‘Free-Run’ doesn’t mean sh*t

This week I settled into a booth at a Moxie’s Grill & Bar for a quick lunch. Now, I normal favour supporting independently owned restaurants but this chain happened to be attached to a hotel I was staying at and I was in a rush.

After giving the menu a quick glance I settled on their Herb Alfredo pasta, and for only $5.50 more I could add chicken. Now if you know me by now, you’ll know that I’d forgo the chicken and stick with the vegetarian version at a restaurant like this but my interest was peaked none-the-less.

These days every restaurant, farm, and business in general wants their customers to know they’re making ethical and sustainable choices and Moxie’s is no different. So as I expected right there in bold font at the bottom of the menu read, “We always use cage-free eggs and free-run chicken from Canadian farms, raised without the use of hormones and steroids.”

‘Free-run chicken’… While reading that might, for some, instil a level of confidence in the way their chicken is raised, it does the exact opposite to me.

Because, I know through my experience as a farmer that ‘free-run’ doesn’t mean sh*t.

Free-run is one of those fun little terms marketing executives use to try and make consumers believe their chicken isn’t factory farmed. Free-run simply means the chickens aren’t in cages within the barn.

EVERY. SINGLE. meat chicken raised in Canada is free-run. Jay is a 4th generation bird farmer, my father-in-law sat on the BC Poultry Marketing Board, both of them farmed commercially in the past and never once has either of them ever seen or raised a meat bird in a cage within a barn. It would be a totally unnecessary expense for the farmer to instal cages when they aren’t needed.

Now, that’s not the same when it comes to chickens raised for eggs, many farms still keep their egg layers in cages but that’s a discussion for another day.

So now that we’ve established every chicken raised for meat in Canadian barns are free-run, let’s keep in mind this term means nothing for how much space these birds get or the conditions in which they’re raised. And, it absolutely doesn’t mean these birds ever go outside — Free-run birds are raised exclusively inside a barn.

Ok, so the ‘free-run’ claim might have been a bit misleading, but at least we can be happy the chicken they serve is raised without the use of hormones and steroids, right?

Wrong!

Hormone and steroid use in chicken raised in Canada has been banned since the 1960’s… Yup, over 50 years now and yet we’re still acting like that makes one farmer’s chicken better than another.

And, now before you go skimming our website I admit you will in fact see that we list our chicken as being raised without hormones but we also state that’s the case with all chicken raised in our country. Unfortunately those high-paid marketing executives have created such a demand for hormone-free chicken that not mentioning it would cause some potential customers to think hormone use is part of our business.

So there you have it, Moxie’s claim regarding the chicken they use in their restaurants doesn’t mean sh*t. And, they’re not alone in making these claims. Every day I see businesses bragging about using free-run chicken and I see consumers eating it up.

‘Free-run chicken from Canadian farms, raised without the use of hormones and steroids’, could very well be coming from the worst factory farm in the country and everything about that claim would still be correct.

Transparency will always trump fancy marketing terms so if you ever hear a business using wording you don’t fully understand, I’d love to help shed some light on the subject — And if I can’t, I’ll find a farmer who can.

Kendall ~ The chick behind Central Park Farms