Many of us are looking to make the switch to a better bird and buy organic, cruelty-free and humanely farmed chicken online – and with good reason. It is no secret that the US chicken and poultry industry is facing major problems and has been under the critical scrutiny of informed consumers, journalists and activists for years. Look no further than Jonathan Safran Foer & # 39; s Eating Animals or Michael Pollan's The Omnivore & # 39; s Dilemma – both devastating charges of factory farming – to learn the horrors that exist in a system that has evolved to emphasize efficiency over quality. However, there are good options for certified cruelty-free, human-raised, and organic chicken that can be purchased online and in markets ̵
First a context. There are two main problems within broader poultry farming: industrial-scale breeding and rearing of chickens and the farming practices used to feed all these birds and keep the massive supply chain moving.
Breeding & Raising Practices includes a litany of questionable standards, including acute selective breeding to make birds unnaturally large and fleshy (but not healthy) and feeding antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick. They get sick, of course, because living conditions are often bleak and unclean, which in turn raises a range of moral issues often addressed by animal rights organizations. True, most of the U.S. bought, cooked, and eaten poultry is full of antibiotics, harvested from unnaturally bred and highly stressed birds that exist for only a short period of time under conditions that most of us would likely condemn if we knew about it.  chicken coop “/>
Agricultural practices introduced to grow feed for chickens and other animals is the more underreported problem that plagues both industry and the planet. Due to the enormous size of the industry and the demand for output, huge amounts of GMO (genetically modified organisms) row crops – namely maize and soy – or the "grain economy" are needed to maintain such a huge supply.  Because of this unprecedented but self-imposed demand for so much cheap chicken (about 50 billion chickens are slaughtered per year), industrial agriculture has to be used. That translates into more chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers and genetically modified crops. Not only does this affect the health of the crops that are then fed to birds and in turn fed to us, but soil health is deteriorating and the whole system is becoming increasingly polluted every year. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (PDF link), 26% of the Earth's ice-free land is used for grazing livestock, while 33% is used for growing fodder (chicken feed alone represents 9% of the row crops). If you look at the impossibly poor farming conditions for animal feed – most of which are not edible to humans – you realize that a lot of chemicals go into the earth, water and air.
What is the solution?
It turns out that there are indeed options to buy organic and human chicken online, and they may be cheaper than you think. For example, Matt Wadiak, one of the original founders of Blue Apron and former COO of the Meal Pack outfit, recently launched Cooks Venture. Cooks Venture is a poultry farm and distributor that breeds, slaughters and sells hereditary chickens using humane breeding and rearing methods, but also – and just as importantly, according to Wadiak – uses regenerative farming to keep soil health intact and the overall impact of poultry farming. limiting climate change. Cooks Venture heirloom chickens are raised with quality feed, air-cooled, pasture-farmed with unrestricted access to the great outdoors, and are animal welfare certified – an important and rigorous label to earn (more on this in a minute). Wadiak's goal is for his farming and breeding practices to become mainstream, and with Cooks Venture already scaled up to supply around 700,000 chickens a week, it doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Cooks Venture, like other humane and sustainable poultry farms, has faced huge systemic and societal challenges, including deep-seated lobby roots with even deeper pockets that seek to influence regulatory policy. Frustrated consumer habits are another hurdle, as many of us have adapted over the years to getting chicken and poultry cheap. Meat and poultry in particular have become (relatively) cheaper and cheaper thanks to factory farming and in no way keep up with general inflation. & # 39; Too cheap & # 39 ;, if you ask Wadiak, as the price cuts are at the expense of both the health of the planet and the animals we then put into our bodies, not to mention the cruel practices of farms and slaughterhouses.
A human-raised, organically fed whole chicken will probably cost you between $ 12 and $ 23 (Cooks Venture chickens can already be bought for $ 11), but when you consider that you can easily feed a family of four, costs may seem less high. On the other hand, paying $ 6 or $ 8 for factory-farmed chickens might be an attractive proposition to increase your profits, but Wadiak begs people to consider all the associated risks and issues and says it's really hard to argue for meat that is cheap. "Something has to fall victim to such cheap poultry, and it could very well be that you and your health."
Chicken labels to consider
Searching the labels and terminology when buying meat and poultry can be tricky. With so many different standards, it is helpful to have a way of decoding. To complicate matters further, only a few of the labels refer to USDA regulations, while others, such as & # 39; all-natural & # 39;, just market buzzwords and mean nothing.
These first two labels point to some of the most rigorous standards ] and are the best indicators for obtaining a human grown poultry product.
ASPC Label represents a significant improvement over conventional standards and means that the animal has outdoor access for ruminants and for pigs and poultry when accompanied by the words "free range" or "raised grassland". If animals are raised indoors, it means that more space, bedding, and enrichment are required, and subtherapeutic antibiotics are prohibited. Standards also extend to transportation and slaughter, and compliance is ensured through independent on-farm audits.
Animal welfare certified
This six-level animal assessment program for meat and eggs is a bit more complicated. According to the ASPCA, each successive level represents progressively higher wealth and includes all the requirements of the level below. Confinement of cages, hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics are prohibited at all levels, the standards extend to transportation and slaughter, and compliance is monitored by auditors at each company.
Read more about both labels here.
The label "organic" is a good choice to watch out for, but keep in mind that it really just means that the chickens have been fed a certified organic diet and – but not always – means that the agricultural practices used in feeding the birds are better. But it doesn't indicate a chicken's quality of life or humane practices during their lifetime and / or death, and in many cases, organic chickens still resist many of the most notorious practices in factory farming.
No antibiotics or no antibiotics
This means that the chickens were not routinely given preventive antibiotics, which many consider harmful, but it does not guarantee that they would not receive antibiotics if they became ill.
Grown up pasture  Since there is no legal definition of this term, "pasture grown up" is difficult to verify. The USDA requires labels to be "accurate," but without any formal guidelines, it has quite a bit of wiggle room, but means that birds have spent a lot of time outdoors and in a pasture.
This is another label you've probably seen on the sides of egg cartons and chicken packets, which is misleading once you dive into the criteria. "Free range" is meant to indicate that chickens had access to the outdoors, but there is almost no requirement on how much or how large that outdoor space is. In many cases, chicken coops are set up in such a way that the chickens do not even use the outside space.
This is a marketing term and means nothing. There are no requirements to label a chicken as completely natural, and if you see it, you should probably assume it is anything but.
For more information, read our comprehensive breakdown of chicken labels or view this chicken labeling map from the ASPCA.
The Best Places to Buy Human-Bred and Organic Chicken Online
If You Are Worried About Eating Human-Bred Chicken that has been Bred and Fed Using Sustainable and Natural Processes, The Best Thing To Do and find a good farm / producer and a consistent way to buy them. Fortunately, many of the chicken producer's best birds can be purchased online so you don't have to rely on your local market to transport them.
Cook & # 39; s Venture
The goal of Matt Wadiak founder and CEO is to improve overall farming and feeding system that supports the massive poultry industry and bring it to scale (they currently distribute over 700,000 chickens per week) so that more people can eat better chicken raised with environmentally friendly feed. You can purchase their GAP Animal Welfare Certified farmyard chickens bred to be biologically healthy, gut healthy and tasty (speaking from experience) directly from the Cooks Venture website for just $ 15 if you buy six, with free shipping on all orders . Or get a bird for sale for about $ 11 through Fresh Direct.
This chicken from specialty store D & # 39; Artagnan is certified human, air-cooled, antibiotic-free and raised by grassland, making it one of the best choices for human chicken you can buy online. Right now, the high-end retailer is selling two frozen birds (3 to 3.5 pounds) for just $ 32, plus shipping. Note that not all products of this brand are certified human.
Certified organic smart chickens are fed an organic grain diet, are free range and certified human by the Humane Farm Animal Care. All smart chicken products are raised without the use of antibiotics, and a 4-pound bird costs about $ 23.
You have probably seen these chicken products and others of this line in your local market. You can rest assured that they use organic chicken in all of their products and some, like these breaded chicken patties, are also made with certified human-bred birds.
Note that this new meat delivery game player does not have humane chickens, but a good selection from certified organic options, including this 12-ounce package of chicken breast for under $ 9.
Note : ButcherBox does not currently accept new customers, but you you can sign up to be on the waiting list.
All this online butcher's chicken is GAP Animal Welfare Certified. While you can't place any order for breasts or some whole chickens, you can choose monthly boxes of chicken like the popular Beef & Chicken Box.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional if you have questions about a medical condition or health goals.