“Free-Range” Poultry & Eggs: Not So “Free” After All

United Poultry Concerns has published a critical analysis of practices at poultry farms advertising “free range” eggs and meats. Some highlights:

  • Birds raised for meat may be sold as “free-range” if they have government certified access to the outdoors. The door may be open for only five minutes and the farm still qualifies as “free-range.”
  • Apart from the “open door,” no other criteria such as environmental quality, number of birds, or space per bird, are included in the term “free-range.” A government official said: “Places I’ve visited may have just a gravel yard with no alfalfa or other vegetation.”
  • “Free-range” hens are typically debeaked as chicks at the hatchery the same as battery-caged hens. Debeaking is a painful facial mutilation that impairs a hen’s ability to eat normally and preen her feathers.
  • Typically, 2,000 to 20,000 or more hens — each hen having one square foot of living space the size of a sheet of paper — are confined in a shed with little or no access to the outdoors. If the hens can go outside, the exit is often very small, allowing only the closest hens to get out. And the “range” may be nothing more than a mudyard saturated with manure.
  • “Cage-free” means that, while the hens are not squeezed into small wire cages, they never go outside. “Cage-free” hens are typically confined in dark, crowded buildings filled with toxic gases and disease microbes the same as their battery-caged sisters. And like their battery-caged sisters, they are painfully debeaked at the hatchery.

The article also includes findings from visits to specific poultry farms claiming “free range” practices.

You can read the full article here.

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