• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Is your turkey organic or cage free?

November 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
For many, shopping for the perfect bird for the annual turkey dinner can be confusing. When you hit the grocery store, prepare yourself for all kinds of labels that may have you wondering about what kind of turkey you really want. Barbara Boyd makes a point to buy "cage free" eggs for her family.

"These hens are being used for their eggs and they should be treated as kindly as possible," said Boyd.

And she thinks the same rules should apply to when it comes to her holiday turkey.

"I feel it's a small part that I can do to push forward the organic and the humane treatment of animals," said Boyd.

This year's turkeys will have all kinds of labels, from "humanely raised" to "organic" to "free range." What do they really mean, and who regulates them?

"There are three humane certification programs maintained by animal welfare organizations, and those three are certified humane, animal welfare approved and animal humane certified," said Dena Jones, World Society for Protection of Animals.

With those programs, the conditions are strictly regulated and on-site inspections are required. That's also the case with labels for organic poultry, which is regulated by the USDA.

"That means somebody actually does visit the farms," said Jones.

There's also "pasture raised" and "free range," there are no USDA regulations, but there are guidelines.

For example, the birds must be given outdoor access. Approval only requires paper documentation, so terms such as "free range" may not mean what you think, according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, or WSPA.

"In many cases the birds live in crowded barns with thousands of other birds and only go outside for a very short amount of time every day, and even when they are allowed outside it may be just into a baron lot," said Jones.

So, the only way to be sure of the animals' treatment would be to visit the farm yourself. If that's not possible, you can do what Barbara does, and look for the USDA certified stamp of approval.

"It just leads to raising your children to be compassionate about their world," said Boyd.

There's one other label you might see "no hormones added." However, the USDA does not allow hormones in poultry production, so that applies to all poultry.


- Get more L.A. breaking news, weather, traffic and sports
- Have a news tip? Send your tips, video, or pictures


Load Comments