Chickens are most often raised in horrendous conditions that create all sorts of health risks for them and for those who eat them. Indeed pathogens like Salmonella often are cultivated along with the chickens which create risks for consumers. A forthcoming study in the the journal of Applied Environmental Microbiology (by Robert J. Atterburry and colleagues) shows that by giving young chicks a particular bacteria (Bdellovibrio), Salmonella is eliminated (Bdellovibrio preys upon it) and the chicks are healthier.
While this is a cool example of how new knowledge of ecological relationships between bacteria can be applied, it does raise some interesting ethical issues.
Discussion topicsGiven that chickens are typically raised in rather inhumane conditions (battery cages or in large rooms with little space for them to maintain their complex social relationships), does making them healthier solve the ethical dilemma of how they are raised? By comparison, imagine that you could eliminate disease in an over-crowded prison; is over-crowding then justified? How can we improve the health AND welfare of the animals that we eat or raise commercially for their products?