Procrastinating on a project I am supposed to deliver to a client this morning (its complete, but I don’t like it; therefore, I am stirring up some better options for them) I took the chicken I am going to make for dinner out of the freezer. The logo is of a horse drawn carriage and underneath it says, “Raised in Amish Country, Pennsylvania.” I remember checking out this logo at the Whole Foods where I bought it. It says nothing on the label about whether or not growth hormones have been added, or if they add other things to plump them up. So, I asked a meat guy who happened to be standing there. He said, “Oh no, the Amish don’t add anything to anything. Its good.” I dismissed my fleeting thought of, Amish, yeah right, they have a plastic wrapping and shipping company? Its not really Amish. I don’t care if the chickens are Amish or not, just that they aren’t pumped full of stuff that will give my 5 year old boobs.
This morning I noticed something new. On the pricing label it says, “Animal welfare rating. Step 2 - Enriched Indoor Environment.” It made me chuckle a little and wonder what rating my life would be given.
Enriched Indoor Enviroment. That sounds pretty good, right? Probably better than than the average chicken - an enriched life. Really though, do I really care? I mean the thing just got pulled out of my freezer, dead, so I can cook it for dinner. Do I REALLY give a care about how enriched its pathetic life was? What kind a scale is this anyway? SOOOOO, I goggled it and here is what I found out:
The Global Animal Partnership is a non-profit organization dedicated to continually improving the lives of farm animals raised for meat. They have developed the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating™ that rates how pigs, chickens and cattle are raised. Ratings for other species (turkeys, lamb, and others) are in development, so stay tuned.
Step 1: No crates, no cages, no crowding. Like people, animals need a little "personal space" to be comfortable.
Step 2: Enriched environment. It's the simple things that keep animals active and engaged — like a bale of straw for chickens to hide behind and climb on, a bowling ball for pigs to manipulate and shove around, or a few sturdy objects for cattle to rub against when they need a good scratch.
Step 3: Enhanced outdoor access. Pigs and chickens still live in buildings but they all — yes, each and every one of them — have access to outdoor areas where they can catch a few rays.
Step 4: Pasture centered. Chickens need to forage, pigs need to wallow and cattle need to roam. They can do all of these things when they live outdoors and have shelter — and of course, a view!
Step 5: Animal centered; all physical alterations prohibited. Animals get to live their lives with all the parts they were born with, and nothing else! No nose rings, no clipping, no snipping and no branding.
Step 5+:Animal centered; entire life on same farm. Animals are born and live their entire lives on one farm. Pigs and cattle are slaughtered on the farm, and chickens are transported only short distances (because you can't herd chickens!).
The way I read this is that, if you have a Stage 5 chicken, then everything they don't do, they do to the stage before, compounding down the scale. Therefore, Stage 1-4 chickens all have nose rings. My chicken, the one that implies it was raised on a Amish farm, is really one step away from chicken hell; its not Amish, and it’s never seen the sun.