Consumers have been urged to buy organic chicken if they want guarantees the meat has been prepared ethically – though it could mean paying three times as much.
Animal welfare group Voiceless said labelling could be misleading, with
free-range and corn-fed chicken still mostly factory farmed, whereby the birds were cramped into small spaces and pumped with antibiotics.
Actor Hugo Weaving, an ambassador for Voiceless, called for more detailed packaging so consumers could make informed choices.
"There should be proper labelling on all animal products," Weaving said.
"If you are going to have a chicken industry, which we are not going to stop, at least the law should be protecting animals from suffering.
"The legislation is not good enough."
Chickens labelled "barn fresh", "grain fed", "hormone-free" and "100 per cent natural" are all still likely to be raised on factory farms, Voiceless says.
The only alternatives to factory-farmed poultry were "certified free-range" and "organic".
Yet organic chicken can cost up to three times more than broiler chicken, consumer group Choice says.
The corn-fed and free-range varieties were up to twice as expensive as the broiler yet tasted no different, tasters said.
Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said if consumers were concerned with ethical production they should buy organic chicken exclusively.
"We would probably argue that there needs to be a better definition of free-range because free-range can mean almost anything," Mr Zinn said.
"Unfortunately, [for most people] organic chicken is not much of an option because it is significantly more expensive."
Weaving said that as fewer companies dominate chicken meat production – at present, there are three: Inghams Enterprises, Bartter Holdings (Steggles) and Baiada Poultry – the industry had became increasingly concerned with profit.
"Really, animals are almost entirely at our mercy and they have no legal rights," he said.
"We essentially harvest them. It is very rare these days that you see animals out in a field. And chickens – we do not see them anymore so we do not interact with them and they get more and more removed.
"I would love all chickens to be able to run around in fields outside and nest and be able to live a normal life in social groups."
Weaving urged the public to take more responsibility for their choices, having become a vegetarian himself when his children were young because of the discord he felt existed between his respect for animals and his eating habits.
"[Humans] have a really curious moral schizophrenia about animals," he said. "One of the reasons we have dogs and cats and furry animals is because it makes us feel better about our attitude towards animals."