The chicken industry is a major industry and important for the global agricultural economy.  That is why  intensive farming practices are the norm in order to  maximize productivity and profitability.

At the same time, consumers are becoming more health conscious and are demanding chicken that aligns with a natural care and healthy food for your body lifestyle.

They want healthy meals for their bodies, thus they are increasingly looking for healthy foods to eat, such as free-range and organic chicken.

In today’s blog, we are revealing what is meant by the term Free Range and if it can fit into a healthier lifestyle

The claim of “Free Range” for poultry and egg products is regulated by standards that vary by country. Here are the key rules in the United States that allow the claim of “free range” to be used

The Rules Adopted By The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) to Define What Is Free Range

  1. Outdoor Access: Must have continuous access to the outdoors during the production cycle.
  2. Outdoor Space: No specific requirement exists on the duration or quality of outdoor access. It could range from a few minutes a day to several hours a day, depending on the farm.
  3. Approval: Producers must demonstrate that their poultry have access to the outdoors to receive approval to use the “free range” label.

In contrast, chickens in the European Union, Australia, Canada and United Kingdom typically have access to the outdoors during full daylight hours, which results in 8-12 hours per day, depending on the time of season.

5 Reasons USA Chickens Spend Limited Time Outdoors

  1. Breed and Genetics: Many chickens are bred for rapid growth and large breast muscles. These are often less mobile and less inclined to venture outside.
  2. Fear: Chickens may be scared of the outdoors… especially if they were raised primarily indoors. For example there are predators, weird noises, and weather conditions like heavy rain and/or lighting and thunder that can make them hesitant to spend time outside.
  3. Overcrowding: High densities of chickens lead to limited space to move around. Plus it discourages chickens from going outside.
  4. Environmental Conditions: Poor outdoor conditions with no grass, plants or trees makes it very unappealing. Plus usually there is inadequate shelter that makes it uncomfortable for chickens.
  5. Feeding Practices: Most farms  feed chickens  indoors which further encourages them to stay inside where food is readily available.

Chickens May Not Have The Ability to Walk Or Venture Outside

Chickens raised for meat are often bred for rapid growth. As a result, overfeeding  to achieve market weight quickly leads to several health problems:

  1. Obesity: Overfed chickens can become overweight, making it difficult for them to move around comfortably.
  2. Joint and Bone Problems: Rapid growth hinders the development of their bones and joints that leads  to skeletal deformities and pain.
  3. Muscle Issues: The large breast muscles of broiler chickens  puts additional strain on their joints and makes them less mobile
  4. Leg Weakness: Rapid weight gain leads to leg weakness and poorly formed joints.  Chickens struggle to support their own weight.
  5. Lack of Exercise:By being confined indoors, the chickens have a limited ability to move. As a result, they experience poor muscle development and overall physical condition. In addition, they do not develop a habit of walking and moving thereby lacking the strength needed to venture outside.

7 Health Consequences From Eating Rapidly Grown Chicken In The USA

There are several potential health consequences for consumers who eat chicken regularly in the USA:

Nutrition

  1. High Fat Content: Chickens that are bred for rapid growth contain  higher fat content.  If you add a higher intake of these saturated fats to your diet, you may have an increased risk of heart disease.
  2. Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio: Most of the  farm raised chickens typically have a high grain diet. That can lead to an imbalance in  omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid. These  higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3s promote inflammation and may be linked to chronic diseases.

Residues Of Antibiotics

  1. Antibiotic Use:  Antibiotics are used to prevent disease plus promote growth. The meat of these  chicken contain antibiotic residues that may contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Hormonal Imbalances

  1. Hormones and Growth Promoters: Even though, the use of growth hormones is banned in poultry production in the USA, there are other concerns.  Other growth promoters may alos be present in the meat and affect hormonal imbalance and overall health.

Contamination

  1. Environmental Contaminants: Chickens raised in confined environments without the ability to enjoy the outdoors are exposed to higher levels of pesticides and heavy metals. These contaminants may accumulate in the meat and pose health further health risks.
  2. Pathogens: High-density farming conditions also lead to high rates of bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter. Eating undercooked or contaminated chicken could result in food borne illnesses.

Reduced Nutritional Quality

  1. Lower Micronutrient Levels: Chickens  may have lower levels of beneficial vitamins A and E

Long-Term Health Risks

  1. Chronic Diseases: Intensively farmed meats are linked to chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

Conclusion

According to The National Chicken Council, recent estimates indicate that Americans consume approximately 9 billion chickens annually. That translates into roughly 60 billion pounds of chicken meat every year.

These farming practices meet the high demand and keep production costs relatively low. However, this rapid growth comes with trade-offs like higher fat content and potential health risks associated with the intensive farming practices like exposure to antibiotics and contaminants, reduced nutritional quality, and increased risk of food borne illnesses.

Making informed choices about the healthy food your body consumes can contribute to overall well-being and support sustainable agricultural practices.

Consumers concerned about these issues may opt for chicken labeled as free-range, organic, or pasture-raised, which may have different nutritional profiles and lower levels of certain contaminants.

Insiders Health Tip:

Option #1: ORGANIC CHICKEN: Buying organic chicken is the healthiest option available. In order to be labeled organic, chicken must meet the following criteria:

No Antibiotics: Organic chickens are raised without the use of antibiotics, reducing the risk of antibiotic resistance and exposure to antibiotic residues.

Organic Feed: Chicken are fed organic, non-GMO feed  free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

No Hormones: Hormone use is prohibited  but organic standards ensure that farmers comply.

Outdoor Access: Organic chickens must have real access to the outdoors that allows them to actually be chickens and  engage in natural behavior .

Option #2: Pasture-Raised Chicken

Pasture-raised chicken has better living conditions and diet:

Outdoor Access: These chickens spend a significant portion of their lives outdoors on pasture as opposed to Free Range chicken. They can eat for insects and plants that helps to  enhance their nutritional quality of the meat.

Natural Diet: A diverse diet leads to higher levels of health omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins, such as vitamin E, compared to conventionally raised chickens.

Lower Stress: Better living conditions reduce stress and promote overall health.

References:

https://www.animalagricultureclimatechange.org/the-health-risks-of-eating-factory-farmed-meat/

https://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/

https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/

https://www.usda.gov/

https://preparedcooks.com/chicken-consumption-statistics/

https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/chicken-consumption-by-country

https://www.ciwf.org.uk/

https://thehumaneleague.org.uk/

https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/latest/press-releases/10-things-you-need-know-about-factory-farmed-chickens/

https://www.animalagricultureclimatechange.org/the-health-risks-of-eating-factory-farmed-meat/

https://www.ciwf.org.uk/farm-animals/chickens/meat-chickens/

 

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