“Cage-free on a package of chicken: Does It Add Value?

If you see a package of chicken in the supermarket labeled “cage-free,” does that mean the packages of chicken without such a claim came from farms that kept their birds in cages?

Not really. In the U.S., chickens raised for slaughter are typically raised in large, open buildings known as “grow-out houses” with tens of thousands of other birds. They are rarely confined in cages.

The “cage-free” claim therefore doesn’t set one type or brand of chicken apart from the others. However, that’s not the case if you see a “cage-free” claim on a carton of eggs. Over 90 percent of laying hens in the U.S. are continually confined in cages without enough room to move around or stretch their wings.

So when shopping for chicken, ignore “cage-free” claims and instead look for meaningful ones that truly differentiate one product from another and provide environmental and public-health benefits, such as “USDA Organic” or “raised without antibiotics.”

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