August 28, 2009
Free-range chickens are the way to go, right? Well, not exactly. You see, there are, on egg cartons, no laws or government standards regulating the use of the terms “free-range” or “free-walk”. Farmers can simply tack on a “free-range” designation at their discretion. The USDA plays real loose with its standards. All the USDA requires is that chicken producers demonstrate that the chicken has been allowed access to the outside. On many supposedly free-range poultry farms, chickens never actually set foot outside.
For more details, read Free Range Myths from Action for Animals
James E. McWilliams writes in his book Just Food that “A free-range chicken generally has 1 to 2 square feet of maneuverability inside a factory shed.” Mr. McWilliams continues, “In most free-range egg farms, chickens are packed into a shed so tightly that most cannot make it to the narrow passageway leading to the single patch of cement representing the great outdoors.” Finally, Mr. McWilliams explains that “Diseases spread more rapidly than in caged farms because free-range birds must tramp through their own excrement rather than live in cages mercifully suspended above the floor of poop.” If you want to learn more, I advise you to ’order Joel Salatins video, the Polyface Farm DVD. It’s some great stuff.