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Another Case for Buying Organic Chicken

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There are a lot of things I don't buy organic: milk (as one of the most-regulated grocery store products, non-organic is often just as good) and bananas (the peels guard from pesticides, right?) being two of them. But one place I rarely waver is in the meat aisle.

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More: We put the best roast chicken recipes to the test to find the perfect one.

While the low price-tag on non-organic chicken is enough to tempt me out of the organic aisle for a moment when I'm feeling especially thrifty, there are too many reasons to spring for organic and free-range chickens. And today, Quartz announced yet another reason to buy organic chicken: Industrial chicken farming is fueled by under-paid workers operating in terrible conditions. Here are five additional reasons we like to buy organic, free-range chicken: 

1. It's better for the environment. Industrial chicken farming and large broiler chicken (chickens raised for meat) operations contribute to major water quality issues. Farmers will often discard their chicken litter in open fields as fertilizer, but the high-density of this fertilizer is then carried by rain into major waterways and streams.

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2. Organic chickens have happier lives. While "organic" doesn't always translate to just treament of the chickens, there is some level of quality control: Organic chickens can't be raised in cramped conditions and must have free-range access. To ensure you're purchasing happy chickens, go straight to the farm or farmer and ask about the living conditions of their chickens. If they raise happy chickens, the farmers will be happy to tell you all about them.

3. Some believe organic chicken tastes better. Since organic chickens' feed is highly regulated, there are rarely shortcuts in what they're fed, so they often end up tasting better than chickens that lack feed regulations. You are what you eat, and so is your chicken.

4. Organic chicken may be healthier for us. While there is no significant nutritional difference between organic and factory-farmed chicken, non-organic chickens who are frequently given antibiotics can develop antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria—plus they're more likely to be infected with salmonella. While the heat of cooking can kill both of these concerns, it may be worth it to you to be safe rather than sorry.

5. It supports smaller farmers. A great deal of factory farming is concentrated in just fifteen states. By buying organic chickens from smaller farmers, you'll be supporting their livelihood for years to come.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Do you buy free-range chickens? Or are non-free range just as good? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Tags: chicken, fair trade, organic