Monday, June 2, 2014

Choosing natural, free-range, or organic chicken

Happy Monday Everyone!

I had a wonderful time in North Carolina celebrating my cousin Emily's wedding. She was a beautiful bride and the weather couldn't have been more wonderful. This week Danielle decided we should do some blogging dedicated to the versatility of a roasted chicken. A couple weeks ago she provided a lovely vegetable soup recipe which used a homemade stock that she had made from the bones of a roasted chicken. There are so many different wonderful recipes that can spring from cooking your own chicken at home. To give you a little background on this subject I thought it might be nice to give you some facts on the differences between buying natural, free-range, and organic poultry.

About six years ago a movie called Food Inc. was released and preached the importance of sustainable eating. It was a wake up call for a lot of Americans and the directors and participants in the film continue to spread the word about mindful consumption. In the film there was a section that uncovered the truth about chicken farming in the United States. It was a sad tale about exhausted cooped up chickens that were not only unhealthy but the filthy conditions in which they were being raised essentially lead to an increased spread of salmonella and other food-borne illness. The film shed light on the value of being aware of the food you are purchasing and eventually cooking. When venturing to your local grocer you need to know that your decisions on what you buy directly affects the overall market and therefore you and I are, for all practical purposes, the food movement. I do think that most documentaries have a way of slanting their tales to be a bit more dramatic than what is actually seen in the real world but I also feel that making mindful decisions when it comes to what we put in our body is always essential.

There are some gruesome facts that I could share with you about the way the average chicken found
in the super market is treated but I think I would like to keep this posting positive. I want to just take a few minutes to go over the differences in verbiage used when describing your poultry. There are three main words that you can look for when searching for the right bird to bring home- naturally raised, free-range, and certified organic.

Naturally Raised

 The only substantial requirement for “natural” chicken breasts is that they contain no artificial ingredients, but even then there is no process to verify this claim.


 In order to label chicken as free-range, producers must demonstrate through affidavits or testimonials that their poultry have free, continuous access to the outdoors for more than half of their lives. The free-range label is slightly controversial, since some producers insist that the label applies even if the birds do not actually go outdoors very much or at all --- they merely need the option to go outside. Other producers think it should only apply if the birds make use of the outdoor area. Free-range only refers to the way the chicken is raised, it does not give you any incite on what the chicken has been fed or if it has received hormones that might be unhealthy for those eating it.

Certified Organic

According to the US Environmental Act, organic chicken must be fed only certified organic feed, which is grown without artificial fertilizers or pesticides, from the time they are two days old. They may not receive hormones or antibiotics at any time, though they may receive vaccinations to prevent common diseases. They may be kept inside temporarily for specific purposes like medical treatment or to protect the quality of soil or water, but must be given reasonable access to the outdoors.

Both free-range and organic production systems allow chickens access to the outdoors; conventionally-raised chickens live in very close quarters, confined to cages or in buildings with hundreds of other chickens. While access to the outdoors does not guarantee better living conditions, both labels are generally believed to be more humane systems than conventional poultry production. As a consumer I feel that choosing organically raised poultry as your staple not only ensures a quality product but supports local farms.

Speaking of local farms I thought I would high-light two farms that are known for their quality birds.

In the Twins Cities we have a chicken farm called Kadejan Farms that provides most of the organically raised chicken to our co-ops, natural food stores and restaurants. They have been in operation since 1989 and continue to strive to yield a high quality product to the masses. Although they are a bit more large scale than most local producers they run their business like any smaller farm. They make sure all of their chicken is raised properly, handled correctly and packaged with care. If you are from the Twin Cities and are looking to purchase a Kadejan chicken just click the link provided.

If you are a local to the Georgia area there is a very neat farm called White Oak Pastures that also provides some really high quality chicken. They have a very lovely farm that you can even visit and buy birds right on site. They are a bit smaller scale than the Kadejan chicken but just as great. They not only sell their product in stores but you can also purchase their chicken and other items online- a super convenient and easy way to make the right step in eating sustainably.  Danielle and her husband have ventured to the farm and they find it absolutely wonderful.

I hope that you now have a better handle on what to look for when buying your birds to use for the recipes we will be providing this week. Check back tomorrow when Danielle will be blogging about her roast chicken!



P.S. Here is a recipe for a wonderful roasted chicken and also a recipe for a wonderful chicken bone broth made with the leftover bones from the roasted chicken.
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