Duck Barn

Understanding Barn Raised Poultry and Ethical Agriculture

POSTED: 02/10/2022

Understanding Common Labeling Claims on Poultry

There are a lot of different claims made on poultry packaging, making it difficult for conscientious consumers to understand what you are purchasing sometimes.

To help you break through some of the misconceptions and misinformation that is out there, here is an explanation of the most common labeling claims you may see on poultry products.


Farm-raised means just that—raised on a farm. Of course, the size and scope of a farm can vary, but often the claim is used when the poultry is raised on family-owned farms, not corporate-owned farm complexes.

Maple Leaf Farms works with more than 100 farm families in Northern Indiana who care for our birds on their farms. Usually, the entire family is involved in the daily care of our ducks.


Many consumers mistakenly assume that all poultry are raised in cages. This is not the case. While cage systems may be used for some egg production, poultry raised for meat is most often grown in large pens inside barns. The boundaries of the pens are expanded as the birds grow, giving them more room to move about. Meat birds, whether ducks, chickens or turkeys, are not raised in cages.

Free-to-Roam vs. Free Range

Poultry raised in barns can move about and eat, drink and rest as they like. The barn protects the birds from inclement weather, predators and other animals that may carry diseases.

Free range poultry must have access to the outdoors for part of the day. The birds may not actually go outside, but they must have access to it.

Maple Leaf Farms ducks are free-to-roam in barns that provide fresh air and sunshine, but prevent losses from weather extremes, predators and diseases spread by wild birds, rodents and other animals.

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Humanely Raised

USDA doesn’t have a specific definition for humanely raised but will approve the claim when a producer can provide documentation that demonstrates an animal care program.

The Maple Leaf Farms Trident Stewardship Program outlines our company’s animal care, biosecurity (disease prevention), and environmental management guidelines, training, certification and internal audit programs.

We constantly continue to improve our ducks' environment and safety while also ensuring we use natural resources efficiently. To ensure confidence in our Trident Stewardship Program, our farms and company facilities undergo third party audits by a PAACO (Professional Animal Auditors Certification Organization) auditor.

No Hormones Added

Despite what you may believe, no artificial or added hormones are used in the production of poultry in the United States. In fact, the FDA has prohibited use of steroid growth promotants since the 1950s.

So, why is “no added hormones” used on product labels? It's used to fight the common misconception that hormones are used in poultry production.

Raised Without Antibiotics

Poultry that have never been given antibiotics may be labeled with “No Antibiotics Ever” or “Raised Without Antibiotics.”

Technically all poultry is “antibiotic-free” because even if a bird is given antibiotics to treat illness, the farmer must follow a withdrawal period, so the medicine clears the birds’ systems before they are processed.

Maple Leaf Farms will treat sick flocks with antibiotics when prescribed by a licensed veterinarian to treat illness. In such cases, our farmers adhere to strict withdrawal periods to ensure there is no residue in finished goods sold to customers. These products are not eligible for the “raised without antibiotics” claim.