A post on Buzzfeed recently claimed that chicken feed has arsenic added to it:

Used in some chicken feed to make meat appear pinker and fresher, arsenic is poison, which will kill you if you ingest enough.

Is it true that food manufacturers add arsenic to feed to make chicken appear pink?

  • Important for answerers: there are two separate claims in the quote. 1) Chickens are fed arsenic. 2) Arsenic is a poison to humans.
    – user5582
    Sep 3, 2013 at 1:07
  • Also, this is a topic of the week question!
    – user5582
    Sep 3, 2013 at 2:38

1 Answer 1


In 2010, 88% of chickens raised in the United States received roxarsone, an arsenic-based drug. (Science Daily) The reasons include "promot[ing] growth, treat[ing] disease and improv[ing] meat pigmentation." (Huffington Post - The Arsenic in Your Chicken)

Arsenic is a poison to humans (Wikipedia:Arsenic poisoning).

The above is sufficient to address the quoted claim, but I'll add that this study found that "the use of arsenic-based drugs contributes to dietary [inorganic arsenic] exposure in consumers of conventionally produced chickens", and that "this increase in arsenic exposure could result in 3.7 additional lifetime bladder and lung cancer cases per 100,000 exposed persons", under certain assumptions.

  • To be specific on the disease bit, roxarsone is used to prevent coccidiosis.
    – Compro01
    Sep 3, 2013 at 4:56
  • 1
    everything is a poison to humans, in the right dose... And without listing the (no doubt ridiculous, or they'd have been included) assumptions, the statement about increases in cancer risk are worthless. Given that arsenic poisoning is quite distinct from cancer, they're worthless in this context anyway as they don't address the entirety of the risk factors. And HuffPo is hardly a scientifically sound source of information, it's a far left tabloid...
    – jwenting
    Sep 3, 2013 at 10:40
  • @jwenting you can read the study if you want more info. The question was only about two things: is there arsenic in chicken feed, and is arsenic a poison.
    – user5582
    Sep 3, 2013 at 13:49
  • @jwenting the assumptions were included in a previous edit, but since that part of my answer is already off topic, I wanted to keep it short. They're all listed in the reference.
    – user5582
    Sep 3, 2013 at 13:53
  • 4
    Be careful conflating elements with compounds. Hydrogen is explosive under normal conditions. Oxygen is explosive under normal conditions. Water is far from explosive, despite being made up of nothing but Hydrogen and Oxygen. Roxarsone and Nitarsone are not the same as pure Arsenic.
    – Ladadadada
    Sep 3, 2013 at 15:10

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