Chickens raised for Wayne Farms products are not free range. Instead, chickens are free to roam inside protected, climate-controlled environments with 24/7 access to feed and water. This helps protect them from predators, inclement weather and wild birds that often carry serious diseases. The claim “free range” stirs images of chickens running around a barnyard or in a pasture. What many don’t realize is that the “free range” label claim simply means that chickens have access to the outdoors, for at least part of the day—like through an opening at the end of a chicken house, for example. Because we live in the northern hemisphere, few chickens are raised “free range” in the United States.
Basically, all chickens raised for meat (called ‘broiler’ chickens) are raised cage free, including chickens raised for Wayne Farms products. Consumers often think meat chickens are raised in cages, because they either confuse them with table laying hens (that are often raised in cages), or because they’ve seen chickens in cages (for transportation purposes, only), on their way to a processing plant.
Virtually all chickens raised for meat in the United States are raised on farms. Some producers own their own corporate farms. 100 percent of chickens raised for Wayne Farms products are raised on FAMILY owned farms.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines ‘natural’ products as having no artificial ingredients, added color or chemical preservatives, and it must be minimally processed (meaning not fundamentally altered from the raw product). Some chicken products labeled as ‘natural’ contain added solution or other ‘natural’ ingredients like sodium and carrageenan (seaweed extract). For consumers watching sodium intake, it’s always important to check the label for added ingredients. Products for Wayne Farms may contain chicken broth for added tenderness and improved texture, as well as natural spices.
The term “organic” refers to how chickens are raised, as well as specific on-farm care practices and stewardship. To be certified organic, chickens must be provided access to the outdoors and fed 100 percent certified organic feed for their entire lives. Wayne Farms does not currently offer certified organic chicken products.
NO ADDED HORMONES OR STEROIDS
No chicken raised for meat and sold in the United States are ever given growth hormones or steroids of any kind—federal law strictly prohibits it for both poultry and pork products. This confuses many, since chicken parts inside packages appear bigger sized than decades ago. That’s because they often are. Science has helped improve breeds, nutrition and environment that have all resulted in larger chicken sizes, overall. Market size also depends on the length of time chickens are raised in a chicken house—the longer in the house, the more they eat and the larger they grow. It’s also important to note the words ‘no added’ when it comes to ‘hormones.’ Because chickens are living creatures, they naturally produce their own hormones.
There are many claims regarding antibiotic usage—however, it’s what’s on the label that matters. Whether it’s “no antibiotics ever,” “raised without antibiotics,” or “raised without antibiotics important to human medicine,” claims are regulated and approved by USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). No matter the claim regarding antibiotic use, a company must provide documentation to the Agency, demonstrating how chickens were raised. There are also strict rules around antibiotics, when used, including a withdrawal period of all medicines, in advance of processing, to ensure that no antibiotic residue is present in the meat consumers buy.
While there may be other claims, these are the ones consumers encounter most often:
- No Antibiotics Ever: No antibiotics were ever administered, throughout the entire process of hatching and raising chickens.
- Raised Without Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be administered in eggs, prior to hatching, to help protect developing chick embryos from disease.
- Once hatched, antibiotics are not used while chickens are being raised.
- Raised Without Antibiotics Important to Human Medicine: While antibiotics are used responsibly throughout the process of raising healthy chickens, no antibiotics the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have deemed “medically important” have been used to treat flocks demonstrating signs of illness.
VALUE-ADDED CHICKEN PRODUCTS
Chicken providers offer value-added products that further create “value” for customers and consumers by taking deboned chicken and adding ingredients to improve flavor, texture and tenderness; or, creating specific cuts like tenders, to meet desired market needs. This may include a marinade of chicken broth containing added sodium and spices. If this is the case, providers are required to clearly state these added ingredients, along with any other ingredients, on USDA-approved labels. Wayne Farms offers a wide variety of value-added chicken products.
The use of water is essential in chicken processing facilities to keeping a clean environment and products wholesome and safe. This may result in unintentional, increased moisture in fresh poultry products. When this occurs, providers are required to display a “retained water” statement on the label, such as “may contain up to 6% retained water.”
VEGETABLE & GRAIN DIET
Over half of all poultry feed is made-up of corn and soybean meal. Because protein and fat are also essential to a healthy, balanced diet for chickens, providers may add fat and protein either from animal or plant sources. In order to carry a label like “100% Vegetarian Diet,” all sources of nutrition in feed must be derived from plant sources, meaning no animal byproducts are used.
CHICKENS HATCHED, RAISED AND PROCESSED IN THE U.S.A.
Nearly all chickens and chicken products sold in the United States come from chickens hatched, raised and processed in the United States. Today, the only exception is Canada, where a small amount of the U.S. chicken supply may be imported from there. Canada has food safety and quality standards, equal to the United States.
SOURCE: National Chicken Council, www.nationalchickencouncil.org