A key part of my diet has been to shift towards organic chicken as well as grass fed organic beef in place of just picking up whatever meat is on sale at my local supermarket.
If you have read fast food nation, or similar books, or watched documentaries on how mainstream mass market chicken eggs and meat are produced, you may have been tempted to never eat a chicken again! Many mass producers of eggs and chicken meat confine chickens to cages their entire life – where they cannot move, spread their wings, and basically are fed questionable feed on one side of the cage, and defecate from the other side of the cage. My wife and I stopped buying mass market chicken [aka the bags of frozen chicken breasts, etc.] and eggs about 4 months ago.
Organic chicken comes from cage free, free roaming chickens that are fed an all vegetarian diet. Compare this to caged chickens who, due to crowded and unbelievable living conditions, are fed antibiotics in their feed to prevent diseases and infections that are common in such conditions. Furthermore, I’ve read that these chicken factories also feed chickens a strange mix of feed – left over grains, possibly scraps from other animals, soy, and a variety of ingredients that honestly their bodies aren’t adapted for, which in my opinion causes even more stress on their bodies, not to mention changes in nutritional profile of both the eggs and the meat.
If you look at the labels, or read online, of organic valley organic chicken eggs, you’ll notice claims of higher concentrations of Omega 3 fatty acids in some of their options based on the types of feed the chickens receive.
Free Range Chicken
So when you research organic chicken eggs and meat (i.e. we tend to buy a lot of chicken breasts), you almost always run across the term “Free Range Chicken”. What exactly does this mean? Pretty much what it says – the chickens are free to roam around outside, eat what they are naturally prone to eat including organic vegetation feed [if they are labeled organic], and often are free to range back and forth between outside areas and inside chicken or hen houses. It isn’t hard to imagine that chickens that have plenty of space to move around, fresh air, exposure to sunlight, access to clean water and healthy food would be happy and healthy chickens. Healthy and happy chickens hands down will produce better eggs as well as healthier meat options. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see this.
Many reports have surfaced around arsenic and salmonella levels being higher in non-organic chickens, which isn’t surprising actually given the major differences in living conditions. Yet one more reason we feel good about switching over to this source of our chickens and eggs!
Organic Chicken Nuggets
Ok – my wife and I are long past eating chicken nuggets, but both of our kids still eat them. For better or worse, the dietary restrictions and approach we’ve been on with our son with autism has resulted in us becoming experts in finding organic and gluten free foods. For chicken nuggets, we are HUGE fans of Coleman organic, gluten free chicken nuggets. They produce both versions – gluten free and regular, with both being from organic chicken meat. We did try the Ian’s brand early on, but have found the coleman brand actually tastes better, and is cheaper as well.
We used to be able to only find these at Sprouts, but recently SunFlower Market also started carrying them [maybe because these two have merged and are now basically one company?]. In any case, look for them in your favorite organic grocery store, and don’t be afraid to ask the manager to stock them if you don’t see them. Both of our kids love them, and while they are more expensive, at least for our son we really had no option (we do still feed the normal Tysen brand nuggets to our daughter, but over time we want to shift her more towards the organic version from Colemans]
Buying Healthy Chicken
I can’t believe how easy it is to buy organic chicken breasts, whole chickens, as well as organic free range chicken eggs. When I first started on the caveman diet (read about this living approach here), I frequented our local Whole Foods and Sprouts organic markets. However, the prices were fairly high here, especially for chicken breasts (around $8/pound). Just in the last few months, however, our local King Soopers grocery chain has started carrying their own private label free range chicken – at about $6/pound and even less when on sale. Furthermore, over the last year both King Soopers and Safeway have been selling not just one, but several brands of organic free range eggs which are only about a $1-1.50 more per dozen than the traditional chicken factory eggs.
So while the cost is a little higher for the actual chicken meat, I think it is well worth it to know I am cooking with something that is healthy, comes from healthy and happy animals, and to not have to worry about antibiotic residues or other possible contamination due to the types of feed and living conditions mainstream chicken may suffer from.
Some people are quick to point out that there are no proven studies indicating risks or better health between the two types of chicken and their eggs. Of course there wouldn’t be! Who would ever fund a long term study where one group of people only eat mass market, antibiotic, mixed feed chicken meat, and another group only ate organic free range chickens? Nobody! As a result of course there isn’t any double blind study comparing health impacts across the two types – and there likely never will be. You can do your own basic research and make your own decisions – I firmly believe that getting back to healthy, pasture raised and fed animals provides by body the same fuel it has used for millions of years and is therefore much more beneficial than modern mass produced meat.
Bottom line is you should absolutely be spending a bit more money on organic meat and eggs – our ancestors ate this way, and why put our bodies under additional stress of having to deal with a different nutritional profile and added ingredients (with unknown side effects) in the meat we eat?
Organic Brands of Chicken
Okay – this list won’t be exhaustive, but it should give you a start in terms of the various companies producing organic chicken and eggs, and help you as you are browsing your local supermarket shelves:
- Organic Valley – Eggs
- Organic Prairie – Meat (including chicken)
- Coleman Naturals – Chicken
- Store Brands – King Soopers is labeled “Simple Truth” meat and eggs, Whole Foods and Sprouts also have their own private label brands
Just remember to read the carton or labels – organic is a legal term has the USDA has strict, enforceable guidelines around food that can be labeled such. Free range, pasture raised, and natural are more descriptive and marketing focused terms, and while many producers will use these in the strictest sense which is good – there isn’t any agency that will verify a standard definition or practice.
I personally am fine buying store brands as long as they state “Organic” and have additional terms around Pasture Raised or Free Range. Free Range to me is more indicative than cage free, as cage free can still mean a fairly small enclosure…just my personal preference since there isn’t a standardized legal definition that is enforced!
Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any additional brands you have found that you want listed here!