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Frequently Asked Questions

Asked and answered here.

Choosing healthy, natural chicken for your table should be simple. We’ve compiled answers to a few of the most often asked questions about Just BARE®.

Simply scroll to a topic that interests you below, then select any question to see the answer. Topics are in alphabetical order.  

If you have questions not included here, please don't hesitate to contact us. We'd love to help.

American Humane Certified®

The American Humane Certified Farm Program was the nation's first third-party audit program for farm animal welfare. It is backed by the American Humane Association™ and based on the accepted values of the Five Freedoms created by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) and adopted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), as well as input from animal science experts, veterinarians and other animal husbandry specialists. 

It's built around a comprehensive set of science-based standards and sound research. It represents the only RSPCA-approved structure for the rearing, handling, transport and slaughter of chickens. Its standards are reviewed regularly by the American Humane Certified Scientific Advisory Committee and consider legislation, government welfare codes, scientific research, advice of veterinarians, recommendations of the FAWC, and the practical experience of the farming community.

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst. Ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain health and vigor.
  2. Freedom from Discomfort. An appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease. The prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior. Sufficient space, proper facilities and company of animal's own kind.
  5. Freedom from Fear and Distress. Conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

The American Humane Certified Scientific Advisory Committee reviews American Humane Certified Standards regularly. Comprised of distinguished animal welfare experts, including Dr. Temple Grandin, the committee provides guidance and recommendations for the association’s activities and initiatives. More specifically, the committee:

  • Reviews and revises procedures, guidelines, policies and ethics
  • Initiates and evaluates original and secondary research
  • Guides the association in determining best practices

We chose the American Humane Certified Farm Program because it is backed by the American Humane Association which has a long-standing reputation for protecting the world's most vulnerable: children and animals. Since its start in 1877, it has been at the forefront of almost every major advance in protecting children, pets and farm animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect. In fact, it was the first and is the fastest-growing third-party certification program in the U.S. Plus, its farm program standards are based on science and sound research and guided by a scientific advisory committee of renowned animal welfare experts.

Furthermore, in October 2010, we asked nearly 200 consumers about how much trust they place in various levels of animal welfare claims. Choices included certification by a third-party animal welfare association, by a government or industry association, or by a company's own records. Nearly 62 percent of Just BARE target consumers said they placed a high degree of trust in certification by a third-party animal welfare association, as long as a known and reputable certifier executed it - more than twice that of each of the other two options.

With its founding association dating back to 1877, it being the nation's first and fastest-growing farm animal welfare program, and its sound, science-based standards, the American Humane Certified Farm Program is clearly a known and reputable certifier, making it a strong choice for animal welfare certification.

We made the decision to third-party certify our animal care practices for Just BARE because animal welfare is a critical and expanding requirement for a growing segment of natural, more conscientious consumers we call "mindful eaters" and suppliers/retailers (like UNFI and Whole Foods). In fact, in a October 2010 survey of nearly 200 consumers, 91% of "mindful eaters" rated third-party animal humane certification as EXTREMELY or VERY IMPORTANT.

Only our Just BARE Natural products are American Humane Certified® because the chickens were raised by our family farm partners who participate in the annual certification audit process. Our Organic Just BARE products come from chicken supplied to us by certified organic farmers from Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. These farmers adhere to the animal welfare standards required under the National Organic Program. See the organic section for more details.

Animal Care & Welfare

Yes. Pilgrim's®, the company behind the Just BARE® brand, recognizes our ethical obligation to the health and humane care of our chickens—and we take that responsibility very seriously. From breeding, to hatching, to processing, our policy is straightforward—Pilgrim's® has zero tolerance for any deliberate abuse or mistreatment of our chickens.

Antibiotics

There are a lot of claims regarding antibiotics usage. However, what's stated on the label is what really matters since only label statements are regulated by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. 

According to the USDA-FSIS definition, "No antibiotics-ever" means a chicken has never been administered antibiotics during its life cycle. This includes while the chick is incubating in the shell as well as after it hatches and throughout its lifetime. Just BARE chicken meets these requirements and so we are able to state it on our labels. 

A growing number of consumers simply prefer to buy meat products from animals that have never been given antibiotics. And that is why antibiotics have been completely eliminated in the rearing of all Just BARE flocks (includes our Natural and Organic product lines).

It’s important to note, however, that antibiotics have been used responsibly and judiciously for many years by the chicken industry. The USDA and FDA enforce strict standards for use of medications in food animals.

Any medication administered to animals used for meat has an established withdrawal period, meaning that medications cannot be used a specific number of days prior to the animal being processed. This ensures that all medication has passed through the animal's system, thus virtually eliminating any risk of antibiotic residue in the meat. While there is controversy in the scientific community regarding administering antibiotics to chickens and creating "antibiotic resistance" in humans, there is no scientific evidence to support that this occurs with responsible antibiotics use. 

Arsenicals: Never Used

No, arsenicals are not given and never have been given to Just BARE flocks because of consumer concerns surrounding their use. However, arsenicals (one common type is Roxarsone) have been used by some other chicken companies in their chicken feed. They contain a small amount of an organic, naturally occurring form of arsenic, and help prevent a serious illness, called coccidiosis. This illness occurs in the intestinal tract of chickens, causing suffering and even death.

Just BARE flocks are given a proprietary feed formula to control illnesses like coccidiosis (affects the intestinal tract). This is used in conjunction with a proactive and progressive Active Grower Management Program. This helps us better control the chances of disease and ensures the proper care and handling of our broiler (meat chickens) and breeder (egg-laying chickens) flocks. Read our animal welfare policy.

Avian Influenza: Chicken is Safe

Avian influenza is a common disease that occurs in chickens. GNP Company, the producer and distributor of Just BARE, takes avian influenza very seriously, and has been successfully protecting its flocks from this, and other illnesses, since the first cases surfaced more than 20 years ago. It is something the poultry industry in the U.S. has been dealing with effectively for many years.  

Avian influenza is NOT a food safety issue. Avian influenza (low or highly pathogenic strains) cannot be transmitted by properly cooked poultry. No one has ever become infected with avian influenza by consuming properly cooked poultry or poultry products. 

For more details visit: http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/bird-flu-its-not-in-your-food/questions-and-answers-on-avian-influenza/

Again, avian influenza is not a food safety issue. Nonetheless, one sure means of protection is always cooking your chicken well done. Visually, that means until juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink. And a fork should insert easily into the meat. However, to be safe every time, the USDA recommends always using a meat thermometer and cooking chicken to an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Keep hands and surfaces clean. Hand-washing is the single most effective means of preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses. Use hot, soapy water; scrub at least for 20 seconds, and don't forget your fingernails! For more details, visit http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/bird-flu-its-not-in-your-food/questions-and-answers-on-avian-influenza/

As an added safety precaution, a portion of every Just BARE flock is voluntarily tested, under USDA's National Poultry Improvement Plan, before the chickens leave the barn for the presence of avian influenza strains that may be passed to humans (and have in Asia and other countries).

If a strain of avian influenza is found in a commercial flock (which is extremely unlikely due to the strict bio-security safeguards in place), the entire flock will be humanely euthanized and will not enter the food supply.  In addition, the area will be quarantined to prevent spread to wild birds or other poultry flocks.

Since this testing began, every Just BARE flock has been free of avian influenza. 

To learn more about avian influenza and the safety of poultry products, visit www.cdc.gov. Our consumer care specialists are also on hand to answer your questions.
     By Phone: At 1-877-328-2838 (M through F, 8 am to 4:30 pm CST)
     By Email: At WeCare@JustBareChicken.com

Cage Free/Free-Range

Our chickens are never, ever raised in cages. They are free to move about in modern, climate-controlled barns with strict bio-security plans. This reduces the threat of stress or exposure to the elements and environmental dangers such as avian influenza.

Raising chickens outdoors in Minnesota and Wisconsin presents several challenges, including weather, predators and exposure to diseases like avian influenza. For example, baby chicks need to be kept warm and dry during the first two weeks of their life and would not survive living outdoors. Older chickens would suffer extreme stress, even death, if kept outdoors during the cold and hot weather. 

During their entire lives, our chickens roam freely in comfortable, climate-controlled barns with open floors and easy access to fresh water and feed. 

Organic chickens are given access to outdoors. See organic section for more details.

Chicken Feed

We provide our chickens quality feed that is natural and nutritionally balanced. Our proprietary formulas are developed under the direction of experienced nutritionists to produce healthy chickens, and wholesome, tasty chicken products. Our feed contains nutritious corn, soybean meal, minerals, vitamins and other natural ingredients—most of which are sourced locally. There are no antibiotics, no added hormones/steroids, no animal byproducts and no arsenicals.

We have long-term relationships with reputable suppliers for all of our feed ingredients, including many local family farmers who provide us with corn harvested from their fields. Our suppliers are based in the upper Midwest and meet all FDA and USDA standards for feed safety and quality. Accordingly, we have 100% confidence in the integrity, wholesomeness and safety of all of our feed ingredients.

Food Allergens & Ingredients

Our Just BARE Natural and Organic chicken does not contain added solution or ingredients, is gluten free and does not contain any allergens. 

Our Just BARE Deli Rotisserie chicken is marinated with 100% chicken broth and sea salt, so it does not contain any allergens or ingredients that can cause food sensitivities. 

However, it's important to note that supermarket meat and/or deli team members may occasionally add ingredients of their own after our products are distributed to them. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you check the label or talk to the meat or deli department manager if you suspect additional ingredients may have been used.

Food Safety: When Cooking & Handling

There are some visual cues to help you know when your chicken is thoroughly cooked. These include:

  • Juices should run clear and there should be no sign of pink in the meat.
  • A fork should insert easily into the meat.

However, to be sure, experts advise to always use a meat thermometer. USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service recommends cooking chicken regardless of cut to an internal temperature of at least 165°F, though you may want your chicken more well done. Take the temperature in the thickest section of the thigh or breast. Be sure the temperature probe doesn't touch the bone or the cooking surface.

Most food safety issues related to chicken and other fresh meat arise from bacteria (such as salmonella) common in the digestive tracts of farm animals. These bacteria are easily destroyed by heat. Therefore, proper cooking of poultry virtually eliminates the risk of these potentially harmful bacteria. Visit the Keeping your Food & Kitchen Safe section for more safe cooking tips for chicken as well as tips for safe handling. 

Freshness Date Code

Every package of Just BARE chicken features a manufacturer's freshness and origin code that provides several pieces of important information, including:

  • A manufacturer's sell-by date that indicates when the product should be sold fresh by for best quality.
  • A use or freeze-by instruction that instructs consumers to cook or freeze the package of raw chicken within 48 hours of purchase.*
  • A unique product identification code that enhances product traceability and safety.

NOTE: The code on our Just BARE Natural products also includes a family farm code that allows the product to be traced to family farms where the chicken inside the package was raised.

*It is not safe to use chicken products that have been stored in your refrigerator for more than 48 hours after being purchased-even if the sell-by date has not passed. That's because very slight temperature changes dramatically increase product spoilage and bacterial development and growth. Fresh chicken in the grocery store is kept at a very consistent, monitored temperature—which increases a product's shelf life. In contrast, when a consumer purchases fresh chicken, it's placed in the grocery cart, walked around the store, checked out, and transported home, exposing it to temperature variations and stress, reducing its shelf life.

GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)

For our Just BARE Natural/Deli Products. At Pilgrim's®, the mother hen behind Just BARE, we mill all of the feed for flocks raised for our Natural and Deli Product lines. The grain we use is regionally grown by independent family farmers who choose their own hybrids and varieties. In 2013, 91% of the corn, soybeans and cotton acres were planted with genetically modified seeds. Many farmers are planting GM crops. Even if they don’t, it is nearly impossible to prevent cross-pollination with nearby fields. Ultimately, the FDA monitors and regulates the safety of feed ingredients like GM crops to ensure safe consumption for animals and humans, and we follow their lead. We have absolute confidence in the safety and wholesomeness of the feed provided to our chickens.

For our Organic Just BARE Products: These chickens are fed 100% certified organic feed. See organic FAQ section for more details on what this means.

 

Despite increasingly accurate and sensitive testing, food scientists have been unable to identify any difference in the meat, milk or eggs of animals based on the type of feed they are fed. There is no nutritional difference between chicken products made from chickens that have been fed GM crops versus chickens that have not. Most importantly, there has been no food safety or health risk with respect to consuming chicken or other animal agriculture products (e.g. eggs, dairy) that have been raised with GM feed ingredients. This position is supported by more than 15 years of the widespread use of GMO crops in conventional agriculture without any noticeable ill effects and by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Grade A

Although none of our Just BARE chicken products display the Grade A shield, they actually exceed Grade A quality standards for things like shape, meatiness, bruises, broken bones and meat color. The clear package lets consumers judge the quality firsthand. We wanted to use the label to provide other important attributes and information that cannot be easily assessed with the human eye.

Hormones: Not Allowed By USDA

Our package does not read "hormone-free," because all living creatures have hormones in their bodies naturally, including chickens. These hormones regulate many of the chickens' functions similar to the way they do in humans. Because there are naturally occurring hormones in chicken, we can't state on our label that our chicken is hormone-free. 

Simply stated, that means no hormones or steroids were used in the production of our chicken products. In fact, no hormone or steroid has ever been approved by the USDA or FDA for use in poultry. As a vertically integrated producer, we control every aspect of production - from hatching through processing and marketing. We mill our own corn-based feed using a proprietary formula that produces healthy chickens, and ultimately a wholesome, nutritious and flavorful consumer product.

Natural

Our Just BARE Natural and Organic chicken products do not contain added solution or ingredients of any type including salt, water, carrageenan (seaweed extract) or other binding agents, or preservatives. It's 100% all natural chicken and nothing else. While enhanced chicken can contain up to 330 milligrams of sodium per serving, all Just BARE Natural and Organic chicken contains 75 milligrams or less per serving.

Our Just BARE Deli Rotisserie Chicken is marinated with 100% natural chicken broth and sea salt—to keep it tender and juicy during cooking and reheating.

When buying chicken, always check the ingredient statement to know what’s all in your chicken.

For Just BARE, all natural means “nothing added/nothing but chicken.” To be labeled as "natural" according to USDA guidelines, chicken must be minimally processed—meaning that the product has simply been cleaned, cut up, trimmed and packaged. In addition, it should contain no artificial ingredients or color. However, USDA's definition of "all natural" currently allows using an "all natural" claim on a label on chicken that has been enhanced with added water, sodium, carrageenan (seaweed extract) or other binding agents. This is often referred to as "pumped-up" chicken. 

While "natural," these added ingredients are often unexpected and confusing to consumers. They can also affect the nutritional content of the food they're buying. For example, a single serving of "pumped up" chicken can contain up to 370 milligrams of sodium—which is a lot when compared to a serving of potato chips (180 milligrams) or a large order of fast food french fries (330 milligrams).

That's why it's important to read the fine print on "all natural" labels, to ensure that the chicken you're buying is truly nothing but chicken. 

See Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms for more information.

Organic

Supplies of organic feed and, therefore, organic chicken are very limited. Therefore, organic Just BARE chicken will be available at select retailers for a period of time. Find a store near you or contact us.

Before chicken products can be labeled with the USDA organic seal, a USDA-accredited certifying agent must verify that the products meet USDA’s national organic standards as specified by the National Organic Program Final Rule (including the farm where raised and rearing, handling and production practices and substance use). Overall, organic producers must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances. For livestock and poultry, the USDA organic seal requires that:

  1. The edible chicken products must be from chickens that have been raised organically on an organic farm no less than two days after hatch;
  2. Chickens were raised in accordance to established animal health and welfare standards;
  3. Chickens were fed certified 100% organic feed for their entire lives. Feed used for organic poultry production must not contain animal drugs, including hormones, to promote growth (note: the federal government prohibits the use of hormones in chickens) or antibiotics (including ionophores); supplements or additives in amounts above those needed for adequate nutrition and health maintenance; plastic feed pellets; urea or manure; animal by-products (of mammalian or avian origin); additives or supplements in violation of the FDA; genetically engineered grains; or any grains grown using pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
  4. Chickens were never, ever treated with antibiotics; and
  5. Chickens are given access to the outdoors unless inclement weather, the animal’s stage of life or conditions could jeopardize the health, safety, or wellbeing of the chickens.

MOSA is short for Midwest Organic Services Association and is the country's second-largest organic certifier and the largest certifier of livestock and dairies. It is the USDA-accredited certifying agent we chose to verify our products. It is based in Viroqua, WI, where some of the best soil in the world is supporting one of the largest concentrations of organic farms across the United States. It promotes organic integrity through practical, reliable certification services.

No. The chickens sold under the organic Just BARE label are not “free-range” as they do not have unlimited access to the outdoors. Instead, chickens roam freely in comfortable barns with open floors and have limited outdoor access. The barns provide access to fresh water and feed, natural light and ventilation. Raising chickens outdoors in the Midwest presents several challenges, including weather, predators and exposure to diseases like avian influenza. For example, baby chicks need to be kept warm and dry during the first two weeks of their life and would not survive living outdoors. Older chickens would suffer extreme stress, even death, if kept outdoors during the cold and hot weather.

No, that’s why you won’t see a GMO-free/non-GMO claim on many organic products. Despite rigid organic certification procedures, organic certification is about the “process” of keeping GMOs out of the food, not about the “validation” of the absence of GMOs in food. The NOP Final Rule outlines that an organic operation has to document that it has not used GMOs and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with GMOs. Because there is no testing process required for organic ingredients, there is a slight chance that GMOs could make their way into some organic foods. This could result from:

  • cross-pollination between GMO and non-GMO crops in adjacent fields;
  • trace amounts of GMO ingredients found in animal feed;
  • seeds traveling by wind or migratory birds to the fields of an organic farm; and
  • the accidental co-mingling of ingredients from suppliers.

While organic certifiers want to ensure that GMOs are not used in organic products, many agree that 100% verification of GMO-free may not be possible, and requiring it could severely cripple organic production.

Package Recyclability

Unfortunately, the Just BARE whole chicken packaging is not recyclable. For food safety purposes, the whole chicken bag is made of plastic that has barrier properties which make the plastic a type that is not currently recycled (so it's not accepted at municipal recycling centers). We will continue to research packaging options that would provide the necessary food safety properties while affording the added benefit of recyclability.

Yes, but only on a limited basis. Though made of recyclable #1 PET/PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic--the same plastic used to make most plastic bottles--they are not able to be recycled in the same way as bottles due to the way they are manufactured. As a result, many municipal recycling programs do not sort them separately from bottles and recycle them.

In case you're wondering, the package's peel-away plastic lid is made of a multi- layer PET and polyester material--which, like the tray, may be recycled on a limited basis. However, we strongly suggest you check with your recycling program before attempting to recycle any of the package's plastic components.

No. Due to the coating on the paper that makes it more durable and resistant to water, the paper label is not recyclable at this time. We continue to search for new materials and processes to make our labels and packaging more sustainable.

Renewable Energy Support

Our Just BARE Natural products support renewable energy through the purchase of renewable energy certificates (or RECs, also commonly called renewable energy credits). A REC represents one megawatt-hour (MWh) of clean energy that's added to the power grid. We purchase RECs in a quantity equal to the electricity consumed during the making of our Just BARE Natural products. The funds generated through the purchase are used to support further development of clean energy facilities.

Serving Size

No. One piece doesn’t equal one serving. The USDA’s recommended serving size for boneless skinless chicken breast is 3 ounces (after cooking), or a piece about the size of a deck of cards. According to ChooseMyPlate.gov, women should have around 5 ounces of meat or meat products in their daily diet; men about 6 ounces. Depending on the brand of chicken you buy, a boneless skinless chicken breast can weigh between 5 and 9 ounces—as much as double or triple the recommended size for a single serving. Visit 9 Portion Mistakes to Avoid to learn more, or use USDA’s handy MyPlate Daily Checklist to build a customized diet for you and your lifestyle.  

Traceability/Family Farm Code

Simply go to JustBareChicken.com and enter the code (may be 3 or 4 digits) found on the package in the “Enter Code Here” box on the “TRACE YOUR CHICKEN” page. What you'll learn is the location of the family farmers who raised the chickens processed the day your package was made. Just BARE® respects the privacy and wishes of its family farm partners and, accordingly, may not provide more specific, personal information, based on each farm family’s individual convictions.

Truthfulness of Labeling

Just BARE follows all labeling regulations as mandated by the USDA-Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS)—the agency responsible for ensuring the truthfulness and accuracy of labeling for meat and poultry. Every Just BARE product label is reviewed and approved by the USDA-FSIS to ensure that all product claims are accurate and truthful.  

Vegetable & Grain Fed/No Animal By-Products

It means that the Just BARE chickens are not fed animal byproducts of any type (includes meat and bone meal, and vegetable/animal fat blends). Though these animal-based ingredients pose no safety risk, we switched to all-vegetable and all-grain sources for protein and fat due to more consumers wanting chicken raised without them. This claim applies to both our Just BARE Natural and Organic product lines.

Water Retention Statement

No. Water is used to quickly cool and clean chicken meat during processing. As chicken meat cools, it naturally absorbs or “retains” a small amount of water. The moisture retention statement indicates how much retained water is in the chicken product you are buying. We follow the regulated standards of the USDA, and strive to minimize the amount of water in our packages. The amount of water retained varies by cut and part of chicken, and is stated clearly on the package.

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