Michael Rahal: Free-Range Poultry

April 7, 2013

Free range is a technical term applied by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) to poultry that is permitted to roam freely outside to graze for food. That is, free-range poultry is not confined, caged, or enclosed all the time within a 24-hour period, and therefore the USDA free-range designation applies to meat, eggs, and other food products derived from such free-roaming animals. 

Not to be confused with organic farming methods, free-range animal husbandry is a methodology for farms to raise poultry in more humane conditions, to reduce feed costs through open grazing, to produce more robust livestock, and to use land better ecologically. While the USDA free-range designation is used exclusively for poultry, food producers and marketers frequently misuse the label for other meat, including beef, pork, and mutton.

Michael Rahal is the owner and managing director of Fairview, Tennessee’s Rahal Farms, a leading provider of free-range chicken eggs and meat products, artisanal food, culinary skills courses that use sustainability principles, and organic produce. As a longstanding promoter of sustainable farming practices, Michael Rahal cares for livestock, farming, cheese, and butter production at Rahal Farms, demonstrating deep commitment to the land, nature, local grocers, and all who consume the company’s products.


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