Reading Food Labels, what do they really mean?

Whether appearing on a package of eggs in your grocery store or listed on a menu in your favorite restaurant, words like “free-range”, “grass-fed”, and “organic” are everywhere these days. Many food labels can be confusing, so knowing what a food claim truly means is a great way to educate yourself about where your food comes from and how it has been produced. Below is a list of some common food claims.

1. Antibiotic -Free. The following phrases may be found on food from an animal that was not given antibiotics during its lifetime: “no antibiotics administered”, “raised without antibiotics” or “antibiotic-free”.

2. Cage-Free. Means that the birds are raised without cages. What this doesn’t explain is whether the birds were raised outdoors on pasture, if they had access to outside , or if they were raised indoors in overcrowded conditions. If you are looking to buy eggs, poultry or meat that was raised outdoors, look for a label that says “Pastured” or Pasture-raised“.

3. Grain-fed. Animals raised on a diet of grain are labeled “grain-fed”. Check the label for “100% Vegetarian Diet” to ensure the animals were given feed containing no animal by-products.

4. Free-Range . This term is only defined by USDA for egg and poultry production. This label can be used as long as the producers allow the poultry access to the outdoors. This does not necessarily mean that the products are cruelty-free, antibiotic-free, or that the animals spent the majority of the time outdoors.

5.GMO-Free, non-GMO or No GMOs. Products can be labeled “GMO-Free” if they are produced without being genetically engineered through the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Genetic engineering is the process of transferring specific traits or genes from one organism into  different plant or animal.

6. Organic. All organic agricultural farms and products must meet the following guidelines:

*Sustain animals on 100% organic feed

*Refrain from antibiotic and hormone use in animals

*Abstain from the application of prohibited materials (including synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge) for 3 years prior to certification and then continually throughout their organic license.

*Employ positive soil building, conservation, manure management and crop rotation practices.

*Provide outdoor access and pasture for livestock

These are just a few of the many labels that are found on our foods these days, its very important to read and understand them. Hope this helps! If you want to look into this further check out

Freerange eggs

Freerange eggs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2 thoughts on “Reading Food Labels, what do they really mean?

  1. Pingback: The Other Side of the Plate — The Meat! | Fire and Ice Blog

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