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'Barn raised chickens' = 20,000 chickens per barn

'Barn raised chickens' = 20,000 chickens per barn

Green MP Sue Kedgley is planning to take the New Zealand Poultry Association to the Commerce Commission under the Fair Trading Act on the grounds that its proposal to label chicken meat as 'barn raised and free from added hormones' is misleading to consumers.

"The clear message the label sends to consumers is that New Zealand poultry comes from chickens that are fed chemical-free feed and spend their days running around inside a barn in a semi-free range situation," Ms Kedgley said.

The reality is that the vast majority of New Zealand 'broiler' chickens spend their short lives crammed into windowless sheds with between 20,000 - 26,000 other chickens, with barely any room to move.

"The term 'barn raised' is a label which sounds natural, healthy and friendly to the animal," said Ms Kedgley. "Very few consumers would have any understanding of just what this term means inside the industry and I believe even fewer consumers would support the practice." With very little room to move and nothing to do all day, the chickens spend their lives eating compound feeds from a conveyer belt, pecking about in litter or resting on the litter floor.

Inside these 'barns' every aspect of a chickens life is controlled to make it grow as fast as possible. Lights are left on for 16-20 hours a day to encourage chickens to think it is daylight and eat (and therefore grow) as much as possible.

The poultry industry says it is introducing the new labels to dispel the widespread confusion as to how New Zealand chickens are raised, and to ensure consumers have the facts.

Ms Kedgley said it was important that consumers had all, and not just a selected few, facts and she would be helping to educate consumers about the reality of how broiler chickens are raised.

While it is true that New Zealand chickens are not fed added hormones, Ms Kedgley said chickens are fed antibiotics on a daily basis to make them grow faster and prevent disease from spreading through the flock.

To accelerate their growth, they are also fed meat and bone meal (consisting of the ground up remains of slaughtered animals which have been rendered down and cooked) and protein rich soybean meal which may be genetically engineered.

Sue Kedgley MP: 04 470 6728, 025 270 9088 Media inquiries, Jonathan Hill: 021 110 1133

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