Scam Alert: “Vegetarian Fed” Free Range Chicken

by Sarah Healthy LivingComments: 29

free range chicken

The only way food manufacturers are able to get away with their food labeling tricks of today is because the vast majority of consumers are so incredibly out of touch with their food, where it comes from, and how it is produced.

One of the most outrageous food labeling tricks today? The scam of labeling free range chicken and eggs – organic or not – as “vegetarian fed” like this is somehow a good thing that is desirable for the consumer as well as the chicken.

Chickens are not vegetarian my friends!  In fact, feeding a free range chicken a vegetarian diet is a recipe for poor quality, low nutrition eggs and meat. Not only that, this approach for feeding chickens is inhumane as the chickens will more likely suffer from parasites and ill health and probably live a shorter life than properly fed chickens.

Let’s decipher what labeling free range chicken as vegetarian fed really and truly means. If a chicken is vegetarian fed, it means that particular bird is not really free ranging at all as there is no access to actual dirt and green grass. Eggs or meat labeled as “vegetarian fed” means that the poor chickens were actually “free ranging” on concrete floors.

If you see free range chicken or eggs labeled in this way, run! It doesn’t indicate a healthy choice for your family, and it certainly doesn’t deserve your budget dollars. Worse, if the chicken and eggs aren’t organic, the vegetarian feed the chickens are eating is nearly guaranteed to be very heavily loaded with genetically modified , aka GMO soy. And, if you are allergic to soy, this can cause you to have a reaction to the eggs from the soy fed chickens. Research has shown that the (GMO) soy isoflavones end up in the eggs of soy fed chickens.

A truly free range chicken would never voluntarily choose to be vegetarian fed and forcing them to eat this way harms their health and is inhumane. Meat and eggs from vegetarian fed chickens may win brownie points for being politically correct, but it’s a sub-par choice nutritionally speaking for your family.

Chicken are omnivores and will seek out and aggressively eat bugs, lizards, spiders, wasps and other small critters if they are truly “free ranging” outside.

Chickens know what is good for them and they will even fight amongst themselves when a particularly juicy treat is discovered. This article details how our backyard chickens eliminated a problem with spiders around our home. They also eat up wasps and keep wasp nests from forming around your house. I didn’t have to knock down a single wasp nest this past summer for the first time in the over two decades we’ve lived in our home!

My backyard chickens will even chase down my cat when she has caught a lizard and brazenly steal it from her to eat for themselves.

The one minute video below shows two of my chickens gobbling up a couple of lizards that my cat brought into the house (yikes!). The lizards were beyond help as she had played with them until they were nearly dead, so it was easy for me to pick them up and get them outside quickly. Note: It was the humane thing to do to feed these lizards to my chickens so they wouldn’t suffer any more than they already had.

Watch how happy my chickens are to each get a lizard treat and remember this the next time you see the free range chicken “vegetarian fed” label at the store!

 Healthy free range chicken and eggs come from omnivore chickens, not vegetarian ones!

Proof Positive: Free Range Chicken Should Not Be “Vegetarian Fed”

Look for Pastured Chicken instead of Free Range Chicken

The good news is that pastured chicken and eggs are becoming more widely available. When chickens are pastured as opposed to free range, they have access to green forage (in addition to space to move around) which provides them with an opportunity to eat what Mother Nature intended for them – lots of critters, grubs, and fresh green shoots.

I’ve even seen pastured chicken and eggs starting to appear regularly in health food stores around town. These nutrient dense foods aren’t cheap though – a dozen pastured eggs at Whole Foods will run you about $7.50. Once you see and taste the difference, however, you won’t be scammed by free range chicken and eggs labeled “vegetarian fed” ever again!

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

More Information

Think Your Eggs are Fresh? Here’s how to Tell

Why Organic Store Eggs are a Scam

What Oxidizes the Cholesterol in Eggs?

The Best Egg Substitute (plus video how-to)

Organic Store Eggs Just Don’t Stack Up

Duck Eggs: More Nutritious and Less Allergenic

Comments (29)

  • Elena C

    I find this egg label ridiculous. It’s very much like feeding dogs and cats vegetarian (and sometimes vegan, I’ve heard of crazy people who do that). This is the reason why I raise my own chickens. I just can’t find any good quality eggs in my area. Even the ones that are pastured are always fed soy, and I do not want soy anywhere near my food. My chickens would eat anything that moves that is smaller and weaker than them. They would eat each other if they could. They are some bloodthirsty and vicious critters, which is why they cut their beaks when they raise them in confinement. I adore my chickens, yet, I have to admit, that I would be afraid to be anywhere near them if they were bigger than me :)

    February 22nd, 2016 5:16 pm Reply
  • Anne

    So “pastured chickens” that have food sources that have been potentially exposed to gmo pollen and/or pesticide/insecticide/ fungicide chemical drift are safer to eat? Hmmmm….

    February 19th, 2016 8:03 am Reply
    • Sarah

      You will have to judge that for yourself based on your source. Indeed, we live in such a polluted world. So sad.

      February 19th, 2016 8:26 am Reply
  • Jessica

    I truly believe we should starve out these large egg operations and vow to only buy from local sources if you choose to use eggs at all. We have cut eggs from our diet and don’t miss them at all. But I cannot fathom the conditions in which even “free range” or pastured hens live on the corporate or large scale model of egg operations. GO VEGAN

    February 18th, 2016 1:39 pm Reply
  • Steve Yakoban

    Why don’t you remove the part about being humane to the lizards from the video? Seems inappropriate when the second lizard is dangled by it’s leg and then tossed on the ground.

    February 9th, 2016 3:30 pm Reply
  • Don

    color in yolk is from carotenes in food. Like yellow flowers, red peppers or corn in feed. So yolk color is no guarantee of being well fed. They could be on GMO corn and have deep yellow or orange yolks.

    February 9th, 2016 2:22 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      True … I’ve known some chicken farmers who feed their (caged) chickens turmeric or a bit of cayenne pepper to turn the yolks orange. But a pastured chicken will have naturally orange yolks from the A/D in the insects and small animals they eat.

      February 9th, 2016 4:59 pm Reply
  • David

    Well the could be actual free range outdoors and only get vegetarian chicken feed as a supplement. That’s how I always did it.

    February 9th, 2016 9:27 am Reply
  • Heather

    Are true PR girls fed chicken feed in addition to forging on bugs? This is my confusion. I am trying to source local, but every farm I’m researching also uses feed. And if they use organic feed, aren’t I still consuming corn/soy even though organic? I can’t seem to find this anwser. Thanks!

    February 9th, 2016 3:16 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Feed supplement is ok … just be sure there are no GMOs in in. The feed I use for my chickens is organic and soy free.

      February 9th, 2016 7:48 am Reply
    • Don

      There is no problem feeding them grain as long as it is non-GMO. I don’t trust organic or wheat or soy to be non-GMO, so we use feed without those that is genetically tested to be non-GMO.
      Ours also free pasture all day on chemical free pasture.

      February 9th, 2016 2:27 pm Reply
      • Kenn

        Don, I am an organic grain conditioner for the organic food industry. There is no approved GMO wheat or any other cereal grain that can be grown anywhere in North America. I always advise backyard flock owners to use wheat, oats, spelt, barley, rye, and buckwheat since there are no GMO versions of them.

        February 10th, 2016 7:48 am Reply
  • Jean |

    Sarah, my grandmother would be shocked to see what a minefield egg purchasing has become since her day!

    February 8th, 2016 9:47 am Reply
  • Hilda Labrada Gore

    Thanks for posting this! I always thought that label was ridiculous! Appreciate your dispelling myths!

    February 2nd, 2016 5:16 pm Reply
  • Nanci

    Thanks for expressing one of my pet peeves….vege-fed…groan.
    We do have a source of healthy eggs from healthy chickens!!!!!!!!

    February 2nd, 2016 1:18 pm Reply
  • Rachel

    This article can be misinterpreted and consequently convey inaccurate information about poultry. After reading the article the take away I get is that eating vegetarian fed free range chicken is bad/misleading whereas free range chicken is ok. The reality is that the two terms are completely independent of each other and should be two different topics /articles. I agree vegetarian fed chicken is not ideal but free range has nothing to do with it. The second article should be free range vs pasture raised and needs no mention of vegetarian fed.

    February 2nd, 2016 11:02 am Reply
    • E

      Rachel, What is inaccurate? Why is it misleading to talk about free ranging and diet at the same time? Is it confusing to walk and talk at the same time too? Point being free range (key word free) chickens are not vegetarians… There’s nothing confusing or misleading about this!

      February 3rd, 2016 12:55 pm Reply
  • RCA

    You know it’s hard enough to find “free range” eggs let alone “pastured”; “free range” is supposed to mean that they go outside, whereas “cage free” typically means wandering together on a concrete floor; I recommend Happy Eggs, which are truly free range and pastured and are widely available for less than $5—even at Walmart! So no gouging at Whole Paycheck! Happy Eggs come from your area (N. Cali); google them.

    February 2nd, 2016 9:37 am Reply
  • RobinP

    The last time we cleaned out coop we discovered that a family of mice had built a nest under a board. Unfortunately (for the mice) the chickens discovered them to. All around the yard there was a scurrying of chicken-chased mice. When my son heard the first one meet its demise, he said, “Well…there goes Jerry.” :)

    February 2nd, 2016 8:19 am Reply
  • Kim Bakker

    …..also as far as I know Sarah ,corn is not a vegetable if the chickens (or beef I have noticed) are being labelled as vegetarian. Beef is labelled grain fed and this too is a huge scam if people understand that grains (corn) is not meant for them to eat. Give them pasture as well

    February 2nd, 2016 6:58 am Reply
  • Taryn

    I am so grateful that you posted this on your blog. Thank you for keeping everyone aware.

    February 2nd, 2016 5:53 am Reply
  • Rosemarie Buchanan

    Correcly, “vegetarian fed” means that someone who is a vegetarian is feeding the chickens. If someone is feeding vegetarians to chickens, on the other hand, then someone should call the police.
    I think the correct word would be “vegetable fed” or “fed only plant-based foods”, or some other accurate phrase, not “vegetarian fed”.

    February 2nd, 2016 2:52 am Reply
    • RCA

      LOL, you’re right! BTW, I’m even seeing “vegetarian” dog food now. That’s REALLY a crime!

      February 2nd, 2016 9:44 am Reply
      • Sarah

        Politically correct nutrition extends even to animals it seems! Ridiculous.

        February 2nd, 2016 11:18 am Reply
    • watchmom3

      Thanks Rosemarie! You started my day with a GOOD laugh! God bless and watch out for any vegetarian eating chickens! (:

      February 2nd, 2016 10:04 am Reply
  • Yvette

    I knew chickens ate insects and small lizards etc but was very surprised when one of our chickens stole a mouse off one of the local feral cats and ate it. I don’ have a video but I do have clear photos of the chicken with the mouse in its mouth. I also have a photo of the cat watching on.

    February 2nd, 2016 1:15 am Reply
  • Paula

    I have free range Khaki Campbell ducks and they resolved a lady bug problem around my house, plus they’re very hardy in the Minnesota winters.

    February 1st, 2016 11:16 pm Reply
    • RCA

      Paula, you do realize that ladybugs are hugely beneficial in keeping away plant problems like aphids. I’m just wondering what a “ladybug problem” would be!

      February 2nd, 2016 9:42 am Reply
  • Sarah

    I was moving our chicken coop a few months ago and a large frog (3-4 inches long) jumped on my hand when I grabbed the coop handles. I was startled and shook my hand to get the frog off and it flew up in the air, came down, and one of my chickens gobbled it up right out of the air like a dog being tossed a piece of meat! How I wish I could’ve gotten THAT on video. I laughed so hard!

    February 1st, 2016 10:45 am Reply

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