ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Chicken is the most-consumed meat in the United States, and you can bet there will be plenty of chicken on the menu at Fourth of July cookouts next week.
When it comes to picking out the bird for your backyard cookout, there are multiple options. Sometimes, based on labeling and classification, figuring out what is in that package can be confusing.
The Virginia Farm Bureau (VAFB) is trying to take some of the confusion out of the process for consumers. The VAFB has put out this primer on what those labels mean:
Conventionally raised: Broilers are raised cage-free in the U.S., mostly in large, environmentally controlled houses, safe from diseases and predation. Most laying hens in the U.S. are housed in these.
Cage-free: Cage-free layers are housed in indoor-only, controlled environments that provide chickens the freedom to roam within the house. Outdoor access is not required.
Free-range: Growers must demonstrate to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service that the laying hens have been allowed outside access for 51% of their laying cycle. Access to a porch-style area can be considered free-range.
Pasture-raised: Poultry are raised in pastured or woodlot settings where they can roam freely, foraging in vegetation. These designations are granted from verifying bodies such as American Humane Certified or Certified Animal Welfare.
Natural: Natural products typically contain no artificial ingredients or added color. All eggs meet these criteria.
Certified organic free-range poultry and cage-free eggs are strictly regulated through the USDA’s National Organic Program. 100% Organic must be produced using sustainable production practices without prohibited methods like genetic engineering. Organic products must contain no less than 95% of certified organic ingredients. “Made With Organic” products are made with at least 70% certified organic ingredients.
No antibiotics: Poultry with this label have not been treated with antibiotics. If treated, a withdrawal period is always required before slaughter.
No hormones: Hormones aren’t used in poultry, ever.
Source: Virginia Farm Bureau
Free range and pasture-raised chickens can be more expensive because of higher production costs.
According to the USDA, Americans consumed 93.8 pounds of chicken per capita in 2018.