All of these terms are descriptions that have been used by producers in relation to normal, conventional chicken farming, in an attempt to help consumers understand that there are in fact no cages used in the growing of meat chickens. Understandably, many people don't understand that there are two completely separate farming industries: one that produces chickens for meat and another that farms chickens to produce eggs. The breeds of chicken are also very different, with the egg producing chickens being a smaller breed than the meat chickens.
The egg industry for many years used cages as the main means of housing their laying chickens. The commonly seen video footage of chickens in cages comes from this practise. Chickens farmed for meat in Australia have never been housed in caged systems as these. Meat chickens are housed in large, cage free barns where the chickens can move about.
But where did the eggs for these "meat chickens" come from – does that mean they may have been laid by chickens that were in cages? No. Even the chickens that lay the eggs for the meat industry are not kept in cages. They too live in large open barns with the addition of elevated nesting boxes for laying their eggs.
No chickens in Australia are fed or administered steroids or hormones in any way. This applies to all farming methods including conventional, organic, free range or Freedom Farmed. Testing conducted by the government confirms this fact on a regular basis. The question is often asked; how do the chickens grow so quickly if they're not given steroids?
There are many different breeds of chicken – some are fast growing breeds and others are slow growing breeds. The chickens that are used for meat production are naturally fast growing breeds that have been selectively bred for some 60 years. These improved genetics combined with good husbandry and precisely formulated nutritional requirements, means that meat chickens reach their optimal size quicker than another breed would.