Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
6 Aug

Dear Mark: Industrial Duck, Topical Seed Oils, and Costco Rotisserie Chicken Bones

We can’t always make the perfect Primal choices. We simply don’t live in a world that affords us the opportunity, and short of being whisked away in the night by an elvish boy with green tights, a fairy companion, and the ability to fly, we’re stuck here for the duration. Let’s make the best of it, huh? I think I do a pretty good job at that, here on this blog, but sometimes there are questions that I have yet to address. Like what to make of industrially-raised duck, or whether or not you should still apply those seed oils – which you’d never eat if you could help it – to your face and body as moisturizers, or if carcasses from industrially-raised chickens are still worth using to make stock. These are questions that most people never even think about, but you have (or at least some of you), and I aim to provide a helpful answer.

Let’s go.

I know industrially raised chickens and cows are nutritionally not the best, but what about duck? Are ducks raised any better than chickens since they are eaten less frequently?


Unfortunately, ducks are also industrially raised:

Standard duck feed consists of mostly corn and soybean, with a mix of wheat “middlings” (an assortment of wheat bran, germ, and flour), vitamins, minerals, and sometimes meat and bone meal. Corn is by far the biggest contributor to calories. No bugs, greens, worms, or small fish for these ducks.

Standard operating procedure sticks ducks indoors to keep predators away (and reduce the need for open space). Ducklings (whose beaks are usually removed) get a half square foot of space, an allowance that eventually increases to two square feet as the duck grows.

In industrial duck farms, ducks generally have zero access to water (probably for the best; if they did have access to a body of water in their enclosures, it would become pretty foul very fast) save for the water they drink from nipple feeders. Ducks are water fowl; the fat which we prize so much exists to provide natural flotation. You could argue about whether or not ducks mind being in close quarters with other ducks, but I don’t think you can argue against a duck’s natural predilection for flapping around happily in a body of water.

Nutritionally, I’d wager that industrial duck might be “better” than industrial chicken. Ducks have far less PUFA and more saturated fat. I’ve also never heard of Peking chicken, so duck wins that one, too.

Dear Mark,

I’m hoping you can shed some light on the subject of seed and plant oils used for skin care. I long ago ditched chemicals and other nasties from my personal care products, but in light of what I have now learned about how unhealthy some oils are for our health, I’m wondering if the same goes for putting them ON our bodies as in them. A favorite body oil of mine contains grape seed oil, sunflower oil, apricot kernel oil, soybean oil, and rice bran oil. They’re supposedly all cold-pressed, organic, non-GMO sourced, which I know is a step in the right direction, but is it enough to make putting soybean oil on your skin a good thing? I’ll freely admit that I’ve had great results from this product, which is why I’m asking – I’d rather not give it up if I don’t have to!

Thanks, so much, for all you do!

M :)

PS: I can already hear the chorus from the comments… “Coconut oil!!” I’ve tried it, and it worked pretty good as far as moisturizing goes, but sadly I think I’m actually mildly allergic to it. Olive oil is a no-go for my skin, too.

I wouldn’t worry too much about your body oil. The reason why we (or at least I) recommend against eating those oils is the amount of omega-6 linoleic acid they contain. That is, introducing those oils to our digestive system leads to their digestion, incorporation, and the resultant pro-inflammatory cascade. Applying some soybean oil to your skin isn’t the same as ingesting that same soybean oil. Or is it?

Strangely enough, there is preliminary research suggesting that certain segments of the population – namely, preterm infants – might be able to absorb topically applied fats and draw upon them as a source of calories (PDF). And some older studies show that topical application of essential fatty acids (EFAs) can correct EFA deficiencies, such as with a nineteen year old patient subsisting on a fat-free nutrient infusion, or in newborns with low plasma levels of linoleic and arachidonic acids. It’s not foolproof, though, as other studies suggest that topical application is inadequate to prevent fatty acid deficiencies. It’s probably a case of the dose determining the response, as 100 milligrams/kg body weight of linoleic acid (a paltry amount) was insufficient to affect serum EFA levels in one study using infants.

If you’re bathing in the stuff, you might be absorbing an untoward amount, but I doubt you’re doing that. Plus, if it’s improving the health of your skin, I highly doubt it’s also promoting inflammation. If you’re really worried, just use some coconut oil and olive oil. (Just kidding.)

Hi Mark,

I guess this question is really about food quality:

Yesterday, I was short on time and, for convenience, I picked up a rotisserie chicken from COSTCO. I know it was still a primal choice from a meat perspective, but since it was not organic (and not even close to free-range) I threw out the carcass. A part of me wanted to use it for bone broth, but I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea since it had likely been treated with antibiotics and hormones. What do you think?

Thanks for all you do!


Ah, yes, the famed Costco rotisserie chicken. It’s $4.99, juicy, massively-breasted, pumped full of brine, and delicious in spite of your mind’s protestations to the contrary. It’s said that even Julia Child was a big fan.

It’s actually illegal to treat chickens with hormones in the US, so your chicken carcass from Costco won’t have any hormone residues.

Antibiotics are widely used in poultry farming, even the banned ones on occasion. And studies indicate that antibiotic residues do show up in animal bones. However, heating has the potential to destroy antibiotic residues in bone, although not as easily as it does in muscle meat. One study found that the only way to completely eradicate the presence of tetracycline in chicken bones was to subject it to 121 degree C autoclaving (a high pressure steaming) for 60 minutes; it did not test boiling. This study (PDF) found that boiling was effective at removing antibiotic residue from chicken meat, but I’m not sure that’s helpful for making broth, since some of the residues migrated to the boiling liquid (which you’ll be drinking, rather than discarding).

Broth is an important addition to the Primal way of eating, and I honestly wouldn’t stress about adding a Costco carcass to the pot every once in awhile. After all, the levels of antibiotic residues that show up in meat and bones from treated animals pale in comparison to the levels you’ll get from an antibiotics cycle prescribed by your doctor. And even though those chickens were reared on pesticide-laden corn and soy and antibiotic-treated water, their bones are still made of the same basic stuff as the bones of a pastured chicken. You’ll still get gelatin, calcium, and a host of other nutrients when you make broth. You just might be getting a dose of other, undesirable stuff, too. I think the value of the former outweighs the potential harm of the latter, especially if that’s the only bone-based dietary input you’re getting.

If that Costco chicken was just a blip, an aberration, and you normally make broth from better bones, I would have done the same thing you did.

Okay, that’s it for today’s questions. Let me know your thoughts on CAFO duck, soy oil moisturizers, and Costco chickens. Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. The large tub of organic coconut oil was one of my best purchases at Costco last week.

    Molly wrote on August 6th, 2012
  2. Horrifying what most of the chicken/duck industry standards are. My wife and I recently watched “Food Inc” and were mortified by the environments most of the livestock is raised in in the US. Definitely recommend checking out that doco for more background on where the food is really coming from.

    Jared wrote on August 7th, 2012
    • thanks for trying Jared – but i fear that even here at MDA the general commenter is pretty deaf and blind to the horrors of the industry and too busy finding all sorts of wondrous benefits of a $4.99 cosco industry-tortured dinner.

      don’t stop holding up the mirrors though…

      ravi wrote on August 7th, 2012
  3. One thing I wonder about, is if you put polyunsaturated oils on your face and go out in the sun, would they get rancid and be cancer causing to you?

    Christine wrote on August 7th, 2012
  4. I would be very concerned about the fluoride levels in any non-organic/battery farm chicken…it concentrates in their bones and you will get a hefty dose if you make broth from it.

    LisaLisa wrote on August 7th, 2012
  5. Better to eat a Costco chicken than a box of doughnuts any day! 😉

    Barbara wrote on August 7th, 2012
    • THAT is true, but rationalizing is also a slippery slope. Remember that! :)

      Sarah A wrote on August 7th, 2012
  6. Interesting answer to the Costco Chicken. Here in Canada industrialized chicken is hormone free too, but they do use antibiotics. I can not eat antibiotic meat of any kind without getting sick. I’ll stick to my free range antibiotic meat any day!

    Ina Gawne wrote on August 7th, 2012
  7. like to hear a bit about lamb too

    steffo wrote on August 7th, 2012
  8. Thanks so much for answering my question, Mark! And in your very own humorous, smart-assy way. I’m honored 😀

    I’m glad to know my body oil isn’t undoing all the health benefits Primal eating has brought me. Even so, I have cut down using it to every other day and plan to experiment with making my own from here on out — something without the dreaded soybean oil!

    M. wrote on August 8th, 2012
  9. argh. I often get a Costco chicken, and always make broth with the carcass (and the dark meat which I don’t like). (I actually clean and break up the carcass into the pot, and put the meat I’ll be eating into glass: I leave nothing sitting in plastic in my fridge. Esp. nothing with fat!) I make the broth in the Crockpot, and let it simmer over night (and yes, it’s slow-boiling by the morning). But — like, you know, that Mark Sisson-guy’s 80/20 rule? This is part of my ‘not gonna worry’ 20%! I believe the benefits of long-slow-cooked carcass outweighs the minimal ‘contaminants’ that might remain…

    Elenor wrote on August 9th, 2012
    • why did i know…

      ravi wrote on August 10th, 2012
  10. I’d be kind of concerned about soybean oil topically, too, since I developed my nut allergy from a product that had almond oil in it. I MISS my almonds, but no way can I eat tree nuts any more. Your skin really absorbs stuff, it appears. Also soybeans in any form are not that great for women…especially those who are cancer prone. A bit of olive oil works just great. (And beef fat is even better, but my cats are too interested in my fingers…)

    Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on August 9th, 2012
  11. I used to make a great skin oil with aloe vera gel (read labels — many of them are mostly water), so almond or jojoba oil, and pure vitamin E oil (again, read labels, most are soybean oil with a little E — make sure you get all E!) I mix about equal amounts aloe and oil, (about a half cup each) and about a TBL of the E. Shake the jar before using.

    Mostly now, though I use MCT oil with some coconut oil and vit. E. (I put it on my face and esp. my neck and upper chest, then brush my teeth and hair, then wipe off the excess oil. Done wonders for my skin! Esp. you know how the thin skin on your chest gets all old and horrible looking? All fixed!

    Elenor wrote on August 9th, 2012
  12. Oh man, talking about that chicken made me sooooo hungry!

    PrimalQueen wrote on August 11th, 2012
  13. Poor ducks, and other confined creatures. I can almost claim to know how they feel. July 27 I was arrested for the heinous crime of missing a court date where the heinous charge of missing a probation appointment was supposed to be dropped, so it was really just a formality that would have wasted a day that turned into two weeks of confinement (my worst bit was 77 days – that was a real killer – I was becoming fat, docile, and could barely hop a fence properly when I got out). In jail, at least around here, every prisoner is supposed to get a “TB test” similar to an allergy test on their arm upon beginning their sentence and then they are promptly thrown into general population, or protective custody depending on their circumstances. Two or three days later a doctor or nurse looks at their arm and if there’s a bump then the prisoner supposedly has TB. I don’t trust that needle at all. Why only test for TB, not SARS, west nile, bird flu, etc.? Why administer the test and then mix the testees in with the rest of the prison population prior to viewing the result? It’s .. a .. Conspiracy!
    So this time around I refused the needle (despite guards, a “white shirt” (a boss basically), and the nurse saying that I should get the test (though to the nurse’s credit she mentioned she never had her kids vaccinated), all sounding kind of.. instructed, almost programmed.. like some of the prisoners I spoke to in court later who wondered why I was in “seg”: “But everyone gets the test! It’s nothin bad for you bro! No you’re wrong it doesn’t get absorbed into the body!” Oh, really? Where does it go then?) and as a “safety precaution” was put in segregation for 9 days in a cell that was around 9 by 14 feet, then moved to another locked down cell with another prisoner once they figured I didn’t have the dreaded consumption. Hellish it was. I did some pacing but couldn’t manage to keep moving for long because the constant walking back and forth got stressful fast. Due to the meager overly processed diet high in crap and low in protein I had to severely limit my calisthenics and resort to swaying about and waving my arms around and whatnot like a crazy person to achieve some sort of pleasurable motion to prevent form deterioration. I spent a lot of time muttering and cursing quietly, occasionally bursting out into laughter at the inhumanity of my situation, then more often than not quickly becoming depressed or angry again.. and I’m used to spending up to 5 hours a day parked in front of a computer (the difference being, the rest of the time I’m generally moving about if not eating, reading, sleeping, socializing, or just relaxing. I wonder how the ducks feel. To have wings but not enough room to fly…
    On the plus side I also spent a lot of time thinking about what I can potentially do here on the outside to improve my life, and decided to give up on Big Pharma’s fish-hook of chemical indulgence. I kicked a five year addiction. Eating at the local Salvation Army and bearing witness to the rundown misery of years of slow suicide creasing people’s faces, dulling their eyes, and raping their minds is encouraging enough to stop me from reaching for those pills again. Hey, I was one of them, and can’t claim to be that far removed, and I’ve had front row tickets to the dark carnival. Anyways there’s 15 more minutes of internet time on my library card, time to end this musing and continue catching up on more posts! Something good to keep me busy as I sip on the watered down sherry/cacao/blueberry juice/orange pekoe mixed in the blueberry juice bottle in front of me.

    Animanarchy wrote on August 11th, 2012
    • I forgot… there’s some orange juice in there too. :)

      Animanarchy wrote on August 11th, 2012
  14. I would also question the use of crappy topical oils. If the body absorbs 5lbs of toxins a year from topicals, as some research and urban legends suggest, I would be wary to have that much soy oil go into the body. The lymphatic system will still have to clear it out.

    Holly wrote on August 15th, 2012
    • That’s scary. I can’t find the article now but I recently read that there’s a chemical commonly used in soap that can cause muscular dysfunction.
      Kind of kills my unlikely but possible plan of applying for anymore janitor jobs… I never felt right smelling all those chemical scents or feeling the chemicals on my skin, which would sometimes get really dry.
      I try to avoid all that stuff.
      When I shower I usually just rinse and when I do [my own] dishes I just scrub them clean and rinse – no soap required. I’ve reused the same dishes for days this way, sometimes not even washing them if I’ve been living outside.
      Grok didn’t have Vim, Sunlight (not the lemon-scented kind at least), etc.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 23rd, 2012

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