By: Regan Jones, RD

One of the running jokes when I worked in the magazine world related to what cover image we should use every month. We’d belabor our options, discuss every possible choice at weekly tastings…and in the end, we’d all agree—everyone loves chicken.

It’s true, though. When you work in the recipe biz as long as I have, you begin to embrace that chicken recipes are popular recipes.

As they should be. Even if you overlook every good reason to choose chicken relatively low cost, high quality protein and universal crowd appeal, you’ll still be left with how darn versatile it is. As a working mom pressed for time every evening, I know I even find myself often thinking around 4 p.m., “Hmmm, what can I do with those chicken breasts I have in the freezer?”

But that popularity doesn’t come without a few misconceptions. In honor of National Chicken Month, I’m also dispelling 5 common chicken myths. 

Q: Are chickens genetically modified to grow fast?
While I know that many people think “big” chicken breasts must mean some crazy twist of science—chickens are not genetically modified. In reality, modern chickens grow more quickly and are more “meaty” than chicken breeds available decades ago because of selective breeding and optimal nutrition.

Q: Do chickens have added hormones?
Chickens do not contain added hormones, and they have not been given hormones for decades. So the phrase "no added hormones" or "hormone free" on a package of chicken, while truthfully, is unnecessary. All poultry sold in the US must be "hormone free" by law.

Q: What does cage-free mean?
You might see “cage-free” packages of chicken, but here’s the thing — no chicken you buy is raised in a cage. The majority of chickens raised in the U.S. live in large, open structures called houses where they are free to walk around. Others, including free-range chickens, have varying access to the outdoors, based on farmer preference.

Q: What does free-range mean?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), free-range means chickens have access to the outdoors for at least some part of the day; whether the chickens choose to go outside or not, that’s up to the chicken. There are no requirements for length of time the chicken must spend outdoors, the size of the outdoor area or type of groundcover. Less than 1% of chickens nationwide are raised as “free-range,” according to the National Chicken Council.

Q: What does the term “natural” chicken mean?
The USDA regulates the use of the term “natural” on meat products. According to USDA regulations, the term “natural” may be used on labeling for meat products if it meets the following guidelines:

  • The product does not contain artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives; and
  • The product is minimally processed.

To read the full blog, get a recipe for Rosemary Poached Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans and more from Regan visit http://healthyaperture.com/blog/.

Regan Jones is part of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance's Digital Voices Council. To learn more about the program and bloggers who participate, click here.