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Supermarket Guide to Buying Chicken

What do packaging labels on poultry really mean for consumers?

As consumers demand ever more information about their chicken, producers and government regulators have responded with labels that are supposed to take the mystique out of your bird. Unfortunately, deciphering these labels can make even the most Zen among us feel like a chicken with its head cut off. Here is our guide to truth in poultry labeling.

Certified Organic

Stipulations placed on USDA-certified organic producers are many. All feed given to chickens must be certified organic, which means no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, animal by-products or other additives. Certified organic poultry must also meet “free range” criteria. Additionally, federal regulations call for “shelter designed to allow for (i) natural maintenance, comfort behaviors, and opportunity to exercise; (ii) temperature level, ventilation, and air circulation suitable to the species; and (iii) reduction of potential for livestock injury,” but there is no guidance regarding what chickens require in these areas.

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