Understanding Chicken Labels

Don’t be fooled by food labels that sound like they mean better for chickens. Use our guide below to learn how these labels actually impact chicken welfare—or how they don’t. Look for the ASPCA recommended labels Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane and Global Animal Partnership (Step 2 or higher), and then take our Shop With Your Heart pledge for the latest info on finding these products and making welfare-conscious choices when you shop.

Chicken Guide

AWA Logo
Animal Welfare Approved
 

Certified Humane
Certified Humane

Global Animal Partnership
Global Animal Partnership

American Humane Certified
American Humane Certified

USDA Organic
USDA Organic†

Free Range
Free Range


No Antibiotics Ever


Natural

Adequate Indoor Space Minimums

0.67 ft2 per bird plus outdoor space. If birds need to be kept indoors, then 2.67 ft2 per bird

6 lb/ft 2  
(~1 ft2 per bird)

6.5 lb/ft2 or lower
(~0.92 ft2 per bird)***

7 lb/ft2
(~0.86 ft2 per bird)

None

None

None

None

Environmental Enrichments Required

Yes, outdoor enrichments on pasture

Yes, “provisions must be made to keep indoor chickens active by enriching their environment”

Step 1: Yes, ≥ 1 type of indoor enrichment required

Step 2-4: Yes, ≥ 2 types of indoor enrichment required

Step 5-5+: Yes, outdoor enrichments on pasture

No

No

No

No

No

Outdoor Access Required

Yes, “continuous daytime ranging and foraging area access”

Only if free-range**

Step 1-2: No

Step 3: Yes, continuous outdoor access during daylight hours

Step 4-5+: Yes, continuous access to pasture during daylight hours

Only if free-range**

Yes, but undefined

Yes, but undefined

No

No

Breed Health Requirements

“Must be able to thrive in pasture-based, free-range, outdoor systems”

“Select for high welfare traits and avoid genetic strains with undesirable traits” (Subjective)

All steps ”Must be chosen for good leg health and for low levels of mortality” (Subjective)*

Step 4-5+: “Must be chosen for the ability to range and for good immune systems”

Step 5-5+: “Must be able to perch throughout their lives”

None

None

None

None

None

Natural Light Required

Yes

No

Step 3 and above****

No

No

No

No

No

Maximum Transport Duration

4 hrs

10 hrs

Step 1-5: 6 hrs

Step 5+: Transport not permitted

12 hrs

None

None

None

None

Routine Antibiotic Use Prohibited

Yes

Yes

Yes

No, allows nontherapeutic use of ionophores

Yes

No

Yes

No

On-Farm Audits

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Detailed On-Farm Welfare Standards

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

100% Compliance with Standards

Yes

Yes

Yes

No‡

Yes

No

No

No

† Although the USDA Organic program released new, stronger animal welfare standards in January 2017, it delayed their implementation for months. Finally, in December 2017, the USDA announced its intention to withdraw these new standards completely. We are monitoring developments and will keep you updated; be sure to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade for alerts if you haven’t already.

* GAP is currently reviewing its breed standards and will have new guidance by 2024.

** Certified Humane and American Humane Certified only require outdoor access under their free-range and/or pasture programs. Therefore, only chicken that has both the certification and a free-range and/or pasture label comes from birds with outdoor access.

*** By 2020, 6.0 lb/ft2 will be the max stocking density.

**** By 2022, natural light will be required at Step 2.

‡ American Humane Certified standards only require that producers meet 85% of the provided standards. Accordingly, it is possible that a producer might not meet certain requirements (including antibiotic use) and still receive the American Humane Certified certification.