Consumers are increasingly concerned about the quality, source and conditions under which their food is grown. Such terms as "organic" and "free-range" conjure up images of happy, healthy animals running free, eating insects and grass as Mother Nature intended. Though savvy marketers would like consumers to believe such images are accurate, conscientious consumers must dig a little deeper for the facts about their ...
Chicken and eggs carry a variety of claims in the grocery store, from free-range to organic to no-antibiotics to natural (see References 1). These labels can be confusing when you're looking for a healthier product. Free-range poultry can offer health and other benefits, but you'll need to look beyond the label to determine whether the poultry comes from a source you trust.
If you've ever seen the chicken housing inside a conventional mass-production farm, you've likely already switched to buying free-range chicken. Movement, sunlight and fresh air positively affect human health, and they do the same for livestock. Although certification for meat and poultry is less stringent and less straightforward than it is for produce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently refined its ...
The terms "organic" and "free-range" have become increasingly popular labels on both agricultural and animal food products. "Organic" refers to a set of growing and raising standards instituted by the government, focusing heavily on the avoidance of synthetic chemicals and food sources for animals, and mandating a certain amount of outdoor access. "Free-range," by contrast, does not address food sources or ...
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Slugs are snail-like mollusks with no shells or very small shells. They have voracious appetites and will eat garden plants and crops as well as other vegetation, especially seedlings and tender plants. (See References 3) However, slugs do provide some ecological benefits. They are a food source for many animals and they break down organic matter, which is important for recycling nutrients, such as nitrogen, through the food chain. (See References 1)
Organic and free-range certifications cover different aspects of raising chickens for food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture operates the National Organic Program to develop standards for organic agricultural production and implement them nationally. (see References 1) The Food Safety and Inspection Service evaluates and approves other types of poultry labeling, including the "free-range" label. (see References 2)
Many people who choose a free-range chicken over a standard chicken assume the chicken roamed as she pleased, pecking at bugs and squawking at hawks until she was old enough for slaughter. While this is a lovely image, it's not necessarily reflective of reality. The term "free-range" can mean many things, depending upon who's providing the certification. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the most common certifying body, not only because it is the largest, but also because it must inspect chicken products for safety. It also has the loosest standards when it comes to terms like "free-range," however. Several animal welfare organizations have begun their own independent certification programs, all with varying standards.
Many people have only a vague notion of what the term "organic" means. In chemistry, it means a compound containing carbon. In agriculture, it encompasses an entire system of food production that culminates in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Certified Organic" seal on a package. Organic eggs come from hens raised in keeping with the standards set forward by the National Organic Program, with an emphasis on animal welfare, land management and the reduction of unnecessary chemicals.
Left to their own devices, chickens will forage for grass and seeds, like many other livestock, and supplement their diet with a hearty portion of insects. Animal welfare or environmental considerations often motivate consumers to seek out pasture-fed poultry, but increasingly, they can look to nutritional studies of pasture-fed chicken.