Chickens Translated

At Kellner Back Acre Garden, we are pleased to offer you organic chickens and eggs, as certified by NICS.  But will all the marketing, it can be difficult to understand what organic means versus natural?  Or whether you need to also look for non-GMO and antibiotic-free?  We’re here to try to de-mystify some of the typical language used with chickens for consumption.



Natural: Since this term is not regulated, it’s hard to define universally what this means.  However, typically it means no added colors, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

Chemical-free: Similar to natural, to use this term there is no direct regulation.  However, it is often used by vendors who provide very similar practices as organic practices, but something is preventing them from calling it organic.  For example, prior to obtaining our organic certification, we raised “chemical-free” birds because we were working through certification.  However, given the difference in what this can mean, ask your farmer.

Non-GMO: GMO is short for genetically-modified organisms.  To aid in our need for mass quantities of grains worldwide for food and fuel, commercial farming industry created GMO grains to resist drought, insecticides, and insects.  This allows better yields of crops.  So while most chickens are not GMO, many non-organic chickens are fed corn, which is nearly always GMO.  Non-GMO means the feed provided to the chicken was made without the incorporation of any GMO products.

Antibiotic-free:  Sometimes antibiotics are used for sick livestock, but when that occurs, there are certain time limits before that animal can be sent for human consumption to ensure the antibiotic is no longer in its system.  However, sometimes antibiotics are used to increase the growth of the animal.  The fear by some is that use of antibiotics so regularly will result in drug-restraint strains of bacteria in the meat.  Meat that is labeled antibiotic-free means no antibiotics were used in that animal.

Pasture raised (or free range):  USDA requires that to use this label, the chicken had outdoor access.  Chickens meeting this criteria often take longer to grow, as they get exercise, as opposed to sitting in one spot and fattening up for market.  Those who are concerned about humane treatment should absolutely look for this label.

Cage free: This means the chickens are not kept in small or individual cages and are allowed to spread their wings and lay eggs in a more natural environment.

Organic:  To use this label, the grower must be certified.  It requires meeting very strict criteria.  The egg laid must be organic; once hatched, the chick must only ever be fed organic feed; and must never be fed GMO products or use antibiotics.

You can be rest assured that our chickens are natural, chemical-free, non-GMO, antibiotic free, pasture-raised, cage-free, and organic.  Order your chickens here or better yet – stop at the farm and stock up your freezer today!

Photo credit: Przemyslaw Kucinski


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