An anonymous poster on Better Farming was questioning the use of the term "free range", and how it is misused by some.
Free Range ChickenMy definition of free range is that the poultry has free and direct access to the great out of doors; can see the sun; can decompress and get away from their sisters; can walk through the pasture or woods at their leisure; can flap their wings & feel the wind on their feathers; eat any grub, grass, seed, or insect they happen to find; and do dust baths in the dirt of the forest floor to their heart's content. The 18" x 18" door on my coop is opened in the morning, and closed after everybody is back in the coop by dusk.
On my Small Flock poultry farm, we have LGD's (Livestock Guardian Dogs) who protect our birds, and keep them isolated. If a crow, hawk, fox, coyote, or other wild animal is thinking about coming in to fraternize with our poultry, or steal an egg or chicken, the wildlife quickly reconsiders their plan due to our LGDs.
There are other Small Flockers who do pastured poultry on grass pastures using electric poultry netting, possibly supplemented by LGDs.
Pastured PoultryOn my Small Flocker farm, we are gearing up to do pastured broiler poultry this Spring. Inside each 10 ft x 12 ft open air cage on a grassy pasture are 75 broiler chickens. Each cage is moved forward every day to fresh grass for the birds to eat and scratch. The birds receive a fresh patch of pasture during each day for their entire grow cycle. Each patch of pasture is only re-used again after 6 weeks of rest and recovery. Any bugs that enter through the chicken wire, seeds found, grubs in the dirt, or grass under the bottomless cage is welcome food for the birds, who then eat 40% less of the commercially manufactured feed which supplements the pasture.
Is "Organic Chicken" Better. or a Scam?Beside free range, "Organic Chicken" is another weird definition that is used to confuse and mislead consumers. The greedy SM cheats salivate over the 30% or higher premium prices available for "organic chicken". The CFIA organic regulation says,
" 6.8.1 The operator of an organic livestock operation shall establish and maintain animal living-conditions that accommodate the health and natural behaviour of all animals, including: a) access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, rotational pasture, exercise areas, fresh air and natural daylight suitable to the species, its stage of production, the climate and the environment;"
Unfortunately, the CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and "Big Food" have lobbied, done regulatory capture, redefined, twisted, and misinterpreted the organic standard to suit their profit seeking goals.
If the CAFO cheaters open a 8" x 8" door at one obscure corner of a chicken factory barn holding 200,000 birds, and that door leads to a tiny screened-in porch, then the unholy alliance of CAFO cheats and Big Food often label their chicken "free range", and qualify for "organically raised" under the regulations.
Of course, the porch will hold only a tiny fraction (maybe a hundred birds or so) of the 200,000 birds, and even fewer birds ever discover the well hidden door. Chickens are forced to live in the cesspool of CAFO chicken factories, the method used by most or all of Canada's Supply Management chicken growers. CAFO birds are crammed in, cheek to jowl, as many as 196,000 birds on one farm. The birds are forced to live in their own manure for their entire life, forced to breath the toxic dust cloud that never goes away. They are force fed antibiotics, other drugs, and weird chemical brews so as to keep them alive in spite of the poor living conditions.
Hopefully it will become clear to all consumers that CAFO chicken factories have found a convenient loophole in the regulations to subvert and mislead consumers, as usual.
Sooner or later, consumers will realize the fraud. Eventually, the mounting breach of trust by SM's foul chicken factories will be exposed on these issues. One day soon, all of those lies or half truths will totally rupture the trust between CAFO cheats and society, and the public will totally abandon this terribly flawed system.
Small Flocker Chicken Alternative
As an alternative to all of the crap, cheating, and misleading described above, small flock poultry farmers have an alternative we'd like to offer to Ontario and its citizens.
There are more than 15,000 Small Flock chicken farmers in Ontario. If the government regulations were made more favorable to small flockers (as opposed to the monopoly of cheating and misleading Chicken Mafia henchmen), then some or most of Small Flockers would be ready, willing, and capable of growing safe, affordable, nutritious, locally grown chicken for their family, friends, and local communities.
The choice is clear. We just need help getting the word out. Once the public has all the necessary facts, then the public can make an informed decision. Choice and freedom. That's what a democracy is supposed to be all about.
That's exactly what the Chicken Mafia are fearful of, and are desperately fighting against.
Soon, you will need to stand up and make a choice as to which side you are on.