Free-range food a can of worms

But Lara Whybrow, who runs an ethical farming website, says the law “is too vague”.

Scott agrees: “There is no such thing as a ‘happy’ chicken; all suffer from birth to death. Although free-range birds might be a little happier than their factory-farmed counterparts, they still live in sheds where as many as 20000 birds are closed in at night.

“I have been to large retailers’ free-range farms and the hens had their toes clipped off, as do factory- farmed birds, and many suffered from bald patches, as do their factory-farmed cousins.”

The CEO of the South African Poultry Association, Kevin Lovell, said: “The only way to really know when you are getting free-range products is to rely on the audit systems of the retailers.”

The Times asked the four major grocery retailers how they determined free-range chicken or beef.

Shoprite, Pick n Pay and Woolworths said they had high standards that animals should be outside during the day. They all have external auditors who check farms that supply the meat. Spar did not respond to queries.


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