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Chicken Labels- Confused?

January 30, 2014

By: Coach Maria

When it comes to making healthy food choices for you and your family, things can get downright confusing when purchasing chicken.

Why?
Chickens come with a gazillion different labels and claims and many of them leave us wondering what the real truth behind the label actually is.
Some of the claims are important to us and some (most) are marketing gimmicks or just plain absurd.
Read below to learn how to decipher the labels and what they DO and DON’T  mean.
What the Organic label means
What the Organic label DOESN’T mean
What Humanely Raised labels mean
What Antibiotic Free/No Antibiotic labels mean:
  • US law DOES allow antibiotics, so the chickens with this label do not receive them.  Chickens that are ill and are given antibiotics do not have this label.
What Vegetarian Fed labels mean:
  • No animal by-products were fed to these chickens (as is done with conventional chickens), meaning no bone meal from cows, pigs, etc.  *Although chickens are omnivores and are meant to be eating bugs – not vegetarian feed – choosing this label over no label is much better, given the fact that they would be fed other animal parts instead.
What Natural/Naturally Raised labels mean:
  • NOTHING – this claim carry’s no weight.  It is unregulated and meant to make you believe the chickens were raised naturally.
What Hormone Free/No Added Hormones labels mean:
  • US law DOES NOT allow chickens to be given hormones, so having this label on there is quite funny.  The manufacturers want to make you believe that you are getting a more superior quality chicken, when, in fact, you are purchasing something that is not different.
What Free Range labels mean:
  • Tricky on this one.  Although it means nothing on egg cartons (the term is not regulated), on chicken meat, it is a little something.  However, it doesn’t mean as much as you might think – the USDA requirement for the use of this term to be stamped on the package is a mere 5 minutes of open air time for these chickens.
Ok, now that you know the truth behind some of these labels, how can you – as a savvy consumer – make the best choice for you and your family?
Continue to read below for the best, better, good approach:
Best (look for both of these labels together):
  • Organic
  • Humanely Raised
Better (more affordable than “best”, look for these labels together):
  • Humanely Raised
  • Antibiotic Free/No Antibiotics
  • Vegetarian Fed
Good (if you can’t find or afford the choices above):
  • Antibiotic Free/No Antibiotics
  • Any fresh chicken is much better than processed chicken products like chicken nuggets, chicken patties, etc.  The quality of processed chicken products drops monumentally.
  • Buy chicken breasts, the cheapest you can find.  The leaner cuts of chicken will contain the least amount of toxins, since the toxins are most concentrated in the animal fat.
     

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