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What is the difference between cage-free vs. free range vs. organic?

ANSWER

You may see eggs, poultry, or meats labeled cage free, free range, or organic. Here's what they mean:

  • Cage free means hens are still in a closed space but have room to walk around.
  • Free range means they get outdoors, even if it’s fenced in.
  • Organic produce and meats mean they were grown or raised in soil free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, or allowed to graze on pastures and fed organic feed without antibiotics or hormones. Organic eggs come from free-range hens raised on organic feed.

SOURCES:

Animal Welfare Institute: "A Consumer's Guide to Food Labels and Animal Welfare."

Celiac Disease Foundation: "10 Fast Facts About the FDA Gluten-Free Labeling Rule."

Colorado State University: "Wild caught vs. farm raised seafood."

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: "Country of Origin Labeling for Fish and Shellfish," "Food Labeling: Subpart E — Specific Requirements for Health Claims."

FDA: "Label Claims for Conventional Foods and Dietary Supplements," "Organic on Food Labels," "Producing a Food Product that is Regulated by FDA," "Food Labeling Guide," "Use of the Term "Healthy" in the Labeling of Human Food Products: Guidance for Industry," "Use of the Term Natural on Food Labeling," "How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label," "Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label."

Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Food Safety and Inspection Service Labeling Guideline on Documentation Needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Claims for Label Submissions."

National Institute on Aging: "Reading Food Labels."

Organic Consumers Association: "Are Your Eggs Really "Organic?"

United State Department of Agriculture: "USDA Grademarked Product Label Submission Checklist."

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith on March 12, 2020

SOURCES:

Animal Welfare Institute: "A Consumer's Guide to Food Labels and Animal Welfare."

Celiac Disease Foundation: "10 Fast Facts About the FDA Gluten-Free Labeling Rule."

Colorado State University: "Wild caught vs. farm raised seafood."

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: "Country of Origin Labeling for Fish and Shellfish," "Food Labeling: Subpart E — Specific Requirements for Health Claims."

FDA: "Label Claims for Conventional Foods and Dietary Supplements," "Organic on Food Labels," "Producing a Food Product that is Regulated by FDA," "Food Labeling Guide," "Use of the Term "Healthy" in the Labeling of Human Food Products: Guidance for Industry," "Use of the Term Natural on Food Labeling," "How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label," "Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label."

Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Food Safety and Inspection Service Labeling Guideline on Documentation Needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Claims for Label Submissions."

National Institute on Aging: "Reading Food Labels."

Organic Consumers Association: "Are Your Eggs Really "Organic?"

United State Department of Agriculture: "USDA Grademarked Product Label Submission Checklist."

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith on March 12, 2020

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What are some health claims on food labels to watch for?

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