We all want to put the best food on our plate, right? Well now there are so many different labels on our food that it really is hard to know what to buy.
Today, let’s talk chicken. Hopefully this will help you make an informed decision (with the help of the knowledgeable Mark Sisson) when spending your money at the market, grocery or dealing directly with a farmer.
Pastured – It’s harder to come by and pricier than organic, but the poultry offers more nutritionally through extra nutrients like vitamin E, folic acid and B-12 as well as more omega-3s. Even though pastured chicken might not be labeled antibiotic-free, it’s likely the farm doesn’t use medication. It’s extra work to pasture birds, which indicates a greater commitment on the farmer’s part. Plus, the chickens are less likely to need antibiotics when they live on a natural diet with plenty of space.
Organic – Although pastured chicken provides nutritional extras, organic poultry at least ensures that you’re not getting a dose of pesticides, arsenic, and antibiotics with your dinner.
100% Vegetarian Fed – If a chicken isn’t pastured, the non-vegetarian part of the feed is likely animal by-products.
Antibiotic-Free – This one’s probably self-explanatory.
Free Range – Sure, free range can mean a lot of things, but it at least suggests there was some opportunity for movement and a slightly healthier/more humane living environment. It’s a tough call but probably better than fully conventional. This is a case where it’s especially helpful to know the farmer/company and the particulars of their practice.
Conventional – Regardless of where you live, you should be able to find poultry that ensures vegetarian feed. Personally, I’d suggest staying away from chicken that can’t promise that much. That said, as with other meats, if conventional is all you can afford or have access to it’s better than no meat at all. Just eat the leaner cuts, since toxins concentrate in fat.
There are plenty of ways to make sure you get good quality chicken. Talk to your local farmer’s market, CSA, or go online to EatWild.org, LocalHarvest.org and the American Grassfed Association.