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

Animal Welfare Approved
Animal Welfare Approved
 

Certified Humane
Certified Humane

Global Animal Partnership
GAP 5-Step Program*

American Humane Certified
American Humane Certified

USDA Organic
USDA Organic†

Free Range
Free Range


No Antibiotics Ever


Natural

Outdoor Access Required

Yes, pasture access required

Only if free-range

Step 1-2: Not required
Step 3: Yes, outdoor access
Step 4+: Yes, pasture access 

Only if free-range

Yes, but undefined

Yes, but undefined

No

No

Indoor Space (Max stocking density)

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)

No

No

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

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

None

None

None

None

None

Natural Light Required

Yes

No

Step 1-2: No
Step 3+: Yes***

No

No

No

No

No

Enrichments Required

Yes

Yes

Step 1: No
Step 2+: Yes****

No

No

No

No

No

Routine Antibiotic Use Prohibited

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

On-Farm Audits

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Detailed On-Farm Standards

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

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, the USDA has twice delayed the rule’s implementation, seemingly with an eye toward scrapping the protections altogether. We are monitoring new developments and will keep you updated; be sure to join the Advocacy Brigade for alerts if you haven’t already.

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

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

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

**** By 2018, enrichments will be required at Step 1.