Choosing Your Chickens Wisely

Choices For Your Body
Free-range certified organic: Chickens are scavengers and omnivorces, and they need protein in addition to plant foods to be healthy. Free-range certified organic poultry mostly feed on bugs, grubs, worms and grasses. Farmers raise hens in a stress-free environment, in the most traditional and old-fashioned way. Eating organic free-range chickens is highly recommended by the USDA because these chickens are raised in a chemical-free environment, void of any drugs or growth-enhancer hormones. These chickens are not housed in close quarters so disease is less likely. Reducing antibiotic use lessens antibiotic resistance and reduces the likelihood that super strains of bacteria resistant to human drugs will develop.

Conventional: Conventional poultry are fed conventional food, usually grain, as carbohydrates, which are just as effective at fattening animals as humans. Conventional poultry farms house thousands of chickens very close together, so disease can spread quickly. Farmers give each animal antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick. Chicken feed on these farms have been known to contain 11 different antibiotics including Bacitracin, methylene, disalicylate, bacitracin zinc, chlortetracycline, erythromycin, hygromycin, neomycin, novobiacin, oxytetracycline, and penicillin. Increased use of antibiotics on farm animals can lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can be passed to humans.

Choices For The Environment
Chickens emit no methane and emit less phosphate and carbon dioxide than other meat-producing animals. If carefully managed, poultry litter (manure) can also be processed for commercial fertilizer. Opponents of conventional poultry farming argue that it harms the environment and creates health risks, as well as abuses the animals themselves. Advocates of conventioanl farming say that their highly efficient systems save land and food resources due to increased productivity, stating that the animals are looked after in state-of-the-art environmentally controlled facilities. Recent research suggests, contrary to widespread belief, that conventional poultry production may have a lesser impact on the environment and global warming than free-range organic production. Choosing organic poultry that has been trucked across the country may have more of an adverse environmental impact in terms of transport pollution than selecting a conventionally raised local chicken.