Shoppers are willing to pay a premium for ingredients that are cage-free, organic or wild caught. But how do you really know if the chicken you are eating spent its life happily pecking for corn or if your blackberries were grown locally and are pesticide free?

Simple. Put a tracking device on it.

Redwan Farooq / Mosa Meat

Missouri has already made it a crime to label something like a veggie burger or tissue grown in a lab as “meat.” Now, other states are considering doing the same.

Wyoming legislators are scheduled to discuss a bill this week that would prohibit the word “meat” from appearing on a package that does not contain edible parts of what was previously a live animal.  

Courtesy Colorado State University

Colorado State University’s campus in Fort Collins will soon be home to a livestock slaughter and teaching facility paid for by JBS USA, a Greeley-based meatpacker.

The building -- called the JBS Global Food Innovation Center -- will house the university’s meat science program, complete with cattle and poultry processing, a multi-level auditorium and a cafe. Part of the funding will come from a $12.5 million dollar gift from JBS to support its construction and ongoing educational programs.

Fred Knapp / Harvest Public Media

A proposal that would jumpstart the chicken business in Nebraska has some residents concerned about the potential impact on the environment and are trying to block or delay its construction.

Costco, the warehouse retailer and grocery chain, plans to build a giant $300 million chicken slaughterhouse on the south side of the town of Fremont in eastern Nebraska.

To make sure the plant is humming year-round, Costco wants new farms around Fremont to raise 17 million chickens every year. As of the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there were less than 1 million broilers - chickens raised for meat - in the whole state.

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

Chickens aren't a traditional pet.

Still, with chicken coops springing up in more and more urban and suburban backyards, some owners take just as much pride in their poultry as in their dog or cat. So much so, they're primping and preening their farm fowl for beauty contests.

One of the country's leading poultry companies, Perdue Farms, announced plans Monday to make both life and death a little easier for its chickens.

The changes are a break with current standard practices in the industry, and animal welfare groups are cheering.

Jim Perdue, chairman of Perdue Farms, says there's a simple motivation behind the new initiative. Consumers, especially millennials, "want to make sure that animals are raised in as caring a way as possible. With the least stress, the least discomfort."

Poultry Plant Workers Face Abuse On The Job, Report Says

May 11, 2016
Earl Dotter / Courtesy Oxfam America

Thousands of chainmail-clad workers with knives and hooks keep a modern poultry plant churning out the millions of pounds of poultry we eat every year. The job is difficult and demanding, especially for line employees who make the same motions for hours, struggling to keep up with a fast-moving disassembly line.

A new report from Oxfam America paints an even bleaker picture.

The anti-poverty group says those line workers at the four largest poultry companies -- Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, Perdue Farms and Greeley-based Pilgrim’s Pride -- are routinely denied bathroom breaks, forcing some to wear adult diapers to work and others to urinate on themselves to avoid retribution from supervisors.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Animal rights groups are taking aim at North Carolina.

They’re suing over the state’s so-called “ag-gag” law. The legislation found its way into the crosshairs of a coalition of animal groups, including PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, emboldened by a federal Idaho judge who struck down a similar law in that state in 2015.

Ag-gag is an umbrella term, referring to a broad spectrum of laws. Animal rights advocates say the laws, whichever form they take, are meant to turn undercover investigators into criminals and charge them as such for documenting health and safety violations on farms and ranches. 

Hen Housing Ruffles Some Feathers In The Egg Industry

Nov 4, 2015
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Cage-free eggs could be coming to a breakfast near you.

Several large food companies and restaurants, from Starbucks to McDonald’s to Kellogg’s, announced timelines this year for phasing out eggs laid in conventional cages, a victory for animal welfare advocates who have pushed for changes for years.

But there is more to housing hens than square inches and some egg farmers argue the cage-free barns are less humane than traditional hen housing.

Corn Is King Of The Midwest Thanks To Our Appetite For Meat

Oct 6, 2015
Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects farmers to harvest about 13.6 billion bushels of corn [.pdf] this season, the third-largest harvest in U.S. history. A fraction of that gigantic crop will sweeten our food and drinks, about a third will be made into ethanol fuel and, and when you figure in exports and byproducts, more than half will go to fattening the livestock that become our chicken filets, pork chops, and burgers.

While we don't actually eat field corn - the kind of corn mostly grown in the U.S. - the Corn Belt is the backbone of the meat industry.

"A lot of that corn, since it's going into livestock feed, ends up in us," said Chad Hart, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.