What do food labels really mean ???

From : www.animalwelfareapproved.org  

What do Food Labels Really Mean? 


Food labels are packed with information, but some words can be confusing, if not downright misleading. A dozen eggs in a carton boasting the statement "farm fresh," for example, have probably not come from anything that looks remotely like a farm. A dairy cow is far from "happy" at an industrial facility where she never grazes on pasture. And "natural" is not synonymous with "high-welfare"-in fact, the former term refers only to meat processing, not the animals' lives.

100% Vegetarian Feed
Animals are not fed any animal byproducts. This does not guarantee they were raised outdoors or on pasture, but it should indicate that they were raised on grasses, hay, silage and other feed found on pasture or in a field. Grain, like corn, is vegetarian and falls into this category. Producers feeding their animals a 100% vegetarian diet should not be giving them supplements or additives, but it is always best to check with the farmer.

This holistic method of agriculture is certified by a third-party agency and is based on the philosophy that all aspects of the farm should be treated as an interrelated whole. Having emerged as the first non-chemical agriculture movement approximately 20 years before the development or "organic" agriculture, biodynamics has now spread throughout the world. Biodynamic farmers work in harmony with nature and use a variety of techniques, such as crop rotation and on-farm composting, to foster a sustainable and productive environment.

Cage Free
Birds are raised without cages. What this doesn't explain is if 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."

"Free Range" or "Free Roaming" means that the animal had some access to the outdoors each day. However, this doesn't guarantee that the animal actually spent any time outside. As long as a door to the outdoors is left open for some period of time, the animal can be considered Free Range. Although the USDA has defined this term for chicken raised for consumption, no standards have been set for egg-laying chickens or for other animals. If you are looking to buy eggs, poultry or meat that was raised outdoors, look for a label that says "Pastured" or "Pastureraised."

Animals eat grasses from start to finish. They should not be supplemented with grain, animal byproducts, synthetic hormones, or be given antibiotics to promote growth or prevent disease (though they might be given antibiotics to treat disease). Note that 'grass-fed' does not guarantee that the animal was pastured or pasture-raised. While most grass-fed animals are pasture-raised, some may still be confined and fed a steady diet of grasses.

Grass-fed, Grain supplemented
Animals are raised on pasture and eat grasses. At a certain point, grains are slowly introduced into the diet in a controlled amount, along with the grasses. By controlling the amount of grain, the animals do not become sick and do not develop digestion problems that solely grain-fed cattle can encounter. They are also not forced to eat the grain.

Heritage foods are derived from rare and endangered breeds of livestock and crops. Animals are purebreds, a specific breed of animal that is near extinction. Production standards are not required by law, but true heritage farmers use sustainable production methods. This method of production saves animals from extinction and preserves genetic diversity.

According to the USDA, the "natural" label can be placed on a product "containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product). The label must explain the use of the term natural (such as - no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed.)" This label in no way refers to the way an animal was raised, and indeed, animals raised in industrial barns can carry the label "natural." The natural label also does not mean that an animal was raised without hormones or antibiotics.

No Added Hormones
Animals were raised without added growth hormones. By law, hogs and poultry cannot be given any hormones - so the use of the label on these meats is misleading! To ensure that other meats were raised without added hormones, ask your farmer or butcher.

No Antibiotic Use
No antibiotics were administered to the animal during its lifetime. If an animal becomes sick, it will be taken out of the herd and treated but it will not be sold with this label.

No Routine Antibiotic Use
Antibiotics were not given to the animal to promote growth or to prevent disease, but may have been administered if the animal became ill.

Animals not confined in a feedlot, and have continuous access to the outside throughout their lifecycle.

In order to be labeled "organic," a product, its producer, and the farmer must meet the USDA's organic standards and must be certified by a USDA-approved food-certifying agency. Organic foods cannot be grown using synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, or sewage sludge, cannot be genetically modified, and cannot be irradiated. Organic meat and poultry must be fed only organically-grown feed (without any animal byproducts) and cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics. Furthermore, the animals must have access to the outdoors, and ruminants must have access to pasture (which doesn't mean they actually have to go outdoors and graze on pasture to be considered organic).

In general, pasturing is a traditional farming technique where animals are raised outdoors in a humane, ecologically sustainable manner and eat foods that nature intended them to eat. Animals are raised on pasture rather than being fattened on a feedlot or in a confined facility.

Courtesy Eat Well Guide. Eat Well Guide