Fast-Food World Embracing "Natural" Chicken

Growing demand in all things "natural" and "organic" has pushed some fast-food restaurants into a new arena: "Natural" chicken. On the national scene, Panera Bread and Chipolte already sell natural chicken sandwiches and dishes at a slight higher price than their regular fare and fast-food giant Arby's will soon follow suit.

Arby's is currently testing its "All Chicken Chicken" in salads and sandwiches in four states and plans to sell it in all their locations nationwide by the end of 2005. That is, if enough "natural" chicken is available to Arby's and others.

The main reason behind the push: Health concerns about meats ranging from E. coli bacteria to mad cow disease. In fact, one restaurant executive believes consumers want more information about the food they eat. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, placing the "natural" label on chicken means it is minimally processed and contains no hormones, antibiotics or artificial ingredients.

This push for "natural" products is certainly a good step in the right direction, and somewhat convenient if you're in a huge hurry. But they aren't as good for your health as free-range, organic chicken. The big difference? Free-range chickens have plenty of room to roam and eat their entirely natural diets and grow and live free of stress. This will make all the difference in terms of their health and taste value to you.

If you're looking for some good ways to cook whole foods on the run -- and keep your day job -- I strongly recommend reviewing Colleen Huber's excellent article on this topic.

USA Today February 4, 2005

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