New report uncovers empty assurances of big organic poultry brands and implores consumers to buy from authentic organic farmers
A newly published report by The Cornucopia Institute uncovers troubling poultry farming and production practices represented as organic under the USDA seal. For the Birds: How to Recognize Authentic Organic Chicken and Turkey shows how the presence of an organic label on poultry packaging routinely misleads consumers who are willing to pay more for a higher-quality, humanely raised product.
“The vast majority of organic chicken for sale in the US comes from industrial-scale producers,” said Kestrel Burcham, principal author of the report and Cornucopia’s director of domestic policy. “These ‘factory farms’ represent the absolute floor that organic production has to offer.”
The takeaway for consumers is a call to action. “Vote with your food dollars to safeguard ethical, organic poultry farmers and secure their essential role in the marketplace,” Burcham said.
Authentic organic poultry brands rise far above the floor set by industrial organic producers. These ethical brands focus on legitimate outdoor access and high welfare for their birds, as well as practices that protect human and environmental health, providing a more nutritious, value-added product to consumers.
Finding them requires rigorous homework, making Cornucopia’s accompanying Organic Poultry Scorecard a valuable consumer tool. Surveying more than 60 marketplace brands of chicken and turkey, the mobile-friendly scorecard highlights trustworthy brands and suggests those to avoid. (For consumers lacking access to certified organic brands, Cornucopia’s Do-it-Yourself Guide to Choosing the Best Chicken and Turkey outlines specific questions to ask farmers.)
Cornucopia’s report details what’s at stake. Backed by extensive research, it uncovers how sparse regulations have contributed to critical issues in certified organic chicken and turkey production, including unsettling animal welfare and economic justice concerns.
“The organic rules and regulations speak more to ruminant care than they do poultry,” stated Burcham, “but even the requirements that are laid out for all livestock, such as outdoor access, are flouted when it comes to meat birds.”
Organic industry standards detailed in the report include massive barns housing tens of thousands of birds, illegitimate outdoor access, and fast-growing breeds that transform from chicks into finished five-pound broilers in just over a month. In many cases, those industrial brands provide consumers the illusion of choice, a marketplace reality that’s captured in a compelling infographic depicting the parent companies and suppliers of industrial organic poultry brands.
As Cornucopia’s report explains, the cost of authentic organic poultry is higher than factory-farmed alternatives. But that price tag reflects the cost of ethical management practices, such as feeding animals more expensive, domestic organic grain and providing legitimate outdoor access. Supporting authentic organic farmers ensures a marketplace alternative to cheap, industrial organic poultry.
“Your food choices matter,” Burcham said. “If you have the access, buying from our top-rated brands serves as an investment in our collective health and the future of the planet while safeguarding the livelihoods of ethical, organic poultry farmers.”
To see how your favorite poultry brand rates, access our mobile-friendly scorecard and read the full report. If your particular organic brand isn’t on this list, please let us know at [email protected].
A complete list of our science-based reports is available on our website.
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