Cage free basically means that there are hundreds of thousands of chickens jammed into one warehouse building. They live shoulder to shoulder their entire life, never, ever seeing daylight; they have almost no room to move at all; and they are drenched in their own feces and filth. Toxic ammonia and manure is everywhere. Over a 6-week period, a single chicken produces 10lbs of shit, that is only cleaned out of the warehouse ONCE A YEAR! Now, multiply 10lbs of shit by the hundreds of thousands of chickens jammed tight into these warehouses and you get a serious amount of shit and bacteria buildup. There is a reason workers at the farms have to wear gas masks and protective suits. You don’t wear those just for the heck of it.
Because of these unsanitary conditions, which lead to a large number of chickens getting sick, the chickens have to be constantly fed multiple antibiotics (the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics are used on American farms yearly, about 75% of the nation’s antibiotic consumption (Kaufman 2010)). Because of the abuse of antibiotics in the U.S. poultry industry, the drugs aren’t even working anymore. One nationwide study announced that “tests on 525 chickens purchased from U.S. supermarkets and specialty stores in 23 states showed 84% of chickens contaminated with Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria” (Consumer Reports).
On top of the standard antibiotics, it’s an industry norm to feed the chickens growth antibiotics. These help them grow faster, which means more money for big companies like Tyson, Foster Farms, and Perdue, but a less healthy chicken for you.
Combine the heavy antibiotic use with the brutal treatment, constant stress, mutilation, toxic ammonia, fear, pain and disease, and the nutritional profile of this category of bird is very, very poor. The average chicken from these conditions, right before slaughter, is a nervous, drugged up wreck (see picture below). At this point, they’ve lost close to 60% of their features and have enough drugs in their system to make any pharmaceutical company happy as hell – and rich.
Would you eat this chicken or even touch it if you saw it in person? Even if it was 2 bucks a pound? I highly doubt it.
Anti-Depressants: I know! I couldn’t believe this one either. But researchers at John Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future found that Prozac is often distributed in chicken feed to keep the chickens calm and prevent them from stressing out – because the environment of constant abuse and overcrowding is too damn stressful for them, thus making the meat tough. Instead of changing the environment, factory farms just throw more drugs at the problems they’ve created. Sad but true. These anti-depressants are then found in the nutritional profile of the chicken people eat. Scary. Note: This was just found in chicken imported from China. However, i included this just to show how weird the poultry industry has gotten.
Arsenic : Arsenic is in chicken feed which ends up as part of the nutritional profile of the chicken. At average levels of chicken consumption (2oz a day), - “people ingest about 3.6 to 5.2 micrograms of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of the element. However, the average American eats way more than 2oz of chicken per day; thus, ingesting anywhere from 10-40 micrograms of arsenic daily. Anything above 10 micrograms a day leads to bladder, respiratory, and skin caner (ENS).
Banned antibiotics: Damn, these factory farms can’t get any shadier. On top of using all that shit above just to increase their profits at the expense of your health, they’re also using stuff that’s been clearly made illegal a while back. A study done by Environmental Science & Technology routinely found banned class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones in chicken meat sold across grocery stores all through America. These antibiotics are illegal to use in the industry, BUT ARE STILL WIDELY USED!!! Despite the fact they are illegal, intrepid investigative journalism by 3 reporters for Reuters uncovered systematic and regular use of drugs in feed used by Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue, and Koch Food. These are the biggest chicken meat producers in the U.S. and probably sell 80-90% of all chicken meat sold in the US. What the heck? Where is the USDA? Tax dollars are just being thrown in the fire here. Where is the regulation?
And Tylenol, Benadryl, Genetically Modified Feed, Sex Hormones: This is starting to look more like an OC house wife instead of a chicken... But it’s no joke. These big agricultural companies and the farmers that work for them are as shady as shady can get. These factory farms are run by a bunch of motherfuckers that have absolutely no clue about what makes healthy food. They’re all about the money. They put all this shit in your food and advertise it as “farm fresh” and “all natural.” Even on the packaging they put pictures of a nice barn and green land overlooked by a beautiful bright sun. In reality, they should just have a picture of a Nazi concentration camp-style factory farm. Now that’s honest marketing. But then who would buy that shit? … Exactly! No-one.
Tyson Foods, Farmer’s Fresh, Perdue Farms and other factory farms are an absolute disgrace to the farming community. Let’s not even mention the ethical and moral problems here both in the consumer arena and the animal welfare arena.
What you’ll see in the videos below is the standard for how factory farms in America operate. The video below depicts a Perdue Farms whistleblower. Perdue Farms is the third-largest poultry producer in the United States and is one of the original inventors of the factory farm system. What you see in these videos is NOT the exception and NOT a rare case. It is standard business practice in the chicken meat industry.
Moderate Category: Free range
This is a step in the right direction, and highest quality of chicken meat you’ll find at your average grocery store: WholeFoods, Sprouts, Ralphs, etc. I’m not saying this is the best quality ever. This is just the best you’ll get in the average American grocery store. Overall, I would rate this as “C” level quality. What’s different about free range? Well, here the warehouse is still jam-packed, just not as jam-packed as the category above. Also, the chickens get to roam outside in small backyard patio type area for a certain number of hours per day. Because thousands of chickens are concentrated in a small area, there are still tons of shit and bacteria everywhere. However, I must say that this is definitely a step in the right direction – as compared to super shitty and super filthy factory farm conditions described above.
Best Category: Pasture-raised
In terms of chicken meat, this is the best quality you can possibly buy. Here the chickens get to roam free on large, open farm lands their entire life. Because of this ideal environment, the nutritional profile of this chicken is much higher than the categories above.
-“Chickenizing Farm and Food” – Ellen K. Silbergeld
-Prisoned Chickens: Poisoned Eggs” – Karen Davis PhD