Chicken trade group's new standards clearly define how birds were raised
- The National Chicken Council has introduced a set of industry-wide standards called "Chicken Guarantees" as part of its Chicken Check In program, according to a press release. The guidelines "represent a set of consumer assurances to ensure people have simpler, clear and accurate information regarding how their chicken was cared for and raised," whether the birds are organic, conventional, or raised with or without antibiotics.
- The Chicken Guarantees assert that chickens were raised cage-free, without added hormones or steroids by farmers trained in animal welfare, and monitored by licensed veterinarians. The standards were created to improve consumer understanding of poultry, since 62% of Americans are confused by chicken labeling and packaging, according to a 2017 survey.
- "Consumers today are constantly being bombarded with negatives on labeling — no preservatives, no hormones, no additives, no this, never that," Ashley Peterson, Ph.D, NCC senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, said in a statement. "Through our Chicken Guarantees, we want to provide the baseline principles that always hold true, no matter what chicken you eat."
The National Chicken Council is taking a proactive approach to combat misinformation. As health-conscious consumers demand more information about how their protein is raised, poultry producers are responding with more and more labels that detail the living conditions of their birds. But labels such as free-range, cage-free, natural, organic and antibiotic-free can leave a number of consumers wondering what they’re buying at the meat counter and how it's different from competitors. Shoppers need more streamlined information when it comes to the basic standards of meat chickens, and these new guidelines could be the solution.
A 2017 survey found that 76% of Americans mistakenly believe the average chicken has added hormones or steroids, a practice the U.S. government banned in the 1950s. In addition, 70% of U.S. consumers think most meat chickens are raised in cages, though the majority are not.
As the National Chicken Council is a trade association, will major chicken producers be inclined to comply with these standards? It's likely. Member companies of the NCC provide about 95% of the chicken products on Americans' tables, so these rules are already being followed a large swath of the industry. If a producer doesn’t want to comply with the Chicken Guarantees, it can stop paying dues and drop out of the NCC.
As a growing number of consumers move away from red meat, for both animal welfare and health concerns, chicken consumption has reached an all-time high in the U.S. In light of this trend, the NCC is wise to try and clear the air about how chickens are raised, lest consumers start wandering to other protein options out of frustration about confusing labels or misconceptions about food safety.