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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.

Third-Party Certifications

Grass-Fed Certifications
Humane Certifications
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