If you eat chicken, you have probably heard of the term “free range” but you may not know exactly what that means. Is it really all that important to eat a free range chicken and is it worth the added price? That is a decision that you will need to make for yourself but we can do one thing for you. We can outline just a few of the benefits to free range birds. Let’s begin.
Defining Free Range Chickens
So what exactly does it mean to have a free ranged chicken? Is it just an advertising term or does it actually mean something.
Let’s start wit the USDA definition of free range. To use the term, the USDA says that a producer must demonstrate that their chickens have been allowed access to the outside. A little vague but most birds that have been raised as free range will have been allowed access to the outdoors more than half of their lives.
When looking for a free range chicken, you will notice that most of the manufacturers set up their on standards for defining the term. Because of the vagueness of the USDA definition, they get to do this. In general, for the best benefits, you want the birds to have free access to pasture land.
Benefits Of Free Range Chickens
There are a number of different benefits to a free range bird. Here are the highlights.
- Better Protein
In general, a bird that is allowed to roam will produce healthier meat. It will be leaner and will actually taste better. Stress from being caged can release hormones. Hormones that can make the meat less desirable.
- More Nutritious Eggs
If you are an egg eater, you will get a huge benefit from eating them from a free ranged bird. The shells are thicker and the nutritional content is better. They are known for having significantly less cholesterol and much higher vitamin content.
- Less Antibiotic Usage
Commercial chicken farms get their birds to grow faster and bigger partly from the continuous use of antibiotics. This has been known to be a factor in the emerging prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- They Are Raised More Humanely
If you were to visit a commercial chicken farm, you may never eat chicken again. Crammed into cages with only one purpose, to grow. Conditions are harsh and just plain “gross”.
Where To Get Them
While it used to be a challenge to find free range chicken, they are becoming far more common. Most major grocery stores will carry a free range option. If you have trouble with your store, look for a health food store or perhaps ask your store manager to start carrying them. If there is enough demand, they may do so.