So I was reading a Paleo blog post about how you should concentrate on buying organic, all natural, free range, grass-fed meat in order to be as healthy as possible. Of course, I glossed over the article and then carefully read the bazillions of idiotic comments that followed the post (because the idiot comments are the best part!). In the comments was a long conversation about which type of chicken is the best to buy from the store. Some people said organic was fine. Others recommended free range. While some said it has to be pastured/grass fed.
I kind of wanted to chime in and let all these people know that regardless of the labeling, pretty much all of the chicken you buy at a chain grocery store comes from Cornish hybrid chickens who don't really know how to survive in a free range or pastured situation. Also these chickens don't survive on a grass fed diet. Cornish hybrids have been genetically manipulated through intensive breeding systems to be a super fast growing but incredibly fragile meat chicken. These birds are capable of growing from a 1 oz chick to a 6 lb. oven roaster in 6 weeks or less. This is an incredible growth curve for an animal. Of course, this sort of intense growth requires a massive amount of calories and an infinitesimal amount of energy expended getting these calories. These chickens are programmed to eat all the time and not move at all.
I have friends who have tried to pasture Cornish hybrids and the result was that they had to actually pick up each chicken and move it to a new spot in the pasture or else it would just lie in its own feces. No amount of free ranging space can convince a Cornish hybrid to get off of its butt and move around. While pasturing meat birds is a noble pursuit, it is probably not feasible with the most numerous type of meat bird -- the lazy Cornish hybrid.So don't waste your brain power trying to decide if the plastic-wrapped package of organic free-range chicken is better than the plastic-wrapped package of organic pasture-raised chicken. The health benefits are probably not different between the two because the chickens who went into the meat are the same.
There are some meat birds available to purchase who are more suited for a pasture situation. I prefer to raise "Freedom Rangers" which are a hybrid of three French breeds of meat chicken. They grow very quickly (8-10 weeks for maturity) and yet they move around a lot more than a Cornish hybrid. These meat birds actually act like real chickens. They will scratch and forage and eat a varied diet. A Cornish hybrid will not scratch or forage, and they prefer broiler feed to anything else.
The moral of this story is: If you want healthy, humanely-raised, organic, pastured, grass-fed, all natural chicken -- RAISE IT YOURSELF or hire a good friend to RAISE IT FOR YOU! And stay away from Cornish hybrids -- they are gross!