Terms to Know
The food marketing world is full of ambiguous or vague labels. Learn the actual meanings of these terms to make more informed decisions about what to eat.
• cage-free (poultry and eggs): chickens (or other poultry) are free to roam around an enclosed barn, rather than being confined to a cage, and have constant access to food and water.
• free-range* (esp. poultry and eggs): animals have access to the outdoors.
• grass-fed (beef, lamb, milk): animals receive majority of nutrition from grass, supplemented with grain; does not limit use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides
• To avoid antibiotics, hormones and pesticides, look for organic grass-fed. To avoid meat fed any grain, look for grass-finished, 100% grass-fed, or a certification label. Otherwise, assume the meat is grain-finished or fed some grain.
• humane: term is unregulated. Look for trusted third-party certification seals (below).
• natural* (food product): product is minimally processed.
• organic*: animal's feed is organic (contains no antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or unnatural fertilizers); animals have access to certified organic land. Look for the USDA Organic Seal.
• pastured: animals are raised in a pasture-centered environment. While this label is not yet regulated, in our opinion it is the most highly valued. The best way to know if a food is pastured is to purchase it directly from the farm.
*this term is regulated by the USDA.