Purchasing organic chicken can be an important step towards a more healthy lifestyle. Many organic farmers have maintained a commitment to excellence when it comes to the raising of their chickens. Today, numerous shoppers are leaning towards organic chicken brands rather than non-organically raised chickens.
What to Look For
If you are looking for a clean source of protein to add into your diet, organic chicken can certainly provide that. To be 100% certified organic, chicken must be raised in compliance to the following standards:
- No hormones used
- No antibiotics used
- Chickens are fed organic meal
- No artificial ingredients are used
- Chickens must have access to pasture
All natural, free range and other terms do not necessarily mean organic. Always look for the Certified Organic seal.
The Importance of Free Range
Organic chickens are typically free range. This term "free range" is also seen on packages of eggs at the market. Free range refers to the method of raising chickens. Most mass-produced chickens are kept in close quartered cramped cages, with less than 3/4 of a foot for each bird. This can lead to injuries and untold stresses. Unfortunately, these stresses cause the release of stress hormones within the live chicken that will eventually be ingested by the consumer. Stressed chickens are often diseased, as stress can contribute to all sorts of ailments whether acute or chronic. The presence of ailing birds leads to a need for antibiotics which collect in the chickens and can affect the quality of taste thereafter.
The workers on conventional poultry farms may also be subjected to illness. According to the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, (1999 35:142-9.) the airways of the workers can become infected from the high percentage of ammonia fumes and fecal dust in the overcrowded poultry houses. A recent study showed that workers spending less than three hours in those conditions could develop accute inflammation in the bronchial tubes.
Free range chickens are not confined to cages. They are allowed to roam freely while enjoying a natural diet. These changes in care truly influence the taste of the chicken, which is why most organic chicken meat abounds in taste. However, the consumer should be aware that the government does not define the term free range except to require that the birds have access to pasture. In reality, 500 birds may be housed in a small coop with a door leading to a five foot square piece of dirt.
Mother Earth News discusses these and other problems in the article, Raising Chickens for Meat: Do-it-yourself Pastured Poultry.
Where to Purchase Organic Chicken Locally
Fortunately, more farmers are taking the organic route to ensure the purity and quality of their chickens. Organic chicken can be found at many organic food stores such as Whole Foods and more conventional grocers are carrying organic chicken right along with a wide selection of other organic items.
Some of the national food chains that carry organic chicken are:
- Safeway/Tom Thumb
- Trader Joe's
- Whole Foods
- Wild Oats
If your local retailer does not carry organic products, spend a minute talking to the manager. He may be able to begin stocking organic items if there is enough demand from consumers to make it worth doing so.
Some farmer's markets have areas where meat is sold. While many of these farms are too small to be able to afford the organic certification you can talk to the poultry farmer and find out what types of feed he uses and whether or not he uses organic methods. You can find a family farm near you on Local Harvest.
Organic chicken is available for purchase from many Internet venues.
The Organic Pacific Gourmet
The Organic Pacific Gourmet carries a variety of organic meats including chicken. Their items are not only 100% certified organic, they are certified humanely raised and the farms are monitored by the American Humane Association.
They carry all of the cuts that you would find at your local grocer from boneless skinless breasts to whole fryers. Your order is delivered to your door, making it very convenient for the busy family. You must order a minimum of five pounds of meat, although it does not all have to be chicken. The order is shipped and delivered in a refrigerated pack and they offer a satsifaction guarantee.
iGourmet carries a full line of organic meats, cheeses, and other grocery items. It was founded in May of 1997 and has become one of the Internet's largest gourmet retailers. There is excellent customer service as well as a complete customer satisfaction guarantee.
Choosing Organic Is Easier than Ever
Choosing to buy organic poultry is easier than it has ever been. Although you can still expect to pay more for organic items, the prices are coming down as more consumers demand these healthy alternatives to conventional products. If you are committed to organic foods, then you have more opportunities than ever before to buy them.