Day 27: What does "Free-Range" mean and is it worth the price?

Organic “Free-Range” Poultry tops the list as one of the healthiest foods on earth, but what the heck does “free-range” mean anyways? I touched on the difference between free-range, organic and grass-fed on a previous blog post, but let me break down “free-range” even further.

First note that the terms free-range and organic are mutually exclusive and have different meanings. Labeling a product organic is regulated and has specific standards, while “free-range” does not.

Free-range refers to the nature that the farmer raises the animals, as well as the product that results from this type of farming. A free-range chicken is allowed to freely roam, without being fenced in, and this results in a healthier, happier chicken. Free-range poultry is less likely to be contaminated. The term organic is used to indicate the type of feed used, which is specially formulated and does not have GMOs (genetically modified feedstuffs.) Organically raised chickens are also not given hormones or antibiotics.

Compare this to the typical living conditions for chickens, which include living in tight quarters with up to 40,000 chickens raised in the same shed, often two chickens per square foot. They stay in that shed night and day, without access to the outside, sun, air or light. They endure low levels of artificial light and are pumped full of growth hormones to fatten them up during their short life span before they are slaughtered. These chickens are also pumped full of antibiotics daily because they often get sick, living under such conditions. They are also fed horrible quality food, full of GMOs (genetically modified feedstuffs.)

After reading that, I’m seriously considering only buying organic chicken and meat. Not to be cheesy, but think about the circle of life (Lion King anyone?) You have to think about the food that your food is eating, because ultimately that is what you are eating too. I really don’t want antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically altered “food” in my, or especially my kids, body.

On a more positive note, a four ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast has 35 grams of protein, 255 mg of phosphorus and 287 mg of potassium. I don’t think it is a surprise to most of you that chicken is a great healthy option when dining out and/or preparing a meal at home. I think most of us also know that taking the skin off is crucial because the skin adds a significant amount of fat and calories. Chicken is such a no-brainer for the average dieter, that many of us are actually a little sick of eating it.

But, did you know that chicken is not only good for your waistline, packing in a lot of protein with little calories, but also contains a powerful antioxidant, selenium? Dr. Bowden considers selenium one of the most important nutrients in the human diet. One of the reasons he believes this is because research shows that low dietary intake of selenium is associated with several cancers, including lung, colorectal, skin and prostate. The current daily recommended allowance of selenium is 70 mcg, but Dr. Bowden recommends getting at least 200 mcg daily. To put this in perspective, four ounces of chicken breast has 30 mcg of selenium and four ounces of turkey has 47 mcg. Check out this site for a comprehensive listing of high selenium foods and more details on the benefits of selenium.

I bought my “free-range” chicken at Trader Joes and spent $11.00 on a 3.5 lb. chicken vs. $3.99 for the same-sized non-organic chicken. Taste-wise, there is no difference. As a natural thrifty person, I always find it hard to justify spending extra money on something that I can’t “see.” However, I have to say that after researching the information on free-range and organic for this blog post, I absolutely think it is worth the extra money. I never thought I would have said that a year ago, but I am appalled at what I found through my research.

Moving on to cooking this lovely bird…..I have an obsession with fresh, homemade chicken soup ever since I ate at my favorite bakery in Moresville, La Patisserie. The crazy thing is that this bakery is at least an hour drive from our house, yet we still make the trek for their chicken soup and black and white cookies. We decided to try to make their delicious soup with our organic free-range chicken…..it was quite a process.

We first roasted the chicken in the oven with lemons, garlic cloves and olive oil. When the chicken was done we took all of the meat off of the bone and put it in a pot with chicken broth, herbs, spices, celery and carrots. We cooked the brown rice separately while the chicken was simmering. We cooked the broth mixture for several hours and then added the brown rice.  It was delicious chicken soup and it made a huge pot. I sent the kids to school with a thermos of it and had it for lunch myself. I love making a big batch of something over the weekend and then reaping the rewards of my labor all week!

Now I know you guys have some awesome chicken recipes. Please share! I need dinner ideas for tonight!

6 thoughts on “Day 27: What does "Free-Range" mean and is it worth the price?

  1. That soup is delicous! We did the same thing except we ate pieces of the roasted chicken the day I roasted it, then made the soup with the leftovers the next day. Really good, the only difference is I didn’t use Free Range chicken.. sorry I will never feel its worth the price difference.

  2. For me to spend 11.00 on one chicken it would have to roast itself whilst siging me a song. I do however love chicken it meets my three basic food requirements 1) It is Cheap 2)It has a plethra of ways in wich to prepare it so I am not cooking the same dish over and over. and 3) The kids will eat it in any of its forms. I have so many chicken recipes It would be hard to choose just one but I will go with our family favorite Chicken pitas.
    Chicken Pitas
    1 whole fryer chicken (roasted, or a rotessire will do just fine)
    1 large cucumber
    1 carton fat free greek yougurt
    1 tsp cavenders greek seasoning
    feta cheese
    shredded lettuce
    four whole wheat pita pockets cut in half
    Shred the chicken and remove any skin or bones and set aside. Peel and cut the cucumber in half, grate one half into the yougurt and slice the other half up to put in the pockets. stir cucumber and cavanders seasoning into yougurt and set aside. Fill the pockets with some of the chicken about a tablespoon of the yougurt the cucumber and the lettuce, sprinkle with the cheese and they are done. The kids love them and you could stuff tons of other veggies into this meal if you wanted too.

  3. I am a vegetarian because of the inhumane ways that animals are treated. I looove seeing meat eaters that actually care about how the animals are treated! I also like to be a little stingy when it comes to buying food, especially since I am in college, but I do encourage meat eaters out there to watch videos and do research on how animals are treated. It may change your mind about spending 11 dollars versus 3:)

    I am in no way trying to enforce my beliefs about being vegetarian on anyone, but I do think it is important to know where your food is coming from!

    • Thanks for sharing Caitie! Yes, I agree with you, it’s so important to know where your food comes from. It’s like when kids eat “nuggets” and there is no “nugget” part on the chicken. As a general rule, we can tend to get far removed from the nature of our food. Thanks for sharing your comment!

  4. Pingback: Day 28: So Cheesy « Stacy

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