Archive for the ‘Free Range’ Tag

Comment: Free Range Chickens   Leave a comment

In a recent post, I reported more or less without comment the story in an Italian newspaper (the equivalent of the Wall Street Journal) that claimed that free range conditions for chickens actually led to more, not less, stress for chickens because of the size of the flocks and the hens inability to establish a hierarchy. I had actually just recently been to an organic farm outside of Rome, where I had seen a rather large (perhaps a thousand hens) flock of “free range” chickens: none showed the characteristic lack of plumage that the article had indicated was typical of free range birds. Since this was only anecdotal, I didn’t note it in the post.

Now however there is a story in the Italian news about the Coop, a nationwide network of supermarkets that are cooperatives, not publicly traded companies. The Coop, already well-known for its green initiatives and promotion of organic and fair trade brands, received the “Good Egg” award on 20 October 2010 from the association “Compassion in World Farming.” From now on all the eggs in the Coop’s 1,400 stores will come from hens that are raised on the ground, free range, and organic. The official press release notes that a European directive from 1999 prohibits hens in cages from 1 January 2012 in any event.

I suppose I can admit that I’m at a loss as far as the truth of the matter. I am suspicious of the Sole 24 Ore, it being the organ of the Italian business community, but the sociobiology of it seems to make sense. Any reader comments on flocks over thirty birds? ZN


Grazie a Daniela Buglione per la segnalazione.


Posted December 4, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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News: Which Chicken for Dinner?   1 comment

From the original article. The question posed here is "Would you eat this hen's eggs?

A recent article (19 Sep 2010) in the Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore shows us three chickens and asks which one we would like to have eggs from. The photograph of the three chickens suggests that the last one, perhaps raised in a very small cage, is the least healthy and therefore we would choose the eggs from the first two chickens. In fact the first two were raised in indoor cages, while the last is “free range.” Why the difference? First the facts:

Chicken A: Raised with four other hens in a cage that measures 60cm by 47cm, meaning there is 540 square centimeters per bird. Both water and food are available at all times.

Chicken B: Raised with forty-nine other hens in a cage that is 300cm wide by 200cm tall by 480cm deep, giving a space 2,570 square centimeters per bird. Water and food are available at all times, as are nests and sand for sand baths (to rid the birds of parasites).

Chicken C: Raised with 11,999 other chickens in a single cage that is seven hundred square meters. Every day from 11 in the morning until dusk the chickens are given access to a four hectare open air where they can eat, drink, and take sand baths.

Why then the difference in plumage? The article describes the native conditions of the ancestor of the modern chicken, the jungle fowl of Southeast Asia. They lived in the jungle understory in groups of between twenty and thirty birds and had a rigid hierarchy, established by aggressive pecking (the proverbial “pecking order”). It seems that despite the seemingly natural conditions of the free range birds, the inability to establish that hierarchy is extremely stressful. Every chance encounter–and there are hundreds if not thousands a day–leads to pecking to establish a hierarchy that the chickens’ brains are not complex enough to remember. ZN

Grazie ad Anna Selberg per la segnalazione.

Posted November 27, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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