VIROQUA, Wis., Feb. 6, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report by The Cornucopia Institute uncovers troubling poultry farming and production practices represented as organic under the USDA seal. For the Birds: How to Recognize Authentic Organic Chicken and Turkey shows how the presence of an organic label on poultry packaging routinely misleads consumers who are willing to pay more for a higher-quality, humanely raised product.
"The vast majority of organic chicken for sale in the US comes from industrial scale producers," said Marie Burcham, principal author of the report and Cornucopia's director of domestic policy. "These 'factory farms' represent the absolute floor that organic production has to offer."
The takeaway for consumers is a call to action. "Vote with your food dollars to safeguard ethical, organic poultry farmers and secure their essential role in the marketplace," Burcham said.
Authentic organic poultry brands focus on high welfare for their birds, as well as practices that protect human and environmental health, providing a more nutritious product.
Finding them requires rigorous homework, making Cornucopia's attendant Organic Poultry Scorecard a valuable consumer tool. Surveying more than 60 marketplace brands of chicken and turkey, the mobile-friendly scorecard highlights trustworthy brands and suggests those to avoid. (For consumers lacking access to certified organic brands, Cornucopia's Do-it-Yourself Guide to Choosing The Best Chicken and Turkey outlines specific questions to ask farmers.)
Backed by extensive research, Cornucopia's report uncovers how sparse regulations have contributed to critical issues in certified organic poultry production, including unsettling animal welfare and economic justice concerns.
Prevalent industry practices detailed in the report include massive barns housing tens of thousands of birds, illegitimate outdoor access, and fast-growing breeds that transform from chicks into finished five-pound broilers in just over a month. In many cases, industrial brands provide consumers little more than the illusion of choice, a marketplace reality captured in an infographic depicting the parent companies and suppliers of industrial organic poultry brands.
"Your food choices matter," Burcham said. "If you have the access, buying from our top-rated brands serves as an investment in our collective health and the future of the planet while safeguarding the livelihoods of ethical, organic poultry farmers."