Back to Living Real Change

The difference between pastured and industrial chickens

When you buy chicken at the grocery store, how do you decide which one is right for you? Do you read the labels on the packaging? Or do you simply choose the chicken that looks the best?

Jenni Harris, a fifth-generation farmer at White Oak Pastures, explains why it’s important to truly understand the differences in the poultry you are buying.

“The only way to trust your food source is to know the production practices of the farmer that you support,” says Harris. “It’s a marketer’s job to make their product appealing. And in doing so, full transparency isn’t necessarily required. So you want to be careful in knowing exactly who your farmer is.”

Understanding product labels

The farmer’s production practices are often included on the product label, though they can often be confusing and misleading. The following list describes terms commonly found on labels:

  •          Cage-free- can still be housed with hundreds of thousands of other hens
  •          Free-range- does not specify how long they spend outside or how much space they have
  •          Pasture-raised- hens roam freely outdoors, forage for food
  •          Organic- does not mean “certified” organic, which is guaranteed to be antibiotic-free

Pasture-raised chicken vs. industrial chicken

Pasture-raised chickens are allowed to roam freely outdoors. And their diets are inconsistent, as they eat bugs and grubs during the spring, but supplement with grain in the fall when bugs are less abundant.

Industrial chickens are often housed with thousands of other chickens and fed a diet of genetically engineered corn and soybeans. They are also given antibiotics to prevent the spread of illnesses.

“You’ll notice at the grocery store that on industrial birds, the breasts are really large,” says Harris.  “It’s because, as consumers, we’ve all voted that boneless, skinless breasts are the best products on the market. For pastured birds, because they are moving around, exercising, getting nutrition, chasing their food and running from predators, they build more muscles in their legs. So they have smaller amount of breast meat, but larger legs and thighs.”

Choosing the right meat for your family is a personal choice. But it always helps to stay informed and understand what you are buying.

For more helpful, healthful nutrition facts, click here.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.


Related Stories

Schedule your appointment online

Piedmont App

Download the Piedmont Now app

  • Directions
  • Indoor Hospital Navigation
  • Find & Save Physicians
  • Online Scheduling

Download the app today!

Get the Piedmont Now on Google Play Get the Piedmont Now on iTunes App Store