Big Chicken #438

September 08, 2017

We eat a lot of chicken. But we didn't used to. What changed? In part, what changed was the discovery that antibiotics could build a bigger, better chicken. Now, the big chicken may be suffering the results of too much medicine. This week, we hear from science journalist Maryn McKenna about her new book "Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats." We'll also hear from zoonotic disease specialist Tara Smith about the challenges scientists face trying to get out of the lab and into the pigpen.

This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.


  • Maryn McKenna
  • Tara Smith
Listen Now

Guest Bios

Maryn McKenna

Maryn McKenna is a senior writer at WIRED covering health, public health and medicine, including the Covid pandemic, and a faculty member at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Human Health. Before coming to WIRED she freelanced for magazines in the US and Europe including Scientific American, Smithsonian, The New Republic, the Guardian, the New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic. She graduated from Georgetown University, earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and was a Knight journalism fellow at University of Michigan and MIT. She is the author of "Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats.""Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA", and "Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service".


Tara Smith

Tara Smith is an Associate Professor of Biostatistics, Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology at Kent State University. An Ohio native, she previously was a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa, College of Public Health, where she directed the College's Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases. Her research focuses on zoonotic infections, and she has done pioneering research in the field. She has published over 50 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. She has presented her research at numerous national and international platforms, including talks on Capitol Hill on the topic of agriculture and antibiotic resistance. Her work has been profiled in many publications, including Science, Nature, and The New York Times.