When it comes to meat, it is very important to understand where your meat comes from and how it is raised to determine its healthfulness.
I find that these days there are so many different ‘labels’ to meats, it gets very confusing, as some seem very similar.I have compiled a list that hopefully can help clarify the different labels. Keep in mind that depending what country / region you live in, these definitions will vary based on regulations, so I recommend looking into the specific regulations in your area.
- Free Range
This term references a method of farming where animals roam freely and are not contained. In the United States, Free Range is only a term related to poultry. As well the animal must have access to the outdoors and must not be confined to the indoors. This typically applies to meat, eggs or dairy farming. For free range animals, movement is not restricted and the animals are found to have lower stress levels, increasing their nutritional value in comparison to those in confined, stressed environments.
- Free Run
There is often a level of confusion between Free Run and Free Range. The main difference is that where Free Range are required to be raised outdoors, Free Run may be raised inside. The same stipulations to the ability to roam freely still apply.
Meat that is organic is raised to specific standards and regulations. It includes farming or raising animals without pesticides, fertilizers, the use of genetic modification or the addition of additives or hormones. For meat to be considered organic, it must be certified by an organic certification board. The USDA carries out routine inspections of farms that produce USDA Organic labeled foods.
- Grain Fed
This typically refers to animals, specifically poultry that are fed a primarily “grain” diet.
- Grass Fed
This term refers to animals who are not fed a grain diet, but rather a grass (pasture) diet. Many prefer their animals (including chickens for the production of eggs, and cows for milk) to be fed a grass fed diet because the diet is more nutritious, richer in vitamins, contains less cholesterol, saturated fat and is richer in vitamins, healthy fats and omega-3′s. Animals are typically raised on pasture. A great resource to find grass fed meats in Canada is www.eatwild.com
- Hormone Free
This is where farmers will claim that they do not give their animals hormones for growth purposes. Many farmers will homone induce their animals so they grow bigger, faster and to push the product at a quicker rate and to increase their profit margin. Though the use of hormones to raise poultry has been banned in Canada since the 1960′s, this is not always the case. Hormones are often given to animals to fend off disesases if they are contained in close quarters with unsustainable conditions. Hormone Free will often suggest the animals are not kept in these conditions. It is recommended to eat Hormone Free meat because antibiotics and other hormones are not properly digested by humans and can have harmful effects on our bodies, as well as our wastewater and runoff.
Wikipedia.org, “Free Range”, “Organic Food”
www.chicken.ca, ”Understanding Your Choices”