Last week we highlighted some of the most widely used farming terms at farmers markets. This week we are focusing on the terms used to describe how livestock are bred and/or cared for on a farm. More often than not, these terms are seen on packaging labels or advertisements, so it is beneficial to know what each certifications within animal husbandry mean. 

Animal Husbandry Terms

Free Range: By definition from the USDA, free-range implies that “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” Free Range eggs are laid by hens who

have unlimited access to food, water and the outdoors. The hens are still housed in buildings or areas that are enclosed but can freely access the outdoors which is typically covered with a netting or surrounded by a fence.

Cage Free: Cage free is everything Free Range is, except having unlimited access to the outdoors. Hens are still given unlimited access to food and water, but do not have access outside and instead are left to freely roam inside the room during their laying cycle.

Grass-Fed: The American Grass-fed Association defines grass-fed as animals who have not eaten but “grass and forage from weaning to harvest.” All grass-fed animals have not been raised in confinement or fed growth hormones.   

No Antibiotics: Antibiotics are given to animals to prevent or treat diseases. If administered, a “withdrawal” period is required, so that the antibiotics can exits the animal’s system, therefore making it legal to slaughter the animal for consumer consumption. The USDA states that “FSIS randomly samples cattle at slaughter and tests for residues.” However, if meat is marketed as not having been raised with the use of antibiotics during the entirety of the animals’ lives, then no antibiotics were given for health maintenance, or for the prevention and treatment of diseases.

No Hormones: Hormones are typically used for increased growth rates and/or milk production. Some hormones are natural, while others are genetically engineered. If a product states that no hormones we used, then that means no hormones were given to the animal through out the entirety of its life.

*FSIS stands for the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service