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Lately, more and more supermarkets are carrying a variety of brands of “Amish chicken”. What exactly is Amish chicken? Is it as good as organic, free-range chicken? When we think of chickens raised on Amish farms, we think of chickens raised on a family farm that are able to run in and out of the coop freely to roam freely in green pastures. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
The New York Times interviewed Ariane Daguin, co-owner of D’Artagan, a supplier of Amish chicken to New York restaurants and markets. When asked what was meant when chicken was labeled as being “Amish”, she responded that it is simply “a marketing ploy, it doesn’t mean anything…..the mystique of the Amish Label comes from it’s aura of naturalness”.
In many cases, Amish chickens are not raised in a free-range environment. They still lead fairly confined lives as free-roaming chickens. Free-roaming chickens are typically provided natural light, feed, water and ventilation, and are free to roam, as long as it is within the four walls of chicken coop. There aren’t any clear regulations set on what type of living conditions farmers have to provide to their free-roaming chickens.
Be careful of companies that claim that most of the farms that supply them are Amish-owned farms. Note, the label doesn’t say most of the chicken comes from these farms. They could use 60 family-owned Amish farms, but then use two factory farms for the remainder of their required supply. They might get a few thousand chicken from the Amish farms, but a much greater number of their chickens would be coming from factory farms. It’s also important to note that most Amish chicken is not actually processed by the Amish, but alongside factory-farm chickens at USDA-inspected industrial processing plants.
You might notice the packaging on your locally available Amish chicken states that the chickens are raised on all vegetarian diets. This sounds comforting at first, I mean who would want to eat chicken that has been raised on a diet of beef, pork, or even worse chicken…it’s just not natural! Vegetarian-raised chickens are typically provided with feed that is comprised largely of soy and corn. These are two of the most genetically-modified foods in the United States (for more information on the dangers of GM foods, be sure to check out my recent post “Genetically Modified Foods: Are They Safe?”.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to play it safe and stick to free-range, organic, pastured chicken.
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