Embed:Humane label free range
The USDA standard for free-range requires only that chickens are given some access to the outdoors. There are no stipulations for the size or quality of the outdoor space, and there is no requirement that the chickens actually spend time outdoors. Also, the claim does not have to be verified through inspections.
So it's not surprising that investigations by Consumer Reports (and others) reveal that most chickens labeled free-range spend their lives confined inside a crowded chicken house. The free-range space itself may be nothing more than an enclosed concrete slab that the chickens never use. These individuals lack the room even to turn around, much less engage in their natural behaviors of preening, nesting, foraging, dust bathing, and perching.
This has led Consumer Reports to say that free range is one of the most potentially misleading labels because of the discrepancy between what it implies and what is required to make the claim."
Only one percent of eggs are from free-range hens that have the option to go outdoors, but like the other 99 percent, even those hens have likely never actually been outdoors.
Jonathan Foer, in his well-researched and fact-checked book Eating Animals, sums it up well in saying that "the free-range label is bullshit" and "should provide no more peace of mind than 'all-natural,' 'fresh,' or 'magical.'"
- “FSIS.” Food Safety Inspection Service, USDA, http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms
- “What Does ‘Free Range’ Mean?” Greener Choices | Consumer Reports, April 25, 2017. Accessed October 4, 2018. http://greenerchoices.org/2017/04/25/free-range/
- “A Hen’s Space to Roost.” New York Times, August 15, 2010. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/weekinreview/20100815-chicken-cages.pdf
- Yonan, Joe. “Book Review: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer,” November 22, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/20/AR2009112001684.html
- Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Little, Brown, 2009, 102.