What All Those Different Labels Mean, Part I: Official USDA Labels
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service oversees every term that shows up on chicken packaging. If a poultry farm or food company wants to label their chicken “natural,” or even “fresh,” those terms get double-checked by federal regulators to make sure they’re truthful and accurate.
Where the feathers start to fly, though, is determining the standards for each of those labels. Here are the USDA’s officially listed terms:
“Free-range” or “free-roaming”: Farmers must demonstrate to inspectors that the poultry “has been allowed access to the outside.” (Note: This isn’t the same thing as “spending most of its time outside”—only that the bird has been allowed access.)
“Fresh”: This chicken has never been below 26 °F (the temperature at which poultry freezes).
“Natural”: No artificial ingredients nor added color. “Natural” chicken can only be “minimally processed,” meaning it’s not allowed to “fundamentally alter the product.” An example of “minimally processed” chicken is boneless and skinless breasts—it’s not dramatically changing the product.
“No hormones”: Chickens aren’t allowed to be raised with hormones anyway, so if a producer wants to use this label, they also have to note that “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”
“No antibiotics”: Famers must provide documentation to inspectors proving that the animals were raised without antibiotics.
“Organic”: “Certified Organic,” and its accompanying green label, is essentially the USDA’s gold standard for food quality. “Certified Organic” is regulated by the USDA’s National Organic Program, which has some serious regulatory muscle: Certified Organic producers receive both scheduled and unannounced visits from regulators.
Organic chickens are raised on organic land, and are fed 100% organic food for their entire lives. They can’t be given antibiotics, and they have year-round access to the outdoors. By definition, organic chickens are “cage-free,” “free-range,” and “pasture raised.” Read more of our reporting on the Certified Organic label here.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for high-quality, ethically raised chicken, keep an eye out for the USDA’s Certified Organic label. It’s a simple way to make sure you’re getting the good stuff (even if it is typically more expensive).
Why Chicken Thighs That Good
From a bodybuilder’s perspective, chicken thighs are that good because if you take the chicken as a whole, it’s where you’ll be getting most of the protein. But also note that amongst its meat-based rivals, chicken thighs remain amongst the highest sources of protein.
The two primary mineral ingredients in the chicken are selenium and phosphorous. By consuming a chicken thigh, you will be boosting your selenium intake by just over thirty micrograms, and your phosphorous intake by over two-sixty milligrams. This gives you over fifty and thirty percent of your daily required levels respectively.
Are chicken thighs good for building muscle?
What part of the chicken is best for muscle growth?
Can you get shredded eating chicken thighs?
Cost effective, easy to prepare, and packed with protein, chicken breasts are the ideal muscle-building food.