Today I continue the series "Is Free Range Chicken..." with the question, "Is free range chicken organic?" This is a question that has several layers to it. First, free range and organic are two exclusive and separate terms. Free range describes the manner in which it was raised and organic describes the inputs put into the feed and soil. An example would be allowing the chickens to roam and roost where ever they wanted but fertilizing the soil with petroleum fertilizers and using synthetic herbicides and insecticides. This example would be free range but not organic.
When it comes to our chicken we don't use the term organic or free range. We describe our chicken as pasture raised and homegrown. By that we mean our chickens are raised on our fields, in mobile, open bottomed pins that are moved at least once if not twice a day. These fields have not had petroleum fertilizers, insecticides, or herbicides sprayed on them in 20 years.
You may be thinking, why not call it organic? Well, first of all the government controls the certification for organic and it is really expensive. Second, many in the organic movement complain that the standards have been distorted so much by the government that it means very little anymore. But, what do you expect when the very companies that the government is suppose to regulate have their executives in high ranking positions at the USDA and FDA. These positions allow them to price the competition out through certification fees and lower the standards for those who are in. Very convenient for them and I will have nothing to do with it, not even in name only.
This question also boils down to knowing your farmer and asking him direct and pointed questions. What is important to you? Is it that the chickens roam free? Or is it that they have good access to grass and bugs? Or is it more important that they be raised in an environment without synthetic inputs? These are all questions you need to be asking the farmer raising the chickens you will eat.
So let me ask you, what is more important to you and your family? What are you looking for when you buy chicken at the farmers market? I hope you will let us know in the comments below.
Did you miss part one? You can find it, "Is Free Range Chicken...?", by clicking here.