturated fat, cholesterol content, and antibiotic use. Plant-based diets can address these concerns.

Supporting Ethical Farming: By abstaining from factory-farmed chicken products, consumers can signal their support for farming practices that support plant-based diets.

Reducing Antibiotic Use: Factory farms rely heavily on antibiotics, contributing to antibiotic resistance. Reducing demand for factory-farmed chicken can help combat this pressing public health issue. Again, plant-based options are far more desirable for health, ethical and environmental benefits.

Go Vegan 

While addressing “chicken anxiety” by ensuring proper cooking and food safety is crucial, it’s important to recognize the broader ethical and environmental reasons to consider dramatically reducing or eliminating animal product consumption.

As an ethical vegan, it’s been five years since I’ve consumed any animal products. The more I learn, the more I am committed to doing what I can to raise awareness about the dangers, on so many levels, of consuming animal products.

The choice to abstain from chicken and all animal products is a personal one, influenced by ethical, environmental, and health considerations.

To hear from experts on how to transition to a plant-based and/or vegan diet, check out the Plant Based Eating for Health Podcast. Plant Based Eating Podcast – Vegan Visibility