Upon a recent read of an interesting article by Francis Lam posted in salon.com regarding what all the buzzwords surrounding chicken really mean, we realized Green Top Market should probably adapt this article for its dedicated readers. The idea behind the article is that marketers have really capitalized on these buzzwords because they have gotten people to bite (pun intended) on their misleading product descriptions. So thank you Francis Lam for clarifying this for us all.
Definition- “producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” “Outside” can have varying possibilities as noted in the article. It could mean a great field or a parking lot, and it is not uncommon that the area be big enough for about 5 percent of the thousands of chickens. Although this is not always the case where the term is misleading, there may be some room for cynicism.
Pasteurized is not yet a legal term, but it does seem to be more humane to the chickens. It also tends to yield more richly flavored meat and eggs. The birds are kept in coops at night, and are left to forage on grass, seeds, worms, etc., during the day. They may be fed grain as well, but they have access to a variety of foods in their diet, which contributes to the taste of the meat and eggs. Because this term is not yet legal, it is up to the consumer to research the brands that use this label.
One of the most misleading of all the terms used by food marketers is the term natural. It means that nothing has been added to the bird after slaughter- no flavoring, no brines, no coloring, etc. The USDA does however require marketers to say specifically what they mean when they use the term, such as “no artificial flavors.”
This term gets into a gray area, and grey areas and food are something that the consumer should decide if they are comfortable with. In the article the examples given are “the chicken might be pumped up with a broth made from the bones of that animal. But it could also mean that sugar is added, or ’natural flavoring,’ whatever that might mean.”
No hormones; No antibiotics
By law hormones are not allowed at all in chicken production, so the labeling is pure marketing. Antibiotics are allowed in conventional chicken production (not organic), as long as there is no antibiotic residue in the finished product.
The article mentions that this method is favored by many chefs because the air-chilled birds have better flavor and skin that gets crispier. The air chilling process is different from the more conventional process of “water-processed,” where the meat is chilled in cold pools. The water in the pools has to be chlorinated to kill bacteria, something that many consumers may be uncomfortable with. The amount of chlorine is very minimal but still evident in water-processed chicken.
These terms are based on Muslim and Jewish criteria, and mostly govern the slaughter of the birds. These labels are granted by religious authorities, not the government. The process requires another layer of supervision, checking for sickness, legions, and signs the animals are in good health before slaughter. So these labels may be associated with higher quality and more humane treatment of the birds.
In the article Francis gets input from a co-founder of an organic production advocacy group, Mark Kastel. Mr. Kastel is a “firm believer that ‘organic’ is the best and most powerful label in chicken production.” The USDA enforces its definition as “100 percent of the chickens feed must be certified organic, which means in itself that it has been grown in a field that has not seen chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides or genetically modified organisms for at least three years.”
The article goes on to say that the best way to know about the chicken you buy is to visit a local farmer who lets you visit his chickens. This way you can decide for yourself if you feel the chickens are raised in a manner you feel is best for the chickens and your health.
For the full article, visit: