German Farmer Caught Faking Free-Range Chickens

A free-range label can make a customer feel good about purchasing ethically-sourced meat, but customers don't necessarily know what's really going on behind that label, and recently a major producer of "free range" chickens has admitted to selling conventional birds for years.

According to The Local, a farmer who raised chickens for Neuland—a major brand of organic and free-range meat—has recently admitted to just raising and slaughtering chickens according to conventional farming practices for years. Still, his birds were slapped with the Neuland label and sold on shelves to thousands of unwitting customers. The meat was reportedly sold at restaurants and butcher shops around Germany, and was even served at cafeterias at Google.

Neuland's member farmers are supposed to commit to providing animals with spacious and well-lit environments. The animals are supposed to be fed only organic, local grains and eventually slaughtered humanely. Vets supposedly check in on farms regularly to make sure the standards are being upheld, but supposedly this one chicken farmer got through and Neuland's inspectors never found out.

The farmer has allegedly made hundreds of thousands of euros by selling his birds as the more expensive Neuland birds over the past five years, but Neuland managing director Jochen Dettmer says the company was closing loopholes and tightening the inspection system to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"We are reforming our control mechanisms to act faster and go deeper," he said.