The truth behind chicken labelling

Your health: Heather McWilliam

Heather McWilliam

Special to The Record

In my last column, we looked at how the various appellations of eggs can be subject to interpretation. The same applies to meat birds.

First of all, poultry can be “organic,” “free-from” or neither of those two options. Organic chickens receive 100 per cent organic feed and are raised under strict husbandry standards. “Free-from” poultry are hormone- and antibiotic-free. But as all chicken in Canada is raised without the use of hormones, the term is a bit misleading.

Other terms used to define poultry generally refer to their living conditions:

• Free-run poultry are kept in large buildings and can roam freely within the enclosure. The most economically viable product, typically birds are smaller and younger when processed.

• Free-range birds have access to the outdoors through a grass, dirt or concrete enclosure connected to a barn. As anyone who keeps chickens knows, however, it doesn’t take long for birds to turn a grassy field into a barren moonscape, so their meat doesn’t receive as much nutritional benefit as pastured poultry.

Pastured poultry live in large, mobile enclosures that allow them to continually eat fresh grass and bugs, in addition to their grain feed, yet still offer protection from predators. Access to fresh grass can increase the dietary benefits of the meat, including more omega-3s, vitamins (A, C and E), beta-carotene and conjugated linoleic acids (CLA, a powerful antioxidant). The fat on pastured poultry actually gets a yellowish tinge because of the extra beta-carotene from all the sun and grass.

Regardless of their label, all poultry producers in Canada must meet care and cleanliness standards and undergo regular audits – so feel free to enjoy some wings this weekend without worry!

 

 

Heather and Allen McWilliam, of Tannadice Farms, produce some of the freshest, most healthful meats on Vancouver Island. To learn more, visit www.tannadicefarms.com or call 250-338-8239.

 

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