The benefits of a high quality free-range chicken that has roamed the farm eating freely of the grasses, weeds and other greens sprouting up is surely to outweigh the costs in comparison to commercially raised chicken. Allow me to demonstrate.
Commercially raised chicken are:
-Fed pesticide laden food with the possibility of pieces of chicken, meat, feces or an overabundance of grains
-Pumped with growth hormones
-Raised in crowded conditions
-Forced to live in filthy industrialized cages
-Fed anti-biotics because they carry diseases
-Never see the sun or even any light
-Often can not walk because they're leg muscles can not keep up with the growth of their 'breasts'
-Chilled in water before packaged which creates an increase in weight and therefore price
-Injected with sodium or MSG during processing
While on the contrary free-range chicken raised on humane and sustainable farm will:
-Roam freely absorbing plenty of Vitamin D from the sun-Eat bugs, sprouts, grasses and other foliage coming up naturally from the earth
-Fed a natural vegetarian diet with healthy proportions of legumes, grains and vegetables
-If certified organic then all the feed is guaranteed to be produced without the use of pesticides, fertilizers or GMO's
-Void of anti-biotics, growth hormones and any steroids
-Often be air chilled instead of thrown in baths of water, look for 'air chilled' on the label
-Contains higher quantities of the anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids and a healthier ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids
Pasture raised chicken are of the highest quality and won't be found by merely looking for a label on the packaging. Labeling gets incredibly confusing, especially with organic certification. Often times large scale farmers cheat the system by making only the minimal changes necessary to their farm in order to achieve the 'organic' certification. The chickens may still be in the same dark cages but are now being fed 'certified organic' food whether it be from their natural diet or not. Yes, they are not fed anti-biotics or other growth hormones but are we back to true farming yet? Not quite. Don't get me wrong certified organic chicken are much better than any commercially raised variety but certified organic labeling can cost you some extra pennies we may not all have. The 'certified organic' food is going to cost the farmer more so he has to raise the prices in order to keep up with this demand. Pastured chicken should have unlimited access to the outdoors, to roam in the sun, to eat from the natural foliage sprouting up. The quality of the meat is different based on the animals diet and lifestyle. Pasture raised is as it always has been and as it should still be today.
So how do you know when you go to buy your chicken? If you are at your local farmer's market ask questions, do not be shy, farmer's should enjoy telling you about how they raise their animals. Go see the farm when the opportunity arises. Research companies by looking on their website and find out about their farming practices. Whole Foods has partnered with Global Animal Partnership to label the quality of the animals life on the farm based on a 5 Step Program. Support farmers who truly allow their animals to roam on pasture, it's better for their health and much better for your health.
Favorite pasture raised chickens:
-Mary's Chickens from Pittman Family Farms can be purchased locally at Lazy Acre's Market
I understand that cost is an issue and often holds people back even when they understand the benefits. Stay tuned to learn how to stretch out your purchase on a good quality chicken and see how economical it really is!