Animal
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Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
21 July 1999 Issue

Free-Range Poultry and Eggs:
Not All They're Cracked Up To Be
United Poultry Concerns, http://www.upc-online.org

A growing number of people are looking to "free range" as an alternative to factory farm poultry and eggs. "Free range" conveys a positive image of animals living outdoors as nature intended. Historically, the term range means, in addition to living outside and getting exercise, the animals are able to sustain themselves on the land on which they are living.

"The waiter said, 'All of our chicken is free-range.' And I said, 'He doesn't look very free there on that plate.'"
- Bob Joe Briggs, We Are The Weird

"FREE-RANGE" BIRDS RAISED FOR MEAT

Birds raised in the United States for meat -- mainly chickens and turkeys -- may be sold as "range" if they have U.S. Department of Agriculture certified access to the outdoors. No other criteria, such as environmental quality, size of area, number of birds, or space per bird, are included in this term. A USDA staffer told UPC, "Places I've visited may have just a gravel yard with no alfalfa or other vegetation. The birds can exercise, but cannot range -- that is, sustain themselves."

"FREE-RANGE" HENS KEPT FOR EGGS

Free-range hens are debeaked at the hatchery the same as battery-caged hens. Debeaking is a painful mutilation that impairs the hens' ability to eat normally and to preen (practice bodily hygiene). Typically, 2,000 or more hens -- each hen having only 1 to 2 square feet of floor space -- are confined in a shed without access to the outdoors during their lives. If the hens can go outside, the exit usually is very small allowing only the closest hens to get out. The yard may be nothing but a mud yard saturated with droppings and intestinal coccidia and other parasites. For free range to work, the land must be kept fresh. Hens spend much of their time close to the house, scratching, dust bathing, and wearing away the grass. A static house and pasture become unsanitary when hundreds or thousands of birds are collected in a small area. A system of rotation is needed.

Free range does not solve the problem of oversized flocks, or the unnatural isolation of the birds from other sexes and age-groups of their species and from other species. To date, there is no legal or commercial definition of husbandry terms regulating the sale of eggs in the U.S. There are no standards governing the term or the claim "range" or similar advertisements on egg cartons, such as "free running," "free roaming," or "free walking."

Though chickens can live active lives for 7 to 15 years, at the end of a year or two, "free-range" hens are hauled to slaughter the same as battery-caged hens. "Spent" fowl, regardless of whether they were caged or free-range, go to a slaughter plant, live poultry market, or live animal auction.

"FREE-RANGE" MALE CHICKS ARE TRASHED AT BIRTH

Egg production produces "excess" roosters with no commercial value. (Over half of the chicks hatched are roosters.) For this reason, the baby brothers of the "free-range" hens are suffocated to death or ground up alive at the hatchery the same as those of battery-caged hens.

What Can I DO?

Replace eggs and products with eggs or egg whites in your diet with delicious egg-free alternatives:

To leaven, bind, and liquefy in baking:
* 2 Tbsp. mashed banana or apricot + 1/2 tsp. baking powder for 1 egg.
(Or 1 banana for 1 egg.)

* Commercial powdered egg replacer such as ENER-G, Jolly Joan or Golden Harvest. Made of refined starches, modified vegetable gums and leavening.
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. egg replacer + 2 Tbsp. water for 1 egg.

* Applesauce or apple butter. 2 Tbsp. to 1/4 cup for 1 egg.

* Commercial fruit-based purees such as WonderSlim and Just Like Shortenin'.
Made mainly of dried plums. Excellent for desserts, pancakes, muffins, etc.
2 Tbsp. to 1/4 cup for 1 egg.

* Two Tbsp. cornstarch, arrowroot flour, soft tofu, or potato starch for one egg.

* 1 Tbsp. flax seeds + 1 cup water for 1 egg. Blend flax seeds and water in blender for 1 to 2 minutes till mixture is thick and has the consistency of a beaten egg.

To hold things together in casseroles, burgers, and loaves, add a little more vegetable oil. Experiment also with tomato paste, mashed potato, mashed avocado, tahini (sesame butter), peanut butter or nut butters, moistened bread crumbs, quick-cooking tapioca, or quick oats.

For lightness, use some extra yeast or baking soda. Also use fruit juice or tomato juice to replace some or all of the liquid in a recipe. You can also use soft pastry flour instead of, or in addition to, regular flour for cakes.

For More Information contact

United Poultry Concerns
P.O. Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
(757) 678-7875
www.upc-online.org

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