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What Exactly is Free Range?


Cooking Tip of the Day

Know what you are paying for....

You hear the term, Free Range, and many people touting their virtues…. I have yet to find a person really knowledgeable on the subject. I have been told many things, from free range raised meat, poultry and eggs being more nutritional (I haven’t found a resource to back that up yet) to the more humane aspects of the raising of the animals. I wanted the facts…. so I went hunting… surprisingly, there isn’t a lot of information on the subject.

I knew the general description of what free range food is(meat, poultry, eggs and dairy farming) but I wanted more information about it. More and more people talk about it and I wanted to know its benefits since these items tend to be considerably more expensive. I understood the humane aspect of free range, at least I thought I did, but I wanted to know more about health and nutritional benefits.

According to Wikipedia,” free range is a method of farming husbandry where the animals are allowed to freely roam instead of being contained in any manner. Farmers practice free range to achieve free-range or humane certification to reduce feed costs, to improve the happiness and liveliness of their animals, to produce a higher-quality product and as a method of raising multiple crops on the same land.

In ranching, the free-range livestock are permitted to roam without being fenced in, as opposed to fenced-in pastures.”

The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service states that it does not know of any valid scientific information that shows that any specific type of chicken has more or less Salmonella bacteria than other poultry.”

In the United States, the term free range has become largely a marketing term meaning something on the order of “low stocking density”, “pasture-raised”, “grass-fed”, “humanely raised” and etc.

Free range poultry is probably where you will find the biggest difference… since poultry kept in small fenced in areas are restricted in their movements.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service requires that chickens raised for their meat have access to the outside in order to receive the free-range certification. There is no requirement for access to pasture, and there may be only access to only dirt and gravel.” So if you are purchasing free range chicken for the humane aspect of it… then I would recommend you check out the brands you purchase and see exactly how they are raising these free-range chickens….you may be surprised.

"Free-range chicken eggs have no legal definition in the United States. Free-range egg producers have no common standard on what the term means. Many egg farmers sell their eggs as free range merely because their cages are two or three inches above average size or because there is a window in the shed.”

With the holidays approaching, many are considering using free range turkeys... my advice... know what you're paying for.

In a nutshell…. I would investigate the brands you are purchasing to be sure they are what you think they are…. some brands include pictures and detailed descriptions on their websites as to what exactly they do.

For more information go to Wikipedia online.

Source: Wikipedia, Free Range

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