As declared by the United States Department of Agriculture, every American consumes roughly ninety-four pounds of chicken annually. This chicken consumption is predicted to increase as the years pass by. With this, the increased awareness of consumers of the way chickens is raised. As individuals shop for chicken, they may be thinking about the actual meaning of free-range. We will attempt to explain the term and the difference between traditionally raised and free-range.
What Is Free-Range Chicken?
When individuals see free-range chicken at the supermarket. It would make sense if the assumption was made that the chickens were free to roam grassy pastures. However, this is not always the situation. As stated by the United States Department of Agriculture, free-range labeled chicken ought to have access to the outside. However, the regulation does not specify the size of the outdoor area or the period of time the chickens must be outside for. Thus, chickens have been known to be crowded into a tiny outdoor space for a few minutes each day. Therefore, allowing them to be qualified as free-range chickens.
What is more, the regulation does not stipulate what type of outdoor space it should be either. This leads to chickens having access to small dirt or gravel spaces. Rather than green, grassy areas for them to graze. What is more, the USDA has no process of conducting audits on the facilities in order to assess the outdoor space. As a matter of fact, the report discovered that very little evidence is needed to support access to outdoor claims.
However, this does not mean that every free-range chicken is a rip-off. As a matter of fact, several farmers provide their chickens with generous amounts of grassy outdoor access. Therefore, when purchasing free-range chickens, it is vital to research where the chickens are being transported from. This is to confirm the kind of and amount of outdoor access they have.
Other Options Of Chicken
Besides the free-range chicken, there are other labels that could be added to chicken products. These labels would inform the consumer about how the chicken was grown. Organic, besides access to the outdoors all year round, plus an exercise area, and a comfortable area to shelter and sleep in. These chickens must not be treated with antibiotics and ought to be fed feed that is organic. Certified Humane Pasture Raised, every chicken ought to have a minimum of 108 square feet of land in order to roam and eat.
The majority of the time should be spent outdoors, however, there should be a shelter for the chickens to sleep in. Certified Humane Free Range, Such a label needs the chicken to have a minimum of two square feet of outdoor area per chicken, with grazing that is vegetation. Chickens should be outdoors for a minimum of six hours each day, all dependent on the weather.
Free Range versus Traditional Chicken
Raising free-range chicken in theory is considered better for the consumer and for the chicken. This is when compared to the traditional method of raising chickens. Traditionally raised chicken remains inside, frequently in cases without any access to the outdoors. They are normally fed with grain that has been fortified with minerals and vitamins. A study of over 400 chickens discovered that following 280 days, free-range chickens possessed substantially better scores for meat quality. Also for beneficial gut bacteria, weather conditions, and walking when compared to traditionally raised chickens.
Meat from free-range chickens was also discovered to be substantially lower in fat and richer in zinc, iron, and protein. However, it is crucial to understand that the free-range chickens in these studies, had unrestricted access to the outside. What is more, is that the outdoor spaces possessed grass for the chickens to graze on. What this means is that due to the fact that the USDA is unable to regulate the kind or quantity of outdoor access. These nutritional advantages might filter down to all chicken products which are tagged as free-range.
Where Free Range Chicken Is Available
In order to stay clear of misleading free-range labels, the best opportunity is to buy free-range chicken directly. This would be from a regional or local farmer, whether it is at the farm or from a farmer’s market. Individuals might also find free-range chicken accessible at local butcher shops. One other option to find certified humane free-range chicken is at natural stores. Stores such as Whole Foods or Sprouts Farmers Market. Dependent on the area the individual resides, the local supermarket or grocery store could carry them.