Clarifying poultry claims

by Joel Crews
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HERNDON, Va. - Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) officials announced new standards to better define "pasture-raised" and "free-range" claims on poultry packages, which previously have been a source of confusion among consumers and inconsistency among poultry companies. HFAC formed a scientific committee of 28 members that spent about two years to revise the association's laying hen standards to distinguish between the two claims and to better define the US Department of Agriculture's definition for "free range," which only requires birds to have outdoor access, without providing details.  

The new HFAC Certified Humane requirements for "free range" claims is 2 sq. ft. per bird and hens must be outdoors, weather permitting, for at least six hours per day. 

The new "pasture raised" requirement is 1000 birds per 2.5 acres, utilizing fields that must be rotated. Hens must be outdoors year-round with available housing where they can go at night "to protect themselves from predators, or for up to two weeks out of the year, due only to very inclement weather," according to the HFAC. "Pasture Raised and Free Range producers must meet all the standards in addition to those specific to the Pasture Raised and Free Range housing systems." 
 
The new standards imply adherence to the HFAC's current Animal Care Standards for Laying Hens, including standards for the rearing of laying hens in barns either with or without outdoor access.

"Any product labeling terms that are important to consumers need to be clearly defined," said Adele Douglass, HFAC's executive director. "The Certified Humane labeling program is in place to assure a trusted product for consumers who care about how animals are raised and slaughtered for food." 

Among the current egg companies already complying with the new "Pasture Raised" program are: Vital Farms (Austin, Texas), White Oak Pastures (Bluffton, Ga.) and Ayrshire Farm (Upperville, Va.). The only 100 percent "Free Range" company to be on the program is Happy Egg Company (San Francisco).

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