Below, we provide a short guide to deepen your understanding of the most common food claims and help you avoid falling prey to manipulative marketing and widespread greenwashing.
Unregulated Animal Welfare Claims
Grass Fed – This term was rendered meaningless in 2016, when the USDA withdrew its definition of “Grass Fed”. It does not mean the animal had ample space to graze and forage, or that it was raised without added-hormones or antibiotics.
Pasture Raised – Pasture Raised implies animals were raised outdoors on pasture. However, like “Grass Fed”, this term is not legally defined nor regulated.
Misleading Animal Welfare Claims
Free Range – Free Range implies that animals must have “access to the outdoors”. However, the type or extent of “access” is not legally defined. The type of outdoor access provided (such as pasture or dirt lot), the size of the outdoor area, and the length of time animals are required to have outdoor access, will vary greatly from facility to facility. In some cases, animals may only have access to screened-in porches. To learn more you can read our post on “A Day in The Life of Laying Hens”.
Cage Free – Cage Free implies that hens laying eggs were raised with access to space and without using cages. However, hens almost always live inside large barns or warehouses, often with several thousand other birds and no access to the outdoors. To learn more you can read our post on “A Day in The Life of Laying Hens”.
Cage Free (When used on meat, chicken or turkey) – Cage Free is misleading, as meat birds are never raised in cages—no matter how intensive the system is. Poultry raised for meat under this label claim are confined indoors in enclosed barns along with tens of thousands of other birds.
Misleading Health Claims
No Additives – This claim implies that a product has not been enhanced with natural or artificial additives. Although the USDA and FDA define and regulate additives, there is no USDA definition of the specific term—or how it is used— so anyone using the term may or may not be referring to this legal regulation.
No Added Hormones (When used on eggs, poultry or pork) – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations prohibit the use of artificial hormones or steroids in all chicken and pig production systems in the U.S. therefore the claim, while true, does not add any value.
Antibiotic Free – According to the FDA, products labeled as “antibiotic free” cannot have any residue of antibiotics. However, this label does not guarantee that the animal was not treated with antibiotics or other drugs.
GC Content Writer: Sofia Regalado