When you go to throw that chicken on the grill or in the oven, do you think “Hmmm, I wonder where this chicken actually came from?” Most people don’t. Or maybe you are already label savvy and you have done your research. Either way, it is really important to know the conditions and where your meat comes from.
The majority of people think that if they see a label that says Organic, Cage Free, No Hormones, etc… that they are getting a good meat, and they settle for trusting what that label says. Unfortunately, there are some very misleading food labels out there. Don’t be fooled by fancy words and claims. Words like Organic, humanely raised, natural, cage free, free range, hormone free, antibiotic free and vegetarian fed, are thrown around all over the place. But in reality, they do not mean much.
The ASPCA is hoping to raise awareness about the plight of factory farmed chickens in order to inspire the public to demand healthier, more humane conditions. They launched Change Your Chicken– a 30 day challenge that encourages Americans to shift all their chicken purchases from the worst factory farmed products to more humanely raised products.
Over the last few decades, corporatized, industrialized agriculture has largely replaced America’s independent small farms—with catastrophic consequences for animals. While there is no strict definition, industrialized “factory farms” are characterized by extreme confinement of large numbers of animals with practices designed to maximize efficiency and profit, and little regard for animals’ well-being, sentience or natural behaviors. Factory farms often use animals bred to produce unnatural amounts of eggs, milk or meat, causing painful disorders and lameness.
So how do you know what you are getting yourself into and what to look for if you are looking for chicken that is truly good? One great place to start - These three certifications represent a range of better environments for birds than conventional farms and require annual farm audits:
Animal Welfare Approved – Look for chickens that have continuous access to pasture or range. No feedlots. Cage confinement, hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics prohibited. Standards extend to breeding animals, transport and slaughter.
Certified Humane, Raised & Handled –Look for chickens that have continuous outdoor access for ruminants. Cage confinement, hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics prohibited. Minimum space allowance and bedding required for indoor environments.
Global Animal Partnership 5 Step Program (Steps 2 and above) –Step 2: indoor space and enrichment requirements. Step 3: outdoor access. Step 4: access to pasture. Step 5: full pasture environment. Step 5+: slaughter on farm.
Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved and Global Animal Partnership (levels 2 and above) represent a range of higher-welfare practices, but all three certify that the chicken you’re buying was not subjected to the terrible crowding, filth, sickness and suffering found on the worst factory farms.
As a part of this challenge, the ASPCA has put together some great resources to help along the way.
With every purchase we have the power to reduce farm animal suffering. Take a stand and #ChangeYourChicken!