Did you know that most full-grown chickens have less than one square foot of space to live in– less than the size of an iPad? Pretty crazy to think about. Maybe the last thing on your mind is the size of the living quarters of a chicken, but let me tell you, it should be. Factory-like industrial farms subject billions of animals raised each year for meat, milk and eggs to painful practices and confine them in ways that stifle their basic needs and urges. Most of the chickens ending on people’s plates lived in these inhumane, unhealthy factory-like facilities.
You say you already buy “organic” chicken, huh? Don’t be fooled. There are some pretty shady foods and labels out there, so make sure you are doing your research. Words like Organic, humanely raised, natural, cage free, free range, hormone free, antibiotic free and vegetarian fed, are thrown around all over the place. But in reality, they do not mean much.
A great example is “Cage Free.” This is a misleading claim for meat chickens because, unlike egg-laying hens, they are never raised in cages. If someone claims “Hormone Free,” well of course they are, because it is already illegal to feed hormones to chickens. So you aren’t getting anything different than what anyone else has. Another great claim is “Antibiotic Free.” Antibiotics are fed to animals on factory farms as a band aid fix for unhealthy living conditions. However, removing drugs does not alone make for a more humane system.
The ASPCA is hoping to raise awareness about the plight of factory farmed chickens in order to inspire the public to demand healthier, more humane conditions. They launched Change Your Chicken– a 30 day challenge that encourages Americans to shift all their chicken purchases from the worst factory farmed products to more humanely raised products.
In the U.S., there are more chickens raised for meat than any other land animal raised for food. Nearly 9 billion chickens are slaughtered each year in the U.S. Most of those birds are raised in giant, crowded sheds and bred to grow unnaturally fast, with massive chests for breast meat. Unable to support this weight, many birds spend virtually their entire lives sitting in their own waste, their breasts and legs developing open sores. In addition to being inhumane, these practices can promote foodborne illnesses, and chicken now causes more outbreaks and hospitalizations than any other animal food. Sounds like the kind of food you want to be eating, right? Probably not.
A few good ways to start your search for healthier meat are to find meats that have specific standards with labels that match those standards:
Animal Welfare Approved – Look for chickens that have continuous access to pasture or range. No feedlots. Cage confinement, hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics prohibited. Standards extend to breeding animals, transport and slaughter.
Certified Humane, Raised & Handled –Look for chickens that have continuous outdoor access for ruminants. Cage confinement, hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics prohibited. Minimum space allowance and bedding required for indoor environments.
Global Animal Partnership 5 Step Program (Steps 2 and above) –Step 2: indoor space and enrichment requirements. Step 3: outdoor access. Step 4: access to pasture. Step 5: full pasture environment. Step 5+: slaughter on farm.
Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved and Global Animal Partnership (levels 2 and above) represent a range of higher-welfare practices, but all three certify that the chicken you’re buying was not subjected to the terrible crowding, filth, sickness and suffering found on the worst factory farms.
So what exactly is this challenge and how can you make a difference?
- Take the 30 day pledge not to purchase chicken from extreme factory farming conditions
- If you eat chicken products, challenge yourself to find brands that are certified by either Certified Humane,Animal Welfare Approved or Global Animal Partnership levels 2 and above. Once you’re signed up, we will email you helpful tips, resources and facts to support you through this 30 day challenge.
- Download and print this supermarket request card to hand to store managers when you can’t find higher-welfare certified products.
- Share this challenge with your friends and family. We want 50,000 Americans to take this challenge. That’s a call for change the chicken industry can’t ignore! Make sure when you post, you use #ChangeYourChicken and get others to do that too!