What does it mean to roam free? In the most basic sense it means to walk, travel, or wander without restriction. To American’s in particular though, the word roam carries added significance. Our national animal, the bison, and his roaming ways are deeply embedded in our country’s history and the element of wanderlust has long been an essential part of the American spirit.
Today, that appeal to freedom and movement is used to market any number of consumer goods from soap to luggage. In the meat and protein industry, labels like free to roam, free roaming, or free range sell customers on the idea that the products within come from livestock, be it chickens, pigs, or cattle, that were raised with the space and freedom to roam and wander. This label communicates to consumers via their assumed understanding of the concept of free to roam. Corporations count on it.
The reality is that the label free to roam or free roaming means very little by way of industry standards. These are among a number of labels with no teeth. Beyond the term’s application to poultry, the USDA applies no legal definition to the label. And as far as chickens go (not far at all it seems), the USDA requires only that the birds have “access to the outdoors.” More often than not that access is a pop hole that does not even allow for full body passage to the outside.
Large suppliers of pork and cattle have hopped on the roaming bandwagon as well. And in our opinion, transitioning pigs from cages into group housing with marginally larger pens and slapping a free to roam label on the product is an obvious attempt at consumer manipulation.
At Roam Free we believe in consumer transparency, not manipulation. When we say our bison roam free, it means exactly what you think it does. Our bison are born and raised on native prairie with thousands of acres to wander. They socialize and behave as wild bison would. They will never know a feedlot. They will know sun, grass, and spring water. These words on our packaging are a pledge and a promise that out here, on our ranch, roam free really means roam free.