There remains a strong misconception regarding growth hormones and chickens. Using growth hormones to boost chickens has been illegal since the 1960’s. There are basically three different types of chicken farming practices – conventional, free range and organic. Most of the scary claims out there are based on overseas strategies but are not necessarily accurate in Australia as all three farming practices adhere to The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals. How each type adhere to these controls differ though. The processor’s farming manager and vet generally control conventional farming and often free range as well. Free range can also be monitored by industry associations but organic farms are independently audited and accredited by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service.
Conventional chickens are kept inside in a shed, are given antibiotics and vaccines, and are often maintained in an artificially controlled environment. They can roam around but are not allowed outdoor access. They may be more densely stocked in their shed and are typically younger at harvest (35-55 days). They are also fed non-organic food that often contains (genetically modified) GM products in the feed. Organic chickens are allowed to live longer (65-80 days), have more room in the shed, can go outside and roam, are fed only organic food (GM free) and are never given antibiotics or vaccinations (if these are required they aren’t sold organic). Fundamentally chicken is a lean, healthy source of protein but where possible encouraging organic farming practices is optimal.