“USDA ORGANIC” is considered the gold standard for labeling. This label ensures that chicken eat organic feed (GMO-free) that doesn’t contain animal byproducts, are raised without antibiotics and have access to the outdoors (how much access…isn’t regulated).

“AIR-CHILLED” means that chickens were not water-chilled en masse in a chlorinated bath and the meat did not absorb any water during processing. (Water-chilled birds retain up to 14 percent water—inflating cost and diluting flavor) Instead, chickens hang from a conveyor belt and circulate around a cold room.

“RAISED WITHOUT ANTIBIOTICS” are important; too bad they’re not strictly enforced. (The only rigorous enforcement is when it is USDA Organic).  Loopholes – like injecting the eggs (which will be used as meat birds) with antibiotics or feeding birds feather meal laced with residual antibiotics from treated birds.

“NATURAL & ALL NATURAL” beware of these ubiquitous labels.  The USDA has defined the term just for fresh meat, stipulating only that no synthetic substances have been added to the ‘CUT’. Producers may thus raise their chickens under the most unnatural circumstances on the most unnatural diets and inject birds with broth during processing.

“VEGETARIAN-FED & VEGETARIAN DIET” sound healthy, but such terms are not regulated by the government, you’re relying on the producer’s ‘notion’ of vegetarian, which may mean cheap bakery leftovers that may have preservatives and/or chemical additives.

“HORMONE-FREE” – When used with chicken (and pork) “hormone-free” is an empty reassurance, since the USDA does not allow the use of hormones or steroids in the production of either chicken or pork.

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