Myths on poultry linger and seem to take root

The long list of sex hormones, unnatural ingredients, growing conditions and so on in broiler production are still top of the list in many consumers’ minds.

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While having a beer this past weekend with some friends of my brothers, the usual question of “what do you do for a living?” came about. One of these friends works on pest control – pigeons, roaches and other insects and animals – so I thought it was a little closer to me than the other one who worked in scaffolding. When he asked me and I told him I work for the poultry industry, the immediate comments on hormones and stuff showed up.

He told me that he was convinced that his daughter developed secondary sexual characteristics at the age of 11, because she ate chicken, because chickens are fed with hormones. Sex hormones, of course! Why would he think it could be growth hormones or any other? If (female) sex hormones were applied to broilers, would that mean that boys would also develop breasts? But he went on asking himself why chickens grow so fast with so much muscle and insisted that his ex-wife is an endocrinologist and that she assured him that sex hormones are used in production. This last statement really killed me. How come an endocrinologist would say that?

I briefly explained to him about genetic development and nutrition, on how a broiler is produced, how feed is manufactured, that broilers are very young animals, that there are no commercially available sex hormones for poultry and so on. I was very calm in my explanation, trying to bring the ideas and concepts down to earth. But I did not convince him. His facial expression of skepticism did not change. He just simply did not believe me. As if this would be an act of faith.

We ended up changing the subject. He stayed with his beliefs, and I reluctantly stayed with my unlocked knowledge. I wanted to continue, to convince him, but there was no more room for that; and the situation was rather one of a relaxed Sunday with beers.

I wonder why this happens. I would like to know how I need to act, how to express myself, how to show my knowledge. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. We need to do more or do something different. Any ideas?

What do you think?

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