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Be careful reading labels
Liberty foodie
Reading labels on foods can be very informative, if you understand them. - photo by Stock photo

In trying to be more vigilant of what I eat, I’ve started to read ingredient labels. Nobody told me you would need a degree in chemistry just to understand the stuff in your food. Also some of the information on food labels just doesn’t make any sense.

For example, there is a lot of discussion as to what is best for you in terms of your choices in meats and poultry.

Some say it’s more humane to pick meats that are free range or farm raised or natural or organic. They say it’s also best to make sure it’s hormone free or raised without antibiotics.

But what does that all mean? Let’s look at poultry.

According to Chickopedia (No, I didn’t make that up, it is the nickname for the National Chicken Council), there isn’t a federal government definition of "free-range." So when a company wishes to use that claim for a label it sends the request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval on a case-by-case basis. The USDA will generally grant permission if the chickens have access to the outdoors for at least some part of the day whether the chicken decides to go outside or not.

Me: Here you go little chick, chicks. The door is open and the sun is shining.

Chicken: Look lady it’s the dead of summer and 100 degrees out. My feathered backside is staying right here on this nest and nice little air fan you set up.

And it appears we have a lot of lazy chickens. Either that or they can’t find the exit door. Chickopedia reports that less than one percent of chicken nationwide are raised free range.

That’s a lot of chickens just hanging around inside doing far less than me.

Then there’s the issue of antibiotics. If you look at the labels on many chicken products, most say "raised without antibiotics."

Here’s a news flash. According to Chickopedia a package of chicken labeled like that indicates the flock was raised without the use of products classified as antibiotics for animal health maintenance, disease prevention or treatment of disease. Animal health products not classified as antibiotics, some of which control parasites, may still be used.

The more I researched the more confused I became. Several articles said antibiotics have been used in poultry farming in large quantities for years, some since the 1940s.

Many of those animal health products (code word for non-antibiotic, antibiotics which are given through feed or injected into the eggs) helped promote growth. (Think bigger chicken breasts).

I’m sure many of you have seen the commercials from a well-known chicken company saying their chickens have always been antibiotic free. Their claim being no antibiotics ever.

Liar, liar chicken on fire!

It turns out this company started going antibiotic free in 2002 in response to consumer’s wishes. And even then they still used antibiotics (you know those animal health products) for disease prevention and treatment.

In 2007 this company removed all human antibiotics from feed. And in 2009 the company began phasing out the common practice of using antibiotics with vaccines in eggs in the hatchery. Just two years ago that this company completely removed all the routine use of humane antibiotics from its hatchery.

Well what the cluck, cluck? Did chicken producers use antibiotics or not?

So I went back to Chickopedia: All chicken is "antibiotic-free" in the sense that no antibiotic residues are present in the meat due to the withdrawal periods and other precautions required by the government.

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