What Is A Free-Range Chicken?

When one hears the term “free range” chicken or turkey, one most often envisions beautiful birds living a carefree life of peace, running green fields and scratching the ground for insects and dirt without a care in the world. Unfortunately that’s not quite how it is.

If you want to raise your own chickens for their eggs and for the meat of the chicken its self, and you let them run “free range” this may be the truth for them. But for the mass produced, industrialized chicken farms, free range isn’t quite that pleasant.

For one thing, a free range chicken farm, the chickens aren’t exactly out running green pastures and catching bugs. They are usually penned in a huge warehouse type structure that houses thousands, even tens of thousands, of birds that rather than being penned, and left to “roam” freely, if you can call it that. Many times they are so packed in that they really can’t move around much, and often they don’t want to move much.

Overhead feeders on timed intervals eject feed into troughs or directly onto the ground mingling with feces and so the birds stay right there and wait for the food. Even if there is an open end of the building and a pen outside, most birds stay put near the feeders.

Another unpleasant reality of the “free range” bird is that in order to prevent injuries to the birds from squabbles that may occur when tens of thousands of birds are bunched together, their beaks are clipped like you would a toenail, except for they are cut back nearly to their face and they don’t grow back. This must be quite the painful procedure for the animal to endure.

The reality of mass production industrial farming of any kind is that the animals are just not treated humanely. When a chicken is not free range, typically two or three are kept in a very small cage that they can barely fit in that are stacked many high and in rows hundreds of feet long.

There are conveyor belts that remove the feces and eggs (separately of course) and that bring feed along in front of them to peck at and this is the life of the chicken for about a year or so, until they stop being productive, then they go the way of the slaughter house.

In the typical chicken slaughterhouse, regardless of if it is a free range chicken or not, the chicken is clamped upside down by the feet into an assembly line, well, of death and mutilation. They first have their heads cut off then they go through a plucking machine that strips their feathers off, then down the line they are cut open and gutted, washed then de-feeted (no pun intended, ok maybe a little although in bad taste) and then cleaned and packaged for sale.

This is not unique to the chicken; all meat is processed in a similar manner. This is the only way to produce the millions of birds demanded yearly for human consumption. If you raise your own free range chicken at home and want to eat it you will basically do the same thing, just with one bird, hatchet to the neck or grab it and spin the body and break the neck, strip the feathers, gut it clean it remove the feet and its ready to cook.

It isn”t that the animals are being mistreated for the sake of mistreating, but from the animals viewpoint it is a house of horrors, lets’ face it, they aren’t that dumb, they know exactly what is going on. I’m not preaching and saying not to eat meat, I eat meat and I love it. But don”t let the phrase “free range” fool you. Slaughtered is slaughtered.


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