As a former vegetarian for animal rights reasons, this issue is important to me. Read below for a piece from a guest writer on the ASCPA’s movement to Change Your Chicken. I think this is an important one. We always, if given the opportunity, buy organic free range chickens but labels aren’t always to be believed. See below:
Did you know that most full-grown chickens have less than one square foot of space to live in– less than the size of an iPad? Pretty crazy to think about. Maybe the last thing on your mind is the size of the living quarters of a chicken, but let me tell you, it should be one of the first. Factory-like industrial farms subject billions of animals raised each year for meat, milk and eggs to painful practices and confine them in ways that stifle their basic needs and urges. Most of the chickens ending on peoples plates lived in these inhumane, unhealthy factory-like facilities.
But, dont be fooled by labels. If you see a label that says Organic, Cage Free, No Hormones, etc… do not assume that you are getting what the label tells you. There are some very misleading food labels out there. Fancy claims and words on labels run amuck in the supermarkets. Words like Organic, humanely raised, natural, cage free, free range, hormone free, antibiotic free and vegetarian fed, are put on all sorts of labels, but that doesnt mean that they come from humane and truly good places.
A great example is Cage Free. This is a misleading claim for meat chickens because, unlike egg-laying hens, they are never raised in cages. If someone claims Hormone Free, well of course they are, because it is already illegal to feed hormones to chickens. So you arent getting anything different than what anyone else has. Another great claim is Antibiotic Free. Antibiotics are fed to animals on factory farms as a band aid fix for unhealthy living conditions. However, removing drugs does not alone make for a more humane system.
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 launchedChange 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 Americas independent small farmswith 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:
A few good ways to start your search for healthier meat are to find meats that have specific standards with labels that match those standards:
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 youre buying was not subjected to the terrible crowding, filth, sickness and suffering found on the worst factory farms.
So what exactly is this challenge and how can you make a difference?
- Take the 30 day pledge not to purchase chicken from extreme factory farming conditions
- If you eat chicken products, challenge yourself to find brands that are certified by either Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved or Global Animal Partnership levels 2 and above. Once youre signed up, we will email you helpful tips, resources and facts to support you through this 30 day challenge.
- Download and print thissupermarket request cardto hand to store managers when you cant find higher-welfare certified products.
- Share this challenge with your friends and family. We want 50,000 Americans to take this challenge. Thats a call for change the chicken industry cant ignore! Make sure when you post, you use #ChangeYourChicken and get others to do that too!
The ASPCA hopes that by participating in the Change Your Chicken Challenge, you inspire consumers to question the claims on packages and look for these third-party audited certifications whenever possible, not just on chicken but all animal products. Once youve completed the thirty-day challenge the fight is not over! Here are a few ways to help farm animals:
- Share the Change Your Chicken Challenge with as many friends as you can! Were just getting started.
- Learn more about how farm animals are raisedand the few laws that govern their treatment.
- Download our meat, eggs and dairylabel guideto avoid factory farmed animal products of all kinds and seek out trustworthy higher-welfare certifications whenever possible.
- Sign up for our advocacy brigadeto be the first to know when we need your help contacting state representatives to push for laws that protect farm animals.
With every purchase we have the power to reduce farm animal suffering. Take a stand and #ChangeYourChicken!