Where is your best bet for finding the healthiest chicken?
Before considering that question, one must really look at how we buy chicken and the types of chicken that are available for purchase today – whether it be from the back of a freezer truck, in a grocery store or in a huge distribution warehouse aimed at saving you lots of your hard earned money.
According to Farm Forward, factory farming accounts for more than 99% of all farmed animals raised and slaughtered in the United States – and believe it or not, almost all seafood comes to us through factory fish farms.
Factory Farms (Confined Animal Feeding Operations or CAFO) can house as little as 500 and as many as 125,000 animals under a single room – their goal is to produce the highest output at the lowest cost to the operator. Factory farms are associated with meat, eggs and dairy – chances are, if you purchase grocery store meat, you are purchasing factory farmed meat.
What about Organic Chicken?
While organic chicken might be a step up from non-organic chicken, factory farms can and do still exist in organic farming just as much as regular farms. They are just fed organic feed, without antibiotics – but they may still be kept in cramped cages, with limited room to roam or be themselves. Organic chicken farms are still permitted to raise the chickens in a confined space.
You must believe me when I say that unless you are purchasing your chicken from a local farmer who raises truly pastured poultry, you are likely purchasing the product of a confinement operation – whether organic or non-organic.
The cheap meat that is turned out by these farms comes at a price though – a risk to the general public, and often times, mistreatment of animals – who desire nothing but clean air and sunshine, and the freedom to be themselves.
- Benadryl is often added to chicken feed to help reduce the stress level in the birds – especially given that they are in tight, cramped spaces for long periods of time.
- Caffeine is often times given to the birds so that they can stay awake, and thus eat more food.
- Arsenic is found in chickens, thanks to a drug called roxarsone – which helps fight parasites and makes the meat plump and pink.
- Prozac is used to combat the respiratory problems chickens endure from being packed so tightly in confinement sheds.
The Maryland legislature voted in 2012 to ban arsenic in chicken feed, and Perdue has since stopped using it.. however, it is still actively being used at many of the large confined animal operations across the U.S.
Aside from Benadryl, Caffeine, and Prozac… we have to worry about labeling, too.. One can certainly agree that the labeling of meat and poultry in the United States leaves many Americans in the dark about the food that they are trying to buy.
Free Range is thought by many to mean that chickens roam freely in a pasture, when in fact it just means that they have access to the outside. And by access to the outside, it doesn’t necessarily mean they go outside. A door on a chicken farm qualifies for free range.
Fresh means that the chicken has always been kept at 26 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
Antibiotic free means that the chicken has not been treat with antibiotics.
Hormone free, if anything, is merely a marketing term that is sorely overused. Hormones are not legally permitted in poultry.
Farm raised is also quite a gimmick in terms of marketing – since almost every chicken is raised on a farm.
Natural means that the chicken has no artificial ingredients or preservatives.
In reality, the truth is that many people have a challenging time learning about where their food comes from because it’s hard for them to accept the truth of what they are really putting in their mouth.
Even after reading all this it can still be quite a challenge to know what to purchase. So where do you buy the healthiest chicken for your family?
Unfortunately meat and poultry is rarely labeled as to what state it is sourced from – some of the top producing states of poultry are Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Georgia. Although Maryland has banned arsenic in the chicken feed, the other states have not. Most of these chickens have tested positive for everything from banned antibiotics to caffeine, antidepressants and caffeine.
Since it’s hard to know the source of your poultry in grocery stores, your best opportunity to find the healthiest chicken is by searching for a local, organic poultry farmer, as these arsenic additives are banned in organic chicken production.
When you find an organic poultry farmer, you can be assured that the chickens that will soon be on your plate are raised in the best environment – not crammed in a confined facility, but given access to roam free on pasture and eat their natural diet.
Where do you find the Healthiest Chicken?
EatWild’s directory of farms lists over 1,400 pasture based farms with more being added regularly. Products include beef, pork, elk, goat, veal, venison, chickens, ducks, yak, wild caught salmon and more.
Although the information satisfies the criteria of EatWild, it’s up to you to visit your chosen supplier to find out more details about how they raise their beef or poultry.
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