National Chicken Council: From Never to Always, the Chicken Welfare Guarantees People Can Expect
By Tom Super, National Chicken Council
Today’s retail stores offer an abundance of choice when it comes to protein—and with that, often an abundance of confusion. In a recent survey, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of consumers said chicken labels and packaging were confusing.
People have dozens of options when it comes to any specific food item, and are continuously barraged with information from friends, family, Facebook and food shows on what they should buy and when and where they should buy it.
Food packages and labels are plastered with “Nos” and “Nevers:” No Added Sugar, No Fat, No Hormones, No Preservatives, Never Frozen; the list goes on. Rarely do shoppers receive information about what they can always expect from their food. And in light of changing consumer demands and a wealth of misinformation regarding the way broiler chickens (chickens raised for meat) are raised in the U.S., the National Chicken Council (NCC) has rolled out the “Chicken Guarantees” – a set of industry-wide benchmark standards for broiler chicken welfare.
In today’s culinary climate, consumers now more than ever are interested in not only what’s on the menu or in the store aisles, but how it got there. With U.S. chicken consumption at an all-time high, the Chicken Guarantees represent a set of consumer assurances so that shoppers have simple, clear and accurate information regarding how their chicken is cared for and raised. No matter which welfare standards a chicken company adheres to, or whether the birds were raised conventionally, organic, without antibiotics or free range, for example, shoppers can know that their chicken was raised according to the following standards:
- RAISED CAGE-FREE: The majority of broiler chickens in the U.S. are raised in large, climate-controlled and ventilated barns, where they’re free to move about, interact with other chickens and have 24-hour access to fresh food and water.
- FREE OF ADDED HORMONES AND STEROIDS: It’s the law. The U.S. government has banned the use of hormones and steroids in poultry since the 1950s.
- MONITORED BY LICENSED VETERINARIANS: Licensed veterinarians, who have a professional obligation to protect the chickens’ health and welfare, provide comprehensive health care programs for every commercial broiler chicken flock.
- RAISED BY FARMERS TRAINED IN ANIMAL WELFARE: Farm owners are trained in handling and caring for chickens in order to provide a safe, healthy and low-stress environment. If farmers or their employees mistreat chickens, they are subject to immediate disciplinary action, including termination and prosecution.
NCC is no stranger to ensuring chickens are raised with the highest standards, from hatch to processing. And while we’ve made enormous strides in improving bird health and welfare through a variety of previously established chicken welfare standards, we dwindled down the Chicken Guarantees as a simple resource to let shoppers know that no matter which chicken or brand they choose to purchase, these four “guarantees” always hold true.
Chicken producers are constantly adapting to meet ever changing consumer demand, using the latest science, technology and research to further advance the well-being of the birds. Of course, chicken producers go above and beyond these four guarantees as part of their robust animal welfare programs, but until now there hasn’t been a simple, baseline standard that shoppers can turn to when looking for chicken to put in their carts.
Shoppers deserve straight-forward, concise and unbiased information, without confusing agenda-driven noise. We know how important it is to come together as an industry to define the basic standards for chicken care in a way that is simple for shoppers to understand, and we’re confident that these guarantees will help to achieve just that.