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