Canadians eat more chicken that any other meat, consuming on average 75pounds per year.  That is a lot of chicken!  As you stand in the grocery isle, looking at all the chicken it can be a bit confusing as what all the labeling means – organic vs grain-fed vs free run.  It can all be a bit overwhelming.  Let us take a look at what the different labels mean.


The chicken was not treated in any way with antibiotics.


With respect to food, Islamic laws are very specific and Muslims seek to eat foods defined as “Halal,” which is defined by Muslims as “that which is allowed” by God, or “Allah,” the Law-Giver. Muslims are taught that the animals must be well rested and handled in a way that minimizes suffering.


Free-run is different from free-range in that chickens do not necessarily need to be raised outside but they are required to be able to move around freely within the barn. Chickens raised for meat in Canada are considered free run.


Free-range birds must have access to the outdoors. However, since there is no legal definition of free- range in Canada, this can vary from farm to farm.


The feed contains only vegetable protein such as soy, which can alter the flavour and colour of the meat. While chickens are omnivores, chickens can be raised on vegetarian feed, as long as an appropriate protein level is achieved.


Since all chicken in Canada is given a feed that consists of over 85% grain, this term is typically just used for marketing. Chicken labeled as “grain-fed” is stating the obvious, though some brands will mention special types of grain.


Kosher refers to the content and production requirements, not to any specific cuisine. In Hebrew, kosher means “fit” or “proper,” indicating the food products meet the dietary requirements of Jewish law. These laws are known as the laws of kashruth, deal with what foods may be eaten together, and how those foods are to be prepared.


Chicken sold as organic is raised to a specific standard laid out by the Canadian General Standards Board, in addition to the standards set by an organic certification board. Organic chicken must be raised with a certified organic feed that contains no animal by-products or antibiotics, and a certification body must approve any supplements, such as vitamins.


Though it is rare, some marketers still classify their chicken as “hormone-free.” This is little more than a marketing tactic, since the use of hormones and steroids in raising poultry have been banned since the 1960s in Canada.