6 Influencers Toured A Chicken Farm: Here’s What They Learned

We invited six food and nutrition influencers to tour a broiler chicken farm in Maryland.

In case you were wondering – an influencer is a blogger and/or social media user with a strong following and a highly engaged audience. They are characterized by a fanbase of loyal followers. Influencers provide trusted opinions and subject expertise.

Why did we invite food and nutrition influencers to tour a broiler chicken farm?

The fact is that myths and misconceptions around chicken farming persist. Even food and nutrition influencers – who work closely with chicken by either developing recipes or discussing chicken’s nutritional benefits – still don’t know the full story around how chicken goes from farm to table.

By inviting food and nutrition influencers – each holding unique perspectives and expertise – we could address myths and misconceptions around chicken farming.

What did the influencers learn?

More than half of the influencers didn’t know that ALL chicken is free of added hormones and steroids in the U.S. In addition, most thought that broilers chickens were raised in cages – when, really, broiler chickens are all raised cage-free in large, open barns. They were also extremely impressed by Jenny Rhodes, the owner and operator of the farm, and her passion and devotion to farming. The fact that 95% of broiler chickens are raised on family farms surprised all of the influencers.

Hear from each influencer and find out the top things that stood out to them during the broiler chicken farm tour:

Jenny Rhodes is a fourth generation farmer from Queen Anne’s County, Maryland who has devoted the last 20 years to raising two things: her boys and her chickens. With four poultry houses, she not only has grown a business that she is proud of, but she is able to raise over 500,000 chickens for meat, or what are called broilers, a year, feeding over 400,000 families dinner.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a rotisserie chicken, and I’m sure you have, it may have come from Jenny’s farm.

“Now when it comes to poultry, I have visited a turkey farm in California, but I have never been to a chicken farm. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and had some vague idea based on what is portrayed in the media, or documentaries. To be honest, it’s felt a lot like a mystery…

I was struck by how much room the chickens had, and gained an appreciation for the saying, “birds of a feather flock together,” because despite their ample real estate, the chickens loved cozying up to one another, in their little flocks. The chickens in this barn were 15-days-old, or in terms we could understand, adolescents. These teenagers had arrived the day they were hatched, and would spend their time in this cozy climate-controlled and ventilated barn, and have access to food and water at all time. Chicken raised for meat (also called “broiler chickens”) are never raised in cages, and I will admit that I assumed that perhaps there were some that were raised in cages simply because some food labels highlight “cage-free.``

2. Natasha Nicholes, Houseful of Nicholes:

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Chicken Farming

ALL Chickens Have Hormones but NONE Have Added Hormones

Confused? Let’s put it this way. You have hormones. Your teenager has RAGING hormones. The potato that you just enjoyed for lunch has hormones. Chickens have hormones, but it’s illegal, and has been for over half a century for hormones to be added to any chickens raised in the United States. It’s the LAW. What does this mean for you all? All those “no hormones added” labels on chicken packages in your local grocery store are meant to play on the emotional side of your purchasing habits. We don’t want food that’s been tampered with in a sense, and because we’re not on the farm, we tend to look at language as is, instead of digging deeper for factual data. Once again, NO CHICKENS ARE GIVEN ADDED HORMONES IN THE UNITED STATES. Farmers could lose their farms and their income.

3. Nicole Rodriguez, RDN:

Checking in with Chicken

Here's the deal: Americans eat A LOT of chicken. According to the National Chicken Council, the per capita estimate for 2017 is around 92 pounds per person. And while certain labels might tug at the heartstrings and lead you to believe you're making a better choice for your family, the truth is that ALL chicken options are nutritious and tasty. Below, some of the myths about our favorite bird, dispelled.

MYTH: CHICKEN HOUSES ARE CRAMPED AND MISERABLE

Fact: anything can be photographed to misconstrue information. The chickens at Deerfield Farms had access to plenty of food and water, exhibited happy behavior (dusting themselves, huddling together in small groups), and, most importantly, are kept safe and warm. You may have heard the expression ``cage-free,`` and thought of an idyllic meadow studded with chickens happily foraging for critters. Truthfully, the chickens here ran AWAY from the door to their house as soon as it was opened, rejecting the cold air. Flocks are safe indoors, away from predators and unfavorable conditions.

Takeaway: It's in the best interest for chickens to be cared for, and from what I saw here, they most certainly are.

4. Claire Thomas, The Kitchy Kitchen:

Exploring a Chicken Farm in Delmarva

Like most consumers, I find marketing around food pretty confusing. There’s organic, natural, no added hormones, no antibiotics ever, cage free, farm raised, veggie fed – and even more ways you can find chicken described when you head to the butcher’s counter. So what actually matters? How can you buy the best chicken, meaning, best for you and best for the environment? Here are some of my takeaways from the tour.

One of the first things I learned was that the way egg-laying chickens are raised and the way meat chickens are raised is entirely different. Different breeds, different purposes – much like how grapes for eating are sweet, thin skinned, and seedless but grapes for wine are highly acidic, thick skinned, and with seeds. We visited a chicken farm for meat, so I’ll be speaking to my experience there, not on how egg-laying chickens are farmed.

One of the biggest points of confusion was over hormones. The phrase “no hormones added” makes it seem as though chicken packaged without this phrase must have added hormones, but chickens, like humans, have naturally occurring hormones in their system, and since the 1950s, it has been illegal to add hormones to poultry. “No antibiotics ever” simply means the chicken was never given antibiotics. Chicken that has gotten sick and needs to be treated with antibiotics is sold to conventional, rather than organic,, lines of chicken. Cage-free is only relevant to egg-laying farms, as the industry standard for meat chickens is for them to be raised outside of cages. That means that the chicken meat you buy at the store is always raised cage-free. Natural is a generally meaningless term, with no oversight applied to it.

5. Naomi Robinson, Baker’s Royale:

Chicken and Apple Kale Salad + Getting to Your Chicken

For years I’ve been led by savvy marketing into thinking that some chickens were pumped with steroids and hormones, while others weren’t because why else would some of them have that tattooed on their packaging while others went unmarked? This idea stuck in my head so much that I avoided any rotisserie chicken that teetered beyond the 2lb norm. I mean, how else could a chicken achieve such a hefty 5 lbs. status without some sort of enhancement? Same reasoning followed when I would skip over the Styrofoam tray of unmarked plump breasts, legs and thighs and reach for the boldy labeled “No Hormones or Steroids Added” chicken package.

And I paid a premium for it. I take some comfort in knowing I’m not alone in that. If you follow me on Instagram than you might have seen (or even participated in) the poll in which 87% of my followers said they would pay more for a hormone free and steroid free chicken.

News flash—FACT: It is against the law to inject or feed chicken with steroids or hormones. In fact, this law dates back to the 1950’s. Who knew because who takes the time to read those little asterisk marks—apparently not a lot of us. If we had, our wallets would be a little heavier.

6. Matt Robinson, Real Food by Dad:

Meat Lovers Pasta

Here are a few myth busters: All chickens raised for meat are free of added hormones and steroids. It’s actually been against the law to inject or otherwise administer either of these things into chickens, and has been since the 1950’s. So why the range in size – it all depends on the breed of chicken and when the chicken is harvested. The bigger ones are raised longer.

Free-range vs. cage-free: All chickens raised for meat are cage-free. Free- range chickens have access to go outside for parts of the day, but most chickens will choose to stay in the chicken house near their water and food supply and where the temperature is controlled and set to maximum comfort.

Want to keep learning about broiler chicken farming?

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