What does it mean?: “Free range”

What does it mean?: “Free range”

What makes “free range” or “cage free”? If you think of the chickens that are raised in old-school big farmland, think again. I’ll dig into the food label term “free range” “cage free”.

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“Free range” “cage free”

Free range. Cage free. What does egg label Mean?

Americans consume meat, eggs, and dairy products as part of their daily meals. The poultry industry is 44 billion in total in the US alone. The United States raises and slaughters almost 10 times more birds than any other type of animal.

“Free-range” “cage-free” products have gained popularity due to the popularity of healthy eating. However, not many of us don’t know how animals in the poultry industry are raised, slaughtered, and delivered to local grocery markets.

The label regulations for “free range” “cage free” are almost meaningless and laughable to consumers. Those big companies and lobbyists control USDA to protect their profits, not to protect consumers’ health. We must know the facts so that we can make more sensible choices for our food intake. 

How animals are raised for food

The industrial animal agriculture has progressed drastically over the last 100 years – strives to maximize profits while minimizing costs, at the animals’ expense. Read the details of how the chickens for meat and eggs are raised for 99% of them in US. Animal cruelty is the price we pay for cheap meat. How can we be ok with it and that selfish?

Deceitful marketing by corporate giants

To hide the cruelty, the poultry industry employs clever marketing convincing consumers that the animal products you are purchasing are in somehow better than your standard ones. By using the food label terms like “free-range” cage free”, “all vegetarian diet”, “all-natural” or “farm fresh”, they create the illusion.

Remember, 99% of chickens are industry mass production raised in the warehouse, not in the open-wide ranch. Then what do they actually mean?

In the chicken industry, the label “free range” largely applies to chickens which are raised for meat. From USDA guidelines, “free range” chickens have an access to an outdoor area. When you hear it, you probably think of a wide open field like this:

modern "free range""cage free"
“True” free range chicken

To the contrary, most of chickens are raised in factory farms. The size, duration and quality of that outdoor experience is not defined legally. So the corporate giants can label it “free range” whether if chickens go outside or not. Sadly, these chickens would die if they stay outside too long due to the heat.

modern "free range""cage free"
“Actual” Free range chickens

What can we do?

With a little knowledge, consumers can have an impact on the farming industry. If we demand meat and eggs less, we could force the industry to change its practices. We must take a baby step for changes.

Support farmers with certifications

You can find the market place that supports farmers that care about animal and environment. You can also find the producers who care about animal welfare with certifications and buy from them.

How can you find non-mass production farms? Welfare certifications exist: Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane and Global Animal Partnership. Their standards ban cages, crates and extreme confinement and set definitions for adequate space, indoors and outdoors. They require like hay bales and perches that allow natural behaviors and have standards guiding air and light quality to support animals’ health.

Avoid buying chickens with “free range” label from US Top 5 broiler producers

Tyson Foods Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Sanderson Farms Inc., Perdue Farms Inc., and Koch Foods Inc. They dominate the industry and set the rules. Animal cruelty is a normal practice for them simply because they pursue the profits – with minimal costs and maximum profits.

They are so powerful and rich – the food/food label regulations are almost numb to the consumers. They also make the food label so confusing so that they can control us better, which is working so far. That’s why I’m doing this blog – to educate you about food and drinks so that you can make your own wise choices on your intake.

Don’t waste your money on mass-produced meat!

Ignore the deceitful marketing tactics

a farm drawing and terms like “free cage” are meaningless. Continue to be knowledgeable on your food.

Eat more veggies

Eat more vegetables than chicken. Eating chicken is definitely no necessity. You can get nutrients and protein from plant-based products. To eat a cheap chicken, are you ok with the animal suffering? Even cutting the amount of chicken intake would work for you and chickens since you’re decreasing the consumer demand. If 100, 1000, or 10000 people do it, I’m pretty sure we could make a difference.

Support restaurants and shops that support those certified farms

Real “free range” products cost a lot more than industrial mass-production ones. That means those who purchase pay a bit more than the industry one – for you. You could be their patron and support their goodwill. It can be done easily. McDonald’s isn’t one of those, FYI.

More resources:
The Humane Society of the United States
The Poultry Site

Conclusion: We should stop being so selfish and destructive for our pleasure and convenience. We must be knowledgeable and considerate to others - humans, animals, and the earth. If we work together, we can influence on such a cruel and deceiving industrial animal farming companies. Why not start eating more vegetables and cut meats a bit more? We got to start from something - small thing makes a big difference.

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