Is organic chicken worth the price?

Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:22pm EDT
 
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By Mitch Lipka

(Reuters) - Just because a chicken is labeled "organic" does not mean that the bird on your plate lived a bucolic farm life before you cooked it.

To officially be called "organic," the animal must be fed organic food (grown with no pesticides), receive no antibiotics and be given access to the outdoors.

While a whole, generic store-brand chicken typically costs about $1.50 per pound, the price for organic chicken is $2.69 a pound at Trader Joe's, the U.S. grocery chain, and $4.99 per pound from online grocer Fresh Direct. Whole Foods sells boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts for $8.99 per pound. And it's not unusual to pay more than $10 per pound for similar organic chicken breasts at upscale butcher shops.

So what's behind the cost of organic chicken? Are you getting what you think you are paying a premium for?

DECIPHERING LABELS

Beyond the label "organic," chicken packages that purport to be more natural than ordinary chicken could carry any of the following terms: natural, antibiotic-free, farm-raised, fresh, cage-free, hormone-free and free-range. The U.S. Department of Agriculture imposed some rules on the use of these terms.

However, the range of possibilities is broad, and the various distinctions can be "bastardized," says Ariane Daguin, founder of D'Artagnan, a high-end meat company.   Continued...

 
Free-range chickens stand in their coop at Grassington Farm, near Lewes in southern England February 22, 2006.