Is the chicken you are buying truly free range? And what exactly does free range mean?

Consumers will soon be able to buy chicken meat that carries the SPCA Blue Tick of accreditation – signifying that the farming methods are in line with the specific welfare standards prescribed by the society.
 
The SPCA’s Blue Tick programme is the only independently audited animal welfare standard in New Zealand and identifies animal products produced in a manner that is guaranteed to be humane.
 
With the only definition of ‘free range’ in New Zealand available in the NAWAC code of welfare, the SPCA feels it is important to provide consumers with a simple, universal and recognisable method of identifying free range chicken.
 
Chicken is the most popular meat protein in New Zealand and, increasingly, consumers are seeking free range products. Industry statistics show that sales of free range chicken rose more than 220 per cent during 2009 and 2010 with free range chicken now making up around five per cent of total chicken sales.
 
SPCA CEO Robyn Kippenberger says New Zealand poultry producers are finally producing what consumers have been demanding for years.
 
“However identifying which chicken is genuinely farmed free range is still an issue for consumers. The Blue Tick gives them transparency and a guarantee when purchasing animal food products. The chicken products that are soon to carry the Tick will be widely sought out by shoppers seeking humanely produced foods.”
 
The Blue Tick Free Range poultry standards give chickens more room to move around and guaranteed access to food, shade and shelter outside.
 
Ms Kippenberger says this promotes activity as the birds are naturally docile. Exercise promotes healthy muscle growth and increases overall health and wellbeing of the chicken.
 
The code also specifies that antibiotics are prohibited except in case of illness and growth enhancers can’t be used under any circumstances – points of difference for the New Zealand standards compared to other countries.
 
Ms Kippenberger says the momentum in favour of free range poultry is increasing.
 
“With the success of the Blue Tick logo identifying humanely farmed eggs and pork products I’m confident this is yet another significant milestone for free range advocates.”
 
“This is a key step in improving the lives of the birds and we’re very proud to finally announce the standards. Every single day matters when it comes to animal cruelty and the 84 million New Zealand chicken meat birds that this code applies to would be much better off if all producers adopted it.”
 
She is calling on producers of chicken meat who would like to apply for the Blue Tick to visit www.rnzspca.org.nz/bluetick for more information or call Juliette Banks, national accreditation and marketing manager, on 09 825 1804.
 
About the SPCA Blue Tick
The SPCA’s Blue Tick is a national certification programme that identifies the animal food product it adorns as being produced in a manner that is guaranteed to be humane.
To earn the right to display the Blue Tick logo, producers must meet the SPCA’s rigorous welfare standards and undergo thorough auditing on a regular basis by qualified and independent inspectors.
Free range and barn laid eggs were first to be accredited under the scheme in 2001, and in 2007 free range and eco barn (free farmed) pork and pork products were added.
Choosing products displaying the Blue Tick logo enables consumers to confidently select humanely-produced food.

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