What to look for if I want humanely raised chicken to eat?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by gophert, Oct 8, 2011.

  1. gophert

    gophert Out Of The Brooder

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    I actually have been a vegetarian for 20-some years. However, I have been rethinking my position for a while now. I became a veg because I was opposed to factory farms and their cruelty and environmental degradation, not because I do not believe in eating animals.

    I would like to start reincorporating chicken into my diet. But I want the birds to have lived happy and healthy lives. I know the label "free-range" doesn't mean very much. There are some local people who sell chickens at the farmers' market. What am I looking for if I want a sustainable happy healthy chicken, what questions should I ask, and what should I expect to pay?

    ETA--I have laying hens but no room or desire to raise my own meat birds.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011
  2. Tracydr

    Tracydr Chillin' With My Peeps

    Where are you located? Maybe somebody on here is raising some to sell and you can see the operation? I would look for some that have at least two square feet of tractor space on grass in their last two weeks, outdoors and moved daily.
    Free ranged is unlikely, unless you find somebody with heritage breeds, but if you do, they won't be shaped like your grocery store chickens, so just be prepared for a big change.
     
  3. MetalSmitten

    MetalSmitten Chillin' With My Peeps

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    do an internet search for farms or CSAs local to you, see what you can find. some of them will let you do a farm visit so you can judge for yourself about the conditions of the livestock.
     
  4. gophert

    gophert Out Of The Brooder

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    The good news is that after not eating chicken for so long I have virtually no expectations for size, taste, etc. [​IMG] I am sure I will like it and I am more than willing to experiment with cooking methods, etc. I am also not squeamish about bones, innards etc even though I am veg. (People are always confused by this, but I used to work in a raptor center and I fed those birds some ugly-looking dead stuff. It doesn't bug me.)

    We do have some people near us who raise chickens. Yes, I am wondering what to look for and what is realistic to expect...like what do I want to see? I know what I want to see for layers but I know meat birds are different. I imagine they have different requirements and must be dealt with differently. So mostly free range is probably out of the question? Do people just not do that for meat birds?
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Animals are animals, not humans, so humane treatment of animals does not mean how you would treat humans. Just because you would not live in those conditions does not mean it is inhumane for chickens. I am only addressing the humane aspect of your question.

    The things I'd look for. Do they truly really use outside access. To me it is a huge bonus for them to have access to green growing things, but that is not really necessary. Especially for meat bird operations, true free range (no fences) is often not a realistic option. But they should spend at least part of the time outside on dirt.

    If they use a tractor type of operation, how often do they move the tractors? How dirty and filthy does it get inside the tractor? I'm not going to give a set time for them to move because that depends on the type of turf they are on, how wet the weather is, how dense they are in the tractor, different things for different operations.

    Are they in generally dry conditions? If it is rainy season, it may not look like it, but in normal weather conditions, do they have dry places to go. Wet conditions are normally unhealthy conditions.

    Shade and clean water should be available at all times. Whether food is constantly available or not depends more on the specific type of operation they are running.

    If they are not on pasture, they do not have to have fresh greens or anything like that. I'd prefer it, but there is nothing inhumane about them eating nothing but a diet of commercial feed. Commercial feed contains everything they need to live a happy, healthy, productive life.

    Now something that will probably stir some controversy, if my other comments don't. Do not necessarily judge certain animal husbandry practices as inhumane just because you don't understand what is going on or it "looks" cruel. Often those are in the best interest of the animal. It does not really hurt them, allows them to live a better quality of life than otherwise, and actually keeps them safer. I'll use de-winging a chick as an example. Sometimes the bit of wing that holds the flight feathers is taken off a chick. This stops them from flying and may allow chickens to live on pasture in excellent living conditions without them flying outside their protection from predators. I don't do that to mine because I don't keep them in conditions where it would make them safer, but with certain very humane operations, it is a tool that can give the animals a better quality of life. People that make a living off their animals are usually not into torture for the fun of it. These practices have develooped over the centuries becaus it is beneficial to the animals, not because it is cruel or just convenient.

    In general, I'd look for chickens that are pretty much allowed to be chickens. They need reasonably clean dry living conditions, plenty of water, and room to take dust baths.
     
  6. gophert

    gophert Out Of The Brooder

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    The place I am looking at near me, I see photos of chickens in what look to be large tractors (?) on dirt (nothing green on the ground). However, they look to have plenty of space.

    I just worry a little that some of these small operations are going to end up being crowded birds on bare dirt eating only commercial feed (which I don't think is inhumane per se, but not what I would prefer). I'm sure they are much better than factory farms still, but if I am going to do this I want to choose meat birds that have the healthiest possible lives. I realize I have to be realistic and that I do not understand much about how meat birds are raised, which is why I am asking here.
     
  7. jdywntr

    jdywntr Chillin' With My Peeps

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    There is a brand called Murray's Chicken that is certified humane raised and handled. That is what I buy. It is actually cheaper than the grocery store's brand of organic. They are raised on farms in PA and each package has a code on it that you can look up exactly where the chicken came from.
     
  8. gophert

    gophert Out Of The Brooder

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    I have seen the Murray's brand but wonder what I can really know about it. What does certified humane
    raised and handled mean?
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011
  9. Bossroo

    Bossroo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When people project human traits onto animals and/or been told a tale by some idealist guru, they then portray these expectations as to the animals' living conditions. I live on 20 acres and over 3,000 sq. ft home, our master bedroom is 18 x 24. Many City dwellers live in multi-story 0ne or ZERO bedroom and about 600 sq ft apartments. So, am I a free range chicken and expect to raise my meat chickens free as a bird and the city dweller a dreaded commercial broiler living beak to beak? Where I live there is no way on God's green earth/ big blue marble, that I can have my chickens free ranging or even in tractor type of housing due to the creation of such other little beasties as multitudes of coyotes, racoons, possums, bobcats, cougars, bears, red tailed hawks, bald eagles, snakes, dumped dogs and cats, that just love to SNACK of Mc Nuggets. Add in high desert type of environment, mice, rats, ground squerrels, moles, voles, ants, crickets, grasshoppers,stinkbugs, daddy long legs, wolf and torantula spiders, garden and orchard pests, tubleweeds, puncture vines, foxtails, burr weeds, and all manner of other noctous weeds, 30 days of solid fog/ day in the winter, lack of rain - 6-8" of rain/ year winter/spring, none in summer/ fall, lack of any available irrigation water,only brown grass in summer/ fall, 20*- 36* in winter and 100* - 107* in summer. So I have to house them in a horse stall inside an all steel horse barn for their safety if I am to expect a harvest. Not to even mention the high production costs. Matter of life or death ! Am I living happier than the city apartment dweller ? I don't think so, since I have to work from sunrise to sunset and stress over the welfare of my charges ( 33 horses and many chickens, garden, orchard and other trees/ shrubs) every hour of the day and night, 365 days/year. Where you live may be a different story as the local environment dictates what and how one CAN raise their chickens or any animal. Matter of perception don't you think! [​IMG]
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I don't have a clue. You would have to see who the certifying authority is and what their criteria is. I'm not going to look it up. The Sierra Club might have different criteria than the USDA. I'll use Sierra Club and USDA because I don't think they are banned on this forum like certain other organisations.

    The slippery slope to "certified" anything is that the criteria has to be in writing. Anything else just has no meaning. The more specific you are in writing the criteria, the easier it is for people to find a way around it, think technical loopholes. The less specific you are, the more you depend on personal preference in how it is interpreted. In other words, it doesn't really mean anything. The actual definition of the terms used becomes really important. Often, terms don't mean anywhere close to what you envision them to, such as free range.

    I personally like to make the rules as specific as you can stand to leave as few loopholes as possible. But this is often very subjective and may eliminate other practices that are more humane. Like I said, a slippery slope.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011

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