What "slow growth" really means Posted on 16 Sep 14:41

At Emmer & Co., we are always glad to see people moving towards making better food choices for their health, for the planet, and for taste!  Recently, people have been talking more about “slow growth” chickens, but what does this phrase really mean??   

Unfortunately, “slow growth” is one of the many meat and poultry terms not regulated by the USDA.  To understand what “slow growth” really means, consider that average industrialized chickens grow to around 3.5 lbs in 42 days.  Chickens marketed as “slow growth” might be the same industrialized chickens that simply live a little longer, or another genetically manipulated kind of chicken still plagued by health issues, despite growing a little more slowly.  

In contrast, the heritage chickens eaten by Americans before 1951 took three to four times as many days to grow to the same weight. Emmer & Co. heritage chickens are these same pre-industrialized chickens, and since they've never been manipulated for fast growth, grow for at least 112 days. And it’s one of the important Livestock Conservancy and APA criteria of what defines a heritage chicken.  Because of this, they have richer flavors, are healthier, and lead better lives. They spend all their waking hours outdoors on totally open and unrestricted pasture, and because their muscles grow at the same rate as their bones, they can do all the things chickens are supposed to do, like run, forage, play, walk, and perch.

A good rule of thumb is to keep asking questions to educate yourself about your food—the chickens and the earth will thank you for it!  If you’d like to learn more, the farmer at Mother Earth News detailed an experiment with raising “slow growth” birds in a 2010 blog post.