What’s in A Name? Organic, Natural and Free Range

The terms Organic, Natural, All Natural and Free Roaming may not mean what you think they do. Read on for the ‘real’ low down on these key marketing phases designed to fool consumers by tricky labeling practices.

Source Organic vs. natural

Organic vs. Natural There’s a lot of confusion out there about the distinction between organic and natural, the differences can be huge! The first thing you should understand is that, except for meat, “natural” doesn’t have a set, strictly defined or regulated definition, while “organic” does.

When you see the word “natural” on food packaging, it can mean any number of different things, depending on where in the US you are, who the food manufacturer is and what store is carrying the product. In fact, you might be surprised to learn what can be considered “natural.”

The term “organic” is strictly defined in the US by uniform, federal regulations. “Organic” means the food or fiber bearing the label was made with a set of farming and production practices defined and regulated, in great detail, by the USDA.

When you see “organic” on a product label or packaging, you can be assured that the organic product was made without the use of toxic, persistent pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics or artificial growth hormones.
organic vs natural

Reference Source USDA and FDA fact Sheet (PDF file)

Source Mayo Clinic
Free range or free roaming Under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, this term applies only to poultry raised for meat. The USDA free-range designation means that poultry have been allowed some access to the outdoors. However, there are no USDA requirements for how much time the poultry spend outdoors or the quality or size of the outdoor area.

There are no USDA standards regarding the use of the term “free range” for egg-producing hens, although you might see that term on egg cartons. Free-range hens for egg production typically are uncaged in barns or warehouses with some outdoor access. Free-range hens can engage in some natural behaviors, such as nesting and foraging. There are no USDA restrictions on what they’re fed, and beak cutting and forced moulting is allowed.

The USDA doesn’t define free range in terms of beef, pork or other nonpoultry animals. So if you see this term on these products, keep in mind that it has no standard meaning.

Naturally raised Is a voluntary marketing claim that manufacturers can choose to use on labels of meat and meat products. This term means that livestock have been raised entirely without growth promotants and antibiotics (except for parasite control), and that they have never been fed animal or aquatic byproducts derived from the slaughter or harvest processes. If a manufacturer chooses to use this term, it must be able to provide evidence to support the claim. The term has no relevance to animal welfare.

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One response to “What’s in A Name? Organic, Natural and Free Range

  1. The USDA like most government these daysis beholden to big(whatever). The guide lines were likely written by the corporations, and rubber stamped. I think the best way is to know your source. Make friends with the farmers.

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