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Metro's "Traditionally Raised" Chicken

I was on a hunt for not necessarily organic chicken breasts but chicken without hormones and that was potentially grown more responsibly than the typical supermarket chicken.

I was in Metro and came across what they describe as "traditionally raised" chicken. now the term "traditionally raised" is vague at best (given that the current tradition is to raise chickens in overcrowded cages) but what the packaging does say is that the chickens are fed vitamin-enriched grains, that they are not fed any animal bi-products and that they are hormone free.

Does anyone have any further insight into the "traditionally raised" chicken? Is it just anti-biotic-free regular chicken that they charge a premium for?



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  1. I understand that National Grocers line of "Free From" is from Fisher Feed Mill based in Listowel is ABF (antibiotic free). Why they are yellow, I am guessing the feed.
    That being said, I would bet the Metro sources from the same supplier as they produce 90 000 a month. Processing is done up near Holland Marsh.
    Further, I spoke to the butcher at my local Zehrs and asked how their "Free From" line is selling and he indicated that it is performing poorly and they discount and/or throw out too much. I believe the big grocers are having trouble competing with small artisinal markets who can go out and source good products such as a real chicken! Vive le difference!

    1 Reply
    1. re: The Boss

      Put another way, although NG knows no one will pay what boutique meat purveyors like Healthy Butcher charge for a fryer, they are trying to find the elusive buyer who'll pay a modest premium for a drug-free/byproduct-free fed chicken. I suspect production might pick-up sufficiently to bring prices closer to industrial poultry. I see these premium chickens marked down all the time in western GTA Loblaws

    2. I'm confused. I thought hormones weren't allowed in Canada? This is what I understand from another ongoing thread here.

      2 Replies
        1. re: tjr

          Yes, growth hormones are not allowed in Canadian Farming practices. Problem is, if a large company runs out of a Canadian supplier, they look to the U.S. which use growth hormones (not to mention radiation).
          "Traditionally raised" chicken, "free from" between that and new revelations from Rowe Farm eggs (that's another thread), I am very put off. I live in Toronto so there are options for me, I just feel for those living elsewhere where they are at the mercy of NG and Dominion.
          I've done a little test and in my opinion (I always buy a whole chicken and I flatten it
          http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servle... then bbq it, that is my favourite)
          The best for the price (although he sells out very quickly) are chickens from Vince Gasparro's, 857 Bloor ST W for chicken from the Mennonites at $3.49 a pound.
          Best all round, Butcher By Nature, 520 Annette ($4.99 a pound for certified organic)

      1. It clearly depends on what one considers to be tradition. Frequency of religious exposure, table manners, attitude towards Woody Allen movies, and whether they consider Jerry Lewis to be funny might be relevant.

        Apart from that, though, the preponderance of completely meaningless terms very clearly is confusing those of us who buy food. It would be more meaningful to have industry standards on space, hormones, feed, etc that could be referred to than simple happy words based more on store branding than education. Karmically sound chicken next perhaps? Or Certified Feng Shue Poultry?

        1. A google search turned up this website: http://www.traditionallyraised.ca/

          It speaks mostly about the beef aspect but it seems that all the meat comes from 7 "family farms" out in Peace Country, Alberta.

          1 Reply
          1. re: wontonfm

            The website refers to beef raised by different families in Alberta, but the trademark associated with it was recently transferred to Metro from A & P. Sound more like a brand effort than actual natural farming.

          2. Lol from Metros own website: "For over 40 years, Canada has forbidden the use of hormones in raising poultry." but "traditionally raised" is not mentioned..'

            But from a press release they state: "Farmers ensure that cattle are cultivated without any antibiotics or growth hormones, have room to roam freely, and eat an all natural diet of grains and grasses and consume no animal by-products. The beef is traced from farm to fork to maintain its authenticity, and is independently audited by third parties to ensure that the beef fulfils its promise of natural purity.
            Not limited exclusively to beef, the Traditionally Raised line also includes chicken and pork. Traditionally Raised poultry tastes better because the chickens are fed only quality vegetable grains fortified with vitamins and mineral supplements, and do not ingest any type of animal meal, animal fat or antibiotics. "

            So the Traditionally Raised beef seems to be free run it does not mention anything about the chicken living conditions..

            1 Reply
            1. re: OnDaGo

              ha! i love the bit about the hormones. but i'm guessing the use of antibiotics in chickens is widespread so that people who buy "traditionally raised" products aren't completely being taken for a ride...

            2. Metro makes specific claims about feed, antibiotics, and hormones. The hormone point, as noted, is irrelevant in Canada. They don't make any claims of the "Traditionally Raised" chickens being "natural" (meaningless anyway), free ranging, or organic. (Neither does Cumbrae's, but I'm not going to delude myself about this.) I have no idea as to their living conditions or their level of traceability.

              I can tell you from considerable experience to date that these are, from a culinary perspective, very good chickens that are worth a premium price. They are beautifully processed and the outer skin layer is typically intact. There are sometimes a few pinfeathers, though not as many as you'd find on a kosher chicken. The meat is juicy and very tasty; the skin crisps beautifully.

              These are by far, and consistently, the best chickens I've tasted from a mainstream Toronto supermarket. Were it not for the chicken "lifestyle" issues, I'd be hard pressed to recommend a more expensive chicken from a specialty store.

              The five Metro stores I frequent display only a handful of these chickens at any one time. The wings don't seem to sell very well, but the whole chickens do sell out.

              Unlike the NG stores, Metro doesn't have another private label chicken brand. They stock the "Traditionally Raised" private label, conventional water chilled chickens, and the Maple Leaf Prime branded ones. The Prime branded chickens are similarly expensive and aren't nearly as good. The conventional chickens are...conventional chickens.

              I have no idea whether the "Traditionally Raised" and "Free From" chickens come from the same or different sources, but they are very different chickens. They are obviously fed a different diet (this is easily and immediately visible). The fat looks and tastes different and the processing methods don't seem to be the same.

              The "Free From" chickens at Loblaw's are somewhat better than the PC air chilled chickens they also sell, but they are nowhere near as good as the Metro Traditionally Raised product. (The also carry the Prime brand, the conventional water chilled chickens and, at some stores, kosher and halal.)

              IMO, they are worth a modest premium. When the PC air chilled chickens are on sale, which is relatively often, I'm more inclined to buy those. I have seen the Free From chickens at last day of sale prices much more often this happens at Metro, but Loblaw's also stocks much larger quantities.

              3 Replies
              1. re: embee

                It will be interesting if some of us can compare Maple Leaf, Free From, Healthy Butcher, and Traditionally Raised chickens over the the next few months. I usually only roast or grill one bird at a time, but I think I'll keep notes on the differences.

                Even the largest available Traditionally Raised chicken will be about half the price of the high end places, and the major difference seems to be the organic requirement of an opening in the barn floor, allowing outdoor access. (Or a completely fenced outdoor area in warm weather.)

                On another board, I am going to pose the question what is allowed or required in our area or other areas.

                1. re: embee

                  Thanks for the reply. The consensus in my household was that this chicken was a significant improvement over regular supermarket chicken.

                  1. re: embee

                    A bit more on chickens. Metro recently had the Prime branded chickens on sale. A careful look through the wrappings showed that the Metro "Traditionally Raised" and Maple Leaf "Prime" chickens looked similar. Time to experiment.

                    Both brands were processed at the same facility, the Maple Leaf plant at 100 Ethel Av in Toronto. Of course, this doesn't mean that processing methods are identical. Indeed, this plant also processes halal and kosher meats. It also tells us nothing about the source(s) of the chickens.

                    The Traditionally Raised bird was labeled grain fed, no hormones, no antibiotics. The Prime bird was labeled grain fed, no hormones. The antibiotic claim was absent (which doesn't actually mean anything). Both birds were air chilled.

                    It turns out that the Prime chickens cost much more than is obvious, since they contain a large plastic bag of giblets not present in the Traditionally Raised brand. Sans giblets, the Prime bird (on sale) cost slightly more per pound than the Traditionally Raised bird (not on sale).

                    The Traditionally Raised bird superficially resembled a kosher chicken, having a similar colour and texture and a sprinkling of pinfeathers. The Prime bird appeared slightly different, with a more mottled colour and no obvious pinfeathers, but the difference wasn't drastic and could easily have been a sample variation.

                    The Traditionally Raised bird was wrapped conventionally in plastic, on a foam board tray, while the Prime bird was sealed in a gas filled, oxygen resistive plastic package. The packaging could also have affected the appearance. The Traditionally Raised bird was drier and less greasy when removed from the package. Both birds contained kidneys.

                    So lets cook them and taste. No scientific method here. The birds were butterflied, identically salted and spiced, and cooked identically in the Jet Stream oven. However, they were spiced, cooked and eaten a few days apart, so we are relying on memory.

                    The Traditionally Raised bird seemed to be juicier and to have crisper skin, a better texture, and a better taste. Our imagination? Very possibly.

                    The President's Choice Free From chickens are processed at Cericola Farms, 65 Reagens Industrial Pkwy, Bradford. There is no information about the source of the chickens. Loblaw's seems to be greatly expanding the distribution and promotion of their "Free From" product line.

                  2. It all sounds very much to me like marketing bamboozle. Perhaps "traditionally raised" and "free from" are used specifically because these vague terms have no legal meaning. Sure beats trying to limbo under the stringent "organic" designation.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: Googs

                      Of course it's marketing, but I don't see it as a bamboozle. Why need to charge for oversight that you know your customers won't pay for? The "Traditionally Raised" birds taste better. They may or may not have a better life. I hope so, but I'm not assuming that they do.

                      Loblaw's is experimenting with Beretta meats at some stores. I don't know how well they are selling in, say, Forest Hill or Bayview Village, but they aren't doing well in this part of Toronto. I've found large quantities of every available cut, at four stores, for 50% off.

                      Comparably sized rib steaks go for $7.00 in the standard ("AA or better") range, $12.00 in Certified Angus, and $20.00 in Beretta. I will buy the Beretta at half price but, frankly, the Certified Angus tastes better and a comparably sized Cumbrae's (dry aged 30 days or more) costs less than $20.

                      Now Rowe Farms is something else and I consider their operation to be "marketing bamboozle".

                      1. re: embee

                        No, I'm with Googs on this one. May as well call it nicely raised. Rowe Farms' operation (with eggs anyway, jury still isn't out yet with their meat and poultry) is simply a lie.

                        1. re: chef_vegabond

                          The people running Rowe Farms seem very clever. They work hard to create a certain "virtuous" image, but they don't make overtly false claims that could get them in trouble with the law.

                          The eggs are a good example. People see the "verified" logo on the Rowe Farms egg box and don't investigate further. They assume (incorrectly, of course) that only a superior product would have this label. Those of us who do learn, to our horror, that the eggs are verified as "conventional caged product".

                          This seems legally very cool indeed. They are counting on the likelihood of many (dare I say most) consumers to buy into the advertised image without digging deeper. They aren't making a false claim.

                          If challenged, Rowe's answer would simply be that the verified provenance is stamped right on the egg. If you don't open the box and read the stamp, that's your fault. In legal terms, they actually qualify as good guys who aren't hiding anything.

                          The moral issue is something else again.

                          1. re: embee

                            Embee, I feel this is a false claim that should get them into trouble with the law.

                            1. re: chef_vegabond

                              While I agree totally with your sentiments, from a legal perspective you are wrong. This claim on their website is likely indisputable.

                              I believe you will find that the "Green Valley" eggs are not stamped "3". I suspect that the eggs verified as "3" do not have the "Green Valley" label. In short, all legal and above board.

                              There is a wide gap between the image and the whole picture that you and I find loathsome, but their words are VERY carefully chosen. They have established an image, with some success, that might be true for some products. This image colours consumer perceptions of their entire product line.

                              "Verifying" the eggs under discussion was a very clever marketing move. Although I long ago lost respect for the Rowe Farms brand (finding their chickens, beef, and deli to be mediocre products sold at a premium price), it never occurred to me that they would openly have eggs "verified" as inferior. As someone who actually writes ad copy, I'm impressed by their insouciant gall. As a consumer, I'm appalled.

                              1. re: embee

                                I'm with embee on this one. "Verified Eggs Canada" and "Traditionally Raised" are just brand names. They have no legal meaning and no guarantees. Major food companies have been doing this to us since the invention of the word chocolatey.

                                1. re: Googs

                                  So am I.
                                  In fact, I've purchased some organic and free range eggs that had the verified eggs Canada label on them. Now, being disappointed with Rowe Farms is one thing. One would think at least the eggs have origins in Canada, not the case, once I had an egg that read 1CH, the country code for CH is Switzerland, god, I'm lucky if I take my eggs ten minutes from the store to home and they don't break. Other times I've had 0- then a 2- (hyphens in place of country codes.
                                  Chocolatey is a good one, I like Cheez Wiz too. Light yet filling but I'm going off topic now.

                        2. re: embee

                          At my local Loblaws I frequently see the non-standard beef marked at 50% off, with a bunch of it on the shelves. Doesn't make a difference to me; buying certified angus at the same price/lb as their regular beef, or Beretta meats at almost the same value is a pretty good deal. The beef doesn't even have the "slightly aged in the fridge" look to it, and if you freeze it, well...

                          1. re: tjr

                            I'm of the school of thought to just buy cheaper cuts of organic meat rather than prime cuts of dodgy factory farmed meat.

                            1. re: chef_vegabond

                              But that is the point.. the labelling is so confusing you think you are buying better product and you end up with dodgy factory farmed anyway....

                                1. re: chef_vegabond

                                  You would think that wouldnt you but Poultry is a whole different issue... from the Canadian Organic Growers Website:

                                  "The Canadian Organic Standards (COS) (coming into force on June 30, 2009) require outdoor access for livestock. However, recent fears of avian flu and other bio-security issues have some representatives of some industries, particularly poultry, arguing that being outdoors can increase the risk of flock infection through contact with wild bird populations.

                                  The recent case Matthew & Janice Dick vs. Turkey Farmers of Ontario (TFO) favoured the TFO’s requirement that poultry remain indoors. This may set a precedent subordinating the Canadian Organic Standards (COS) to other regulations when they conflict. In addition, the ruling may allow indoor organic poultry production. "

                                  So it could be that Organic Poultry is raised in the same conditionas as other poultry but just fed differently.. and is seems that the current regulations do not require outdoor access for Certified Organic livestock.

                              1. re: chef_vegabond

                                To be honest, I don't really care that much about the provenance as long as it tastes good. It's not a money matter for me: if HB was right beside me, I'd probably shop there everyday for meat, but it's not. I'd rather not buy cheaper cuts of meat exclusively either.

                                Loblaws, T&T and Metro are closer to me than, say, Cumbrae's, so that's where I shop most often unless I've planned in advance.

                        3. Sobey's also has a "free from" line of chicken and perhaps red meats as well. I can't recall if the packaging speaks to free range or anything like that but definitely hormone and antibiotic free. Has anyone tried these meats and how do they compare with the others being discussed here? Thanks.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: peppermint pate

                            Googs had mentioned that sobeys' Organic meat is Kerr farms. I don't know if it's the same as their "Free from" line as i haven't seen it yet at my local sobeys (haven't been in a couple of weeks). I wanted to see if this is true and it is!


                            I find it strange they don't advertise this connection ANYWHERE. I got the info from the Kerr farms site deep in a PDF somewhere.

                            1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                              Kerr farms produces organic vegetables such as tomato, eggplant, and peppers, but I am at a loss to to see organic in their meats. When I look at the link you have provided I see naturally raised Angus beef, and places to get it. Pork and chicken, I don't see,
                              Organic meat at Sobey's? Not on Brock Road, a large store. I will definitely have to visit and find out.

                              1. re: jayt90

                                ack i had just assumed Kerr Farms did their chicken as well. That's my bad.

                                I see organic meat (lamb and beef for sure, and poultry I think) at the queen's quay sobey's express.

                                EDIT: The kerr farms/sobey's connection is clearly listed here:

                                1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                                  Kerr Farms vegetables are organic, and they're the supplier of the Thomas Utopia brand of canned tomatoes.

                                  Kerr Farms beef is not certified organic. According to Kerr's website, their beef is:


                                  Ontario Angus Beef

                                  Key Features

                                  * Raised without the use of hormones
                                  * Raised without the use of antibiotics
                                  * Raised without the use of animal by-products
                                  * Exclusively Angus Breed
                                  * Raised in Ontario
                                  * Raised on pasture and finished with corn
                                  * Humane Treatment of animals at all times
                                  * Traceable from farm to fork
                                  * Federally inspected processing
                                  * Production Standards verified and audited by Canadian Cattlemen’s Food Safety Program (www.qualitystartshere.on.ca)

                                  End quote

                                  Kerr is a supplier of Sobeys' "naturally raised" beef; from what I understand, though, they're not the exclusive supplier (insufficient quantities, supposedly).

                                  1. re: Tatai

                                    Actually it's under the everyday Compliments line at Sobey's. I never held out that Kerr Farms beef was organic. Just darn tasty. Their standards are high as evidenced by their membership in the Quality Starts Here Verified Beef Production Program.

                                    1. re: Googs

                                      Standards for what? According to what I've read about the "Verified Beef" program, it's a marketing campaign dreamed up by the Cattleman's Association with -- surprise, surprise -- the backing of the Ontario government. http://www.qualitystartshere.on.ca/in...

                                      Kind of reminds me of the Ontario corn-raised beef campaign (which had the Ontario Cattlefeeders Association behind it), which also received Ontario marketing dollars.

                                      1. re: Tatai

                                        Standards high enough for Scaramouche to serve their beef.

                                    2. re: Tatai

                                      again my lack of proper reading is my fault!
                                      sorry for any confusion

                            2. Just wanted to say that ALL canadian chicken is hormone free they only use hormone sin beef cattle not dairy and none of our animals are raised in cages, our laws are very different from the states.