Are hormones or steroids used to make chickens grow bigger and faster?

No, the use of hormones and steroids in the production of chicken is illegal in Canada, and has been since the 1960′s.

Is there really such a thing as a Chicken Squad?

No, the Chicken Squad is a fictional agency inspired by the real team of provincial inspectors who enforce Canadian food standards in BC. The real inspectors don’t carry guns or bust bad guys, instead they work with farmers and regulators to ensure all the chicken raised in BC meets On Farm Food Safety, Animal Care and Biosecurity guidelines.

I’ve heard the terms ‘free range’, ‘free run’, and ‘organic free range’ to describe types of chicken. Are all of these regulated by the B.C. Chicken Marketing Board?

Free Range means that the bird has access to the outdoors.  Due to weather in Canada, the free range season can be short in some parts of Canada.

Free Run means that a bird is able to move freely throughout the barn and is not confined in a cage.  All chickens grown in Canada for meat purposes are free run.

Organic chickens are birds raised using certified organic feed and fresh, untreated drinking water.  The Certified Organics Association of BC (COABC) also requires growers to allow their birds access to pesticide free pasture for a minimum of 6 hours a day, weather permitting.  These chickens may have started out as conventional chicks.  A list of all certified organic producers can be found on the COABC website at http://www.certifiedorganic.bc.ca

Yes, all chicken which is grown and marketed in BC is regulated. A licensed grower may grow the type of bird that he/she has quota for. All chicken grown for meat in BC are free run, they are not grown in cages. For definitions of these terms, please see BC Chicken Prodcution

I’ve read that “broiler” chickens get so big that they become crippled by their own weight. Is this true?

No, it’s not true. A “broiler” chicken simply means a chicken that’s raised for meat, and all chickens raised in Canada only reach a natural healthy weight. It would be impossible for a chicken to get so big that it would become crippled by its own weight because chickens raised in Canada are free to eat and drink on their own. You can learn more about the Chicken Farmers of Canada’s commitment to animal care here: Animal Care Program.

Are there any rules or regulations around how many inches of floor space each chicken needs?

Yes. The amount of floor space required for each chicken is strictly regulated by the Chicken Farmers of Canada and the BC Chicken Marketing Board. The fact is that birds on BC chicken farms are raised in a density that meets humane standards to ensure the birds have enough room to walk about and spread their wings. Specifically, the density prescribed by the BC Chicken Marketing Board is 31 kg per square metre (6.29 lb/ft2), which exceeds BC SPCA’s prescribed density of 32 Kg per square metre. In comparison, in the UK, maximum density is 42 Kg per square metre. In BC this kind of looks like a cluster of baby chicks in a skating rink, so there’s lots of room to grow over the 6-8 weeks the birds will live in the barn. For more information read about the Animal Care Program.

What additives are in the chicken meat available in Canada?

None! Fresh, raw chicken meat is additive-free. However, some chicken products (such as chicken labelled “seasoned”) could include additives. This is because the word “seasoned” means the meat has been processed using a mixture of salt, water and/or sodium phosphate to allow the product to retain some of its moisture when cooked (sometimes flavouring is added too). Single ingredient meat products, like boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, etc. will have no ingredient lists, no mention of “seasoning,” and therefore, no additives.

How are chickens fed? How do they drink water?

Chickens are free to get their own food and water. Feeders and water lines are installed in the barns so they can access water and food whenever they are hungry and thirsty.

Are antibiotics given to chickens raised for meat?

The use of antibiotics in Canadian agriculture is heavily regulated. As in human health, antibiotics are used if a flocks’ health is at risk.  All antibiotics must be approved for use by Health Canada or by direction of a veterinary prescription.  Farmers must follow strict protocols on withdrawal periods to ensure residues do not enter the food chain.

The responsible use of antibiotics has always been key to Chicken Farmers’ of Canada’s On-farm Food Safety Program, which is a mandatory program in all Canadian provinces and has received full federal, provincial and territorial government recognition.  This program has been around more than 10 years.  All commercial chicken farmers in BC are certified under this program and are audited every year.

You can read lots of in-depth information about antibiotics on the Chicken Farmers of Canada’s Antibiotics page. Check it out!

What is the poultry industry doing to reduce the use of antibiotics?

In 2010, all Canadian poultry sectors developed an antibiotic strategy to control, monitor and reduce the use of antibiotics.  Some of Chicken Farmers of Canada’s activities so far include:

  1. Adopting a policy to eliminate any preventive use of Category I antibiotics by May 15, 2014.
  2. Working collaboratively with the federal government, through the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance.
  3. Providing government researchers access to our farms so that we can understand what’s happening and to work together to develop solutions.
  4. Funding research into alternative care, which includes better biosecurity, changed management practices, vaccine use and feed additives such as probiotics or essential oils.

How do chickens get from the farm to the slaughterhouse?

Chickens are transported to processing plants in trucks specially designed for shipping poultry. First, catching crews gather the birds from the barn and place them into crates for transport. Specific codes of practice dictate the rules and methods used for gathering, crating and transporting chickens. For more information on the care and handling of farm animals, view the National Farm Animal Care Council’s Codes Of Practice available here (poultry is section 8.7), or see the Chicken Farmers of Canada’s From Farm To Table resource page.