In the world of high ethical and humane treatment of farm animals the plight of commercial poultry is the most difficult to resolve. Farmers want the biggest bird, the cheapest to feed, and the fastest to market weight they can – all a part of good business. However, the way
The local food movement and disdain for genetically engineered produce and animals has led to renewed interest in Heritage breed chickens, ducks, and turkeys. However, alternative hybrid breeds of poultry, slower growing than the commercial white Cornish cross chicken, namely Freedom Rangers and Label Rouge, have gained much interest of late.
Some of the animal welfare labels that audit farms to ensure good care of farm animals from birth to the table have standards that dictate growth rates to ensure that the animal anatomy is not compromised by excessive growth rates. The harsh reality of the spectacular growth rates of commercial chickens has been grossly depicted in recent documentaries and movies, thus, the renewed emphasis on slower growth rate birds.
Whenever a standard is created, business motivations will ensure that the industry will just meet that standard. Economics will rule and poultry farm care has come to resemble a manufacturing operation more than farm raising and nurturing of animals.
The creation of the Label Rouge hybrid was one of the first commercial ventures in
The following is from a document of the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service:
At the time of this writing, SASSO and Hubbard-ISA genetics of this type are not available in the
We have been surprised and amazed that in a day and time where the public rails against GMO and Monsanto’s dominance of seed production and genetics that the public has not been equally disturbed and vocal about corporate ownership of commercial poultry genetics. That there is not more concern about the birds they eat that are unable to naturally mate, or in the case of Label Rouge and Freedom Rangers, that a farmer must purchase parents as they can not be breed and raised on the farm surprises us. That chicks and “parents” are placed in the US Mail to farms instead of being born on the farm like all our other meat animals is still a wonder and why consumers and animal welfare groups do not protest such actions.
Sysco and US Food Services provide the vast majority of protein to restaurants in the
We could not make this stuff up!
First, they claim their poultry is better than free-range. Why, because “they are completely protected, safe from the dangers of the outdoors”. Read it for yourself:
“Better than Free-Range
Some consumers like the idea of "Free-Range" Chickens, assuming they are naturally healthier and better-tasting than chickens that have spent their lives indoors.
The problem is, by allowing a flock outdoors, the grower loses control of what the birds eat and drink, making them vulnerable to any and every disease carried by wild birds overhead and wild animals passing through.
Also, ironically enough, to have a flock classified and sold as "Free-Range chicken" in the
At Ashley Farms, our chickens experience the very best of both worlds. They enjoy all the benefits of the great outdoors - fresh air, fresh water and plenty of room to roam free inside their clean, climate-controlled houses. But they are completely protected, safe from the dangers of the outdoors. There is never any risk of exposure to disease, never any stress caused by exposure to the elements, and never any chance the chickens will eat or drink something they should not.
That makes Ashley Farms Chicken far superior to free-range chicken, a difference informed consumers really appreciate.”
In case you still are not convinced, they also state:
“Ashley Farms producer grows its own pullets in its own houses, complete with concrete floors (rather than dirt) under the litter for the cleanest possible conditions.”
After all, who would want their chicken to forage on actual dirt? Yuck! How dirty?!
Danny Williamson, General Manager of Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch says "commercial chickens are too fat and lazy, to go outdoors but true Heritage Chickens thrill in chasing bugs and eating grass and digging in the dirt, this is natural for chickens. After all, the Red Junglefowl, is of historical importance as the likely ancestor of the domesticated chicken, and it still roams free in the jungles of
Obviously, the reason their birds are safer in a climate controlled building with a concrete floor is because commercial birds of today have lost their immune system through the genetic manipulation and development. They are a fragile bird devoid of their natural heritage and ability to forage.
Ashley Farms claims their poultry are Heritage Breeds when in fact their poultry are the same hybrid birds with genetic crosses symbolized like serial numbers on an automobile. Heritage Breeds are defined by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy (www.albc-usa.org). No serial numbers or hybrid genetic designations required.
If you want great natural sustainable poultry just follow these simple steps:
1. Ask the farmer where they get their chicks and poults from. Animal Welfare Approved does not allow chicks and poults to be sent in the US Mail – who thinks they should? Chicks, just like lambs, calves, and piglets should be born on the farm.
2. Ask the farmer where the parents are? Sustainable poultry require that you can breed future parents as well as create the livestock that becomes our food source. If you can not see the parents than it is not sustainable.
3. Visit the farm and see the birds forage on pasture and real dirt. Poultry can not forage on concrete and what would be natural about that?
If ever in doubt, search out the Godfather of American Heritage Poultry – Mr. Frank Reece in