WHOA! WHOA! WHOA! Hold the presses! What do you mean there is no such thing as a "free range chicken?" well at least not as it pertains to the idea that it elicits in the mind. When a chicken product says "free-range," it elicits the idea of chickens running around happily on a farm eating there usual diet of grubs, bugs, and feed, just being little chickens...sorry to shatter your day dream, well my day dream anyway. Apparently, that is not the case. This week I was shocked to learn that "free range chickens" are no more free ranging (if I can coin a phrase:) than most other chickens. This week in my Whole Foods Production class I was informed that all "free range" means is that the chickens are not kept in cages, and they have access to the outdoors. If left to my own optimistic ideas, I would give the benefit to the chicken cooperation's and drum up a mental picture of a big opening into a field for happy chickens. Wrong again!
Apparently, the chickens can live in a warehouse cage free with no designation for individual space inside. Additionally, there is no regulation for the size of the outdoor area that the chickens have access to. A 5x5 square outdoor area would be suitable enough to call a chicken free range. WHAT? That isn't very free range to me. Not when warehouses have thousands of chickens running around. Apparently my Utopian idea of free range chicken translates into "pasture raised" chickens, which I do not recall ever seeing. What a shame! I was sad to hear that for all my efforts to eat chickens that at least had a happy life, I ended up being blinded by a play on words :( I suppose it is still a better choice than warehoused chickens, but for me, I now know that if I cannot find "pasture raised" chickens, I will buy organic when possible.
What is an Organic Chicken?
Organic chickens get all the benefits of being a "free range" chicken, plus, they get individual space regualtions and are fed a diet that is all organic with no GMO's (genetically modified organisms). Better yet, I am considering buying directly from the farm. Specifically, an organic farm that looks at the farm as a whole organism and treats there animals humanely. Please look at that word HUMANELY! According to the American Heritage Dictionary: Humane means- "Characterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion." Isn't that what all living creatures deserve. After all, you are what you eat. If you eat poorly raised, poorly treated, nutritionally depleted food, then what are the building blocks that make up your body. I will get on my high horse about this later, but for now, get educated about what you are eating. For more information check out these links.
A farming model for the future! Out with the new and in with the old!
Thank you Crown S Ranch for reminding us that we have responsibility to the living creatures that serve as our food.