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Chicken: Know Your Protein

Not sure which type of chicken is right for you? Here are your options:

Free Range

Chickens granted outdoor access can spend their days soaking up the sun, exploring the grounds and doing what chickens do best. Although there are no strict guidelines to how much time free range chickens should spend outdoors, in order to be labeled free-range, birds should be given outdoor access for some part of the day. (1) This label also doesn’t include any guidelines on diet or antibiotic use. For these reasons, it is hard to show any difference in nutritional value between these and conventionally-raised birds – but not everything can be captured on a nutrition facts label.

Antibiotic-Free

Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health concern. So much so that even the FDA has released a voluntary plan with the industry’s input to phase out the use of certain antibiotics in animals used for food (2). If you are concerned about antibiotic use in your chicken, look for poultry labeled “no antibiotics administered” or “raised without the use of antibiotics.” This label implies the chickens are not given antibiotics to make them disease-resistant or to help them grow larger. However, there are no additional requirements for feeding or living conditions.

Organic

To be considered organic, chickens must be fed certified organic feed for their entire lives that is free of GMO grains. Organic chickens must have access to the outdoors and are raised without the use of antibiotics – meaning, when you buy organic, you are also buying “free-range” and “antibiotic-free.” (3) With its strict guidelines, organic chicken can be a more expensive option but is still a great one to consider.

Local

Locally-sourced chicken comes from farms near you. While the local label doesn’t bear any official certification, chicken that comes from nearby farms can be a sustainable choice that supports your community. How is it more sustainable? Buying locally raised food reduces the amount of fuel used to transport it to stores, making it a good choice for the environment too.

Reference:

  1. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. 2011. Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms. Retrieved on 25-Apr-2016.
  2. http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm378100.htm
  3. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Organic Livestock Requirements. 2013. Retrieved on 25-Apr-2016.
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