The following systems offer significantly higher welfare for chickens farmed for meat.
Meaningful outdoor access
In these systems, chickens are provided outdoor access during the daytime and sheds or mobile coops where they are housed at night.
With significant outdoor access, chickens can express natural behaviors, like foraging, scratching, running, playing, and exploring in fresh air and natural sunlight. These systems typically use breeds of broiler that grow more slowly and can exercise, so these chickens have better leg and heart health and a significantly better quality of life.
When used on poultry labels, the term “free-range” means only that some kind of outdoor access was provided. However, it is unclear how much space or condition of the outdoor areas is provided, or how often the birds are allowed outside. The uncertainty around the quality or amount of outdoor access is also true for chicken labeled "USDA Organic." USDA Organic chickens may still spend most of their lives indoors in barren, overcrowded barns.
However, several third-party humane certifications have standards that establish more specific requirements regarding outdoor access. For instance, Global Animal Partnership requires that all farms raising broiler chickens at Steps 3 through 5 of its 5-Step standards give birds over the age of four weeks continuous outdoor access, and the Animal Welfare Approved standards require the same for all certified broiler chickens. Regenerative Organic Certified requires chickens to have continuous access to pasture. Certified Humane requires that all certified producers raising free-range or pasture-raised broilers provide outdoor access for at least eight hours per day for birds older than four weeks of age.
Higher welfare indoor
In these systems, chickens are kept indoors but are given more space. Their environment is enriched with straw bales, pecking objects, perches, or platforms, and better lighting and the floors are covered in good quality deep and dry litter, which encourages natural behaviors. like foraging, dust-bathing, and perching.
Global Animal Partnership, Animal Welfare Approved, and Regenerative Organic Certified only raise broilers from breeds with healthier genetics to ensure they can stay active their entire lives. Certified Humane does not require slower-growing broiler breeds but requires chickens to have enrichments and more space indoors than in standard industry farms.
Find out how you can help to end the intensive farming of broiler chickens.