A deep dive into chicken labels

As consumers become increasingly concerned with how food is produced and how farm animals are raised and treated, farmers and companies are responding with various labels and claims. Labels or claims generally aim to assure consumers that the food was produced in a better way – whether it be more humane, sustainable or healthy – but they can vary widely in how meaningful they are and in what is actually required.

The chart below is designed to help you better understand the different labels and claims you’ll find on chicken. We looked at 23 different labels you might find on a package of chicken, and what they actually require for 17 different areas that affect either animal welfare (e.g., whether the chickens can go outdoors), public health (e.g., prudent antibiotic use) and sustainability (e.g., whether the chicken feed contains genetically engineered crops).

Label Prudent antibiotic use Prohibits growth hormones Prohibits animal byproducts in the diet GMOs in feed Prohibits synthetic pesticides/ fertilizers in feed production Prohibits synthetic amino acids Limit on rapid weight gain Outdoor access Indoor enrichment Indoor space Air quality Artificial light and darkness Catching and crating Transport time limit Natural v. dim light Slaughter treatment Slaughter line speed
Conventional Yes No No No
American Humane Association Certified

Yes No No No
Animal Welfare Approved

Yes Yes No No
Certified Humane

Yes Yes No No
Certified Naturally Grown

Yes Yes Yes No
Demeter Biodynamic

Yes Yes Yes Yes
Food Alliance

Yes Yes No No
Free Range Yes No No No
GAP Step 1

Yes Yes No No
GAP Step 2

Yes Yes No No
GAP Step 3

Yes Yes No No
GAP Step 4

Yes Yes No No
GAP Step 5

Yes Yes No No
GAP Step 5+

Yes Yes No No
Natural or All Natural Yes No No No
No antibiotics administered Yes No No No
USDA Organic

Yes Yes Yes No
Vegetarian Fed or No Animal By-Products Yes Yes No No
Humanely Raised Yes No No No
No growth hormones Yes No No No
Kosher Yes No No No
USDA Process Verified – Never Ever 3

Yes Yes No No
USDA Process Verified – Humanely Raised (National Chicken Council Welfare Standards)

Yes No No No
Non-GMO Project Verified

Yes No No No
Label Prudent antibiotic use Prohibits growth hormones Prohibits animal byproducts in the diet GMOs in feed Prohibits synthetic pesticides/ fertilizers in feed production Prohibits synthetic amino acids Limit on rapid weight gain Outdoor access Indoor enrichment Indoor space Air quality Artificial light and darkness Catching and crating Transport time limit Natural v. dim light Slaughter treatment Slaughter line speed