In the agriculture industry, free ranged chickens raised for their meat may be labeled as "free-range" if they have U.S.D.A.certification that the birds have access to the outdoors. NOTHING ELSE! There is no criteria on environmental quality, the size of the outdoor area, the number of birds confined in a single shed, or the indoor or outdoor space allotted per animal are considered in applying the label. As with "free-range" laying hens, many live in a facility with only one small opening at the end of a large shed, permitting only a few birds to go outside at any given time.
The term "free-range" "doesn't really tell you anything about what the animal is being fed or it"s quality of life, nor does it even assure that the animal actually goes outdoors. Aside from the birds' actual living conditions, there is no prohibition in "free-range" poultry farming against using breeds of chickens and turkeys who have been selectively bred for fast growth and it has nothing to do with what they are fed.
Vegetarian chickens are very seldom healthy birds. Chickens are ominivores, (the consumption of both animal and plant life) and if they are raised on a strict vegetarian diet, they will not develop properly, inside and out.
In the 1950s, it took 84 days to raise a five-pound chicken. Due to selective breeding and growth promoting drugs, it now takes only 45 days. Such fast growth causes chickens to suffer from a number of chronic health problems, including leg disorders and heart disease. According to one study, 90 percent of broilers had detectable leg problems, while 26 percent suffered chronic pain as a result of bone disease, and we all eat this!
Broilers now grow so rapidly that the heart and lungs are not developed well enough to support the remainder of the body, resulting in congestive heart failure and tremendous death losses.
Whether labeled "free-range" or not, if the birds used by agribusiness are the standard "broiler" chicken of today, buying these products involves an enormous amount of animal suffering. Factory-farmed birds raised for their meat considered "free-range" chickens and turkeys may undergo the same grueling and sometimes fatal transport to slaughterhouses when reaching market weight. No food, no water, packed into tight cases which are prone to passing on diseases.
"Free-range" birds end up at the same slaughterhouses as factory-farmed birds, where they are hung upside down, have their throats slit and bleed to death, often while still fully conscious.
We all have to eat and if your decision is to eat meat like mine is, all animals must be bred, fed and then slaughtered, but we should also be aware of all their health factors because If they become unhealthy, then most likely so will we.
Here is the link to the U.S.D.A. fact sheet that explains more about poultry labeling: