Most chickens on the market are produced by large operations that house their poultry indoors in carefully controlled environments and feed them scientifically monitored diets.This process enables the industry to raise healthy chickens quickly and in large numbers to meet the great demand. Many people feel that these chickens lack flavor because they are not allowed to move around outdoors. Some farmers, in response, offer free-range chickens,which are allowed to move around freely and eat outdoors in a more natural environment.
It is important to note that there is no legal definition of free-range, and that freerange chickens are considerably more expensive than ordinary chickens. Many people, however, feel that free-range chickens are more flavorful and are worth the extra cost. Because quality varies from producer to producer, it is necessary to do careful taste-testing to determine whether you want to purchase free-range poultry for your operation.
A term related to free-range is organic, which has recently been defined by the USDA as food produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. See page 512 for additional information on organic foods.
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