When food service managers order chicken for their facilities, they come across many different labels and distinctions. The labeling of chickens can be confusing with tags such as organic, cage-free and non-GMO floating around. This week, we’d like to briefly discuss the rules behind chicken labels and hopefully clear up some of the confusion.
Food Safety Training Guide to Chicken Labels
Before we begin our discussion, we’d like to mention a few labels that cause the most confusion. From time to time a provider labels their raw chicken as natural, free-range or cage free. Unfortunately, no official inspected or verified class of natural, cage free or free-range chicken actually exists. A free-range or cage-free label simply infers that the farmer raises the chickens outdoor or uncaged. A label of natural gives no guarantee that the product is antibiotic free, organic or GMO free. For all intents and purposes, the natural label is meaningless.
Several chicken labeling standards require inspections and verification that the product meets specific guidelines. The most common include:
- Certified humane
If your chicken is labeled with one of these designations, you can rest assured that some form of inspection takes place. When you order organic chicken, you should receive raw product that has been fed a vegetarian diet free of antibiotics. However, the egg the chicken hatched from could have been treated with some form of antibiotic before the chick’s first day of life. Live chickens receive some outdoor access, but no minimum requirement is enforced. In order for raw chicken product to gain an organic label, an annual inspection of the facility must take place.
Non-GMO chickens also must pass a verification process in order to achieve permission for the non-GMO label. In order to gain this label, the chickens’ feed must contain less than one-percent GMO ingredients.
Finally, a chicken that has been verified as humanely raised or receives an American Humane Certified label must pass an inspection that stress on the bird’s daily life is minimal.
During food safety training, we occasionally have a question concerning hormones. You can rest assured that hormone use is prohibited in domestically raised chickens.
Decoding labeling standards helps food service managers keep informed about the quality of their product. Are there any confusing labels that you’d like us to look into?