Free-range chicken meat, some doubts


Increasing consumerAwareness of animal welfare and the success of eggs from ‘free-range’ hens has led some operators to designate chicken meat this way as well. However, the use of such wording on poultry labels raises some questions.

Breeding free range, eggs and poultry

Egg labels

can legitimately refer to the words ‘

from free-range hens

‘. Where the laying hens – while not having access to the outdoors – are free to move around inside the sheds, rather than being confined in cages On overlapping planes.

Poultry meat, on the other hand, may be designated by one of the terms provided in a special list, where to date the phrase ‘free-range‘ does not appear.

For the purpose of indicating types of breeding
, except for organic or organic breeding, the labeling (…) may bear no other terms than those specified below (…):

(a) “fed with … % of …”

(b) “extensive indoor.”

(c) “outdoors.”

(d) “rural outdoors.”

(e) “rural at large”‘. (1)

Raised on the ground, ‘
. Issues to be resolved

Consumer information legislation is generally intemperate in its reforms with respect to changing consumer expectations. And to marketing strategies, instead, that are more ready to capture their emerging sensibilities.

The list of permissible label claims for poultry meat appears to be exhaustive. As each of these locutions corresponds to a farming method, codified uniformly at the EU level. However, it cannot be ruled out that additional information may be added to the indication of a farming method on a voluntary basis.

Raised on the ground, ‘
. Assumptions of optional information

Additional optional information, pending reforms in the poultry sector, must in any case meet some essential requirements:

-Defining and complying with an appropriate breeding specification,

-actual distinctiveness of the criteria adopted from those established by law, in relation to the breeding method in which the specification is framed, (2)

-clarity and non-ambiguity of the information offered. (3)

Deceptiveness of a business practice, it is recalled, may recur even when a news item is true. And yet, ‘inany way, even in its overall presentation, induces or is likely to induce the average consumer to be mistaken.’ (4)

Attention should therefore be paid to the visual aspect of the label. Position and size of optional news items, suggestiveness and consistency of graphics and images are worth considering their suitability in terms of clarity, transparency and non-misleadingness.

Dario Dongo


(1) See reg. EC 543/08 as amended, Article 11.1

(2) E.g., maximum density, use of non-rapid growth genetics, availability of daylight, minimum slaughter age

(3) In compliance with the general criteria set forth in Reg. EU 1169/11, Articles 7 and 36. With special attention to the prohibition of attributing to a food peculiar characteristics instead common to products belonging to the same category (Article 7.1.c)

(4) See Consumer Code (Legislative Decree 206/05), Article 21.

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.