Organic or factory chickens? Foodies can't tell

SYDNEY Mon Mar 3, 2008 4:01am EST

A free range chicken walks around a farm near Bristol, southern England June 7, 2007. Organic chickens might have a better life but when it comes to the end, there is no difference in the taste between free range and factory-raised birds, according to a taste test by Australian food experts. REUTERS/Phil Noble

A free range chicken walks around a farm near Bristol, southern England June 7, 2007. Organic chickens might have a better life but when it comes to the end, there is no difference in the taste between free range and factory-raised birds, according to a taste test by Australian food experts.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Organic chickens might have a better life but when it comes to the end, there is no difference in the taste between free range and factory-raised birds, according to a taste test by Australian food experts.

Consumer advocate Choice lined up a panel of four food experts to taste eight different roast chickens -- two organic, two free-range, one corn-fed and three regular factory-farmed birds.

But despite the higher cost of free-range, corn-fed and organic chickens, the experts could not tell the difference in taste.

"While there were no significant differences in their scores, all agreed chickens don't have as much taste as they used to," said a statement from Choice.

The consumer advocate said the narrow range of fast-maturing breeding stock now used in almost all chicken production made any differentiation between the meat produced by different methods effectively meaningless.

"Our advice is that buying organic or free-range might have other important benefits, such as the birds having a better life, but it doesn't necessarily mean a tastier roast dinner," said spokesman Christopher Zinn.

"The cook makes much more difference than the way the chicken is raised."

Choice said that since the 1960s, the time it takes to produce a two kilogram chicken has almost halved to around 40 days from 70 days with the exception to this being the organic standard, which specifies that organic meat chicken must be grown to maturity over a period of 63 to 70 days.

The consumer group's advice to find a chicken with real flavor was to find a smaller producer who uses traditional breeds and lets the chickens live longer or buy the largest chicken you can find, as the bigger it is then longer it has lived and the flavor is likely to be better.

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