Since I've had three conversations about chickens over the past two days, I thought I'd write a quick post about it!
If you have ever purchased meat or poultry from Whole Foods, you have probably noticed that everything is labeled with a number that corresponds with a "step". Since I grocery shop with my children, I have never had the fortitude to stop, make everyone be quiet, and concentrate on understanding what it all means...
So here is a link for those who are interested...
Most everyone knows the sad story of the chickens for sale at the regular grocery stores. Those poor little things... they are put in confinement with tons of other guys, made to walk all over each other (and their diseased or dead room-mates), some never see the light of day, they are injected full of yucky things (hormones and antibiotics) to make them stay alive in that unnatural environment AND to make them nice and plump for our enjoyment. Yum Yum, right!? But - to top it all off - they are made to eat things that they were never intended to eat, one of which is soybeans! What in the world?! They are raised, from chick to full-grown in just 6-8 weeks... while chickens raised on pasture take 3-8 MONTHS - depending on the farmer.
Just buy organic, you say? Well, some organically fed chickens are treated differently than the plight of those described above, but all the label "organic" indicates is that their feed (whatever that may be) is organic... (and that they are not given hormones or antibiotics). But the problem is...chickens are supposed to be pastured. That means that their little bodies are meant to have plenty of room to scratch around, foraging for bugs and such. When they are raised this way, we reap the benefits.
Here are a few excerpts that explain why our family buys pastured chickens:
"We place our chickens in portable pens at ten days of age and move them daily. This movement forces exercise by the lazy broilers and stimulates ingestion of fresh grass and legumes. A natural diet like this packs the bird with nutrition and flavor. When they are moved away from yesterday’s excrement, it eliminates the need for antibiotics and pesticides. Chickens that are raised in huge confinement houses are denied a natural diet, fed an unnatural diet, de-beaked, over-crowded, never get a breath of fresh air or much exercise. A very important difference in our chickens and store chickens is in the processing. Store chickens are processed by the millions in huge plants staffed by people who will never see their consumer. Chickens are eviscerated using automated equipment which can splatter manure on the inside of the carcass; but never fear, they are dipped into a chlorine bath solution by the hundreds of thousands. This kills the bacteria but do you want to eat chicken that is washed in fecal soup? Assembly lines go so fast that the USDA inspectors only get a glance at a bird! Our chickens are processed by a small, family run certified organic processor who shakes the hand of every customer. The inspector has all day to inspect 300 birds. There is a big price difference in industrial chicken and our chicken but we believe there is an even bigger difference in quality."
So here's the bottom line:
Buy the regular grocery store chicken if you like. It won't kill you - it's just not the best.
Next best is organic, but the very best version is pastured organic. Don't stress over this - it's just chicken :)