"Free-range"? "Cage-free"? Be Free…from Label Confusion!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 3:00pm
Cows on a factory farm

It can be hard to cut through the clever marketing and buzzwords on food packaging and get down to the truth. For example, most shoppers assume that an “organic” label on meat, eggs or dairy means that the farm animals used lived in a nice setting, with access to the outdoors and fresh air throughout the day. But that’s not required by the USDA, which sets the organic standards, so it’s not necessarily true.

Unfortunately, loopholes and unclear definitions are common when it comes to labels and claims on animal-derived products. On the other hand, there are animal welfare labeling programs that set and enforce meaningful standards for farm animals—some through independent, third-party auditors. The ASPCA’s new online and downloadable label guide separates fact from fiction so you can make educated choices and vote with your wallet for better farm animal welfare.

Always on the run? Download our food label pocket guide for on-the-go reference.

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Daphne J. Ward

Thank you so much for this very helpful publication! I have been a supporter of ASPCA for many years and am grateful for all that you do for our fellow beings. When shopping I do read labels and am pleased now to have help in interpreting what I read. Thanks again.

Dr. Eric Weisma...

Confusion with labeling is another way the most Evil Meat-Poultry-Fish Slaughter Industry continues to use its' Cramped Death Camps & Torture-Slaughter Operations to Butcher All Animals while they are fully conscious. These Mentally Sick Horrors are happening in all Human Grade & Pet Food Plants all over the U.S. & Canada everyday. The only difference between Human & Pet Food Plants is that Sick Animals are Ground up Alive with their Sewage for Pet Foods and Live conscious Cows, Sheep, Pigs, Turkeys, Chickens and Fish.
The Public, unfortunately, for the most part is Brain Washed by all the McDeath, Murder King, Dead Lobster and Blue BufHELLO, PurHeena, Wen"DIES", Sausage Co. TV Lies.
The poor suffering GMO Animals most people and their Pets are eating, not only are torturing and killing ALL ANIMALS: They are killing The People that eat The Animals and The Planet. Go Vegan & Get your Pets to go Vegan: Do not give any support to the Most Evil Meat-Poultry-Fish Torture - Slaughter Industry.

mike sessions

1 your as witty as a rock
2 pets Cannot become vegan it is not healthy for them.animals eat other animals in many cases alive.Once again you see a few as a representative of all farmers.

Jen C.

I plan to use this list and give it to others as well. Thank you!


thank you for letting us know the meaning of the farming.
will the chicken ever be free and live outside?
will the chicken grow without the feeding of hormone
the cattle, the pigs,
we fight for the pets, and need to, although the sanction are never
sever enough.
but what about the ill treatment of the farm animal?
bullied by employees, no pain killer, hormone and more hormone
no wonder the country is full of obese people.
how can we avoid the growth hormone?
can we buy a chicken which has been fed in the field and has
had no hormone?
not in the country.
thank you for helping, for fighting for the right of the innocent
who cannot defend themselves.
i have been a member starting in france when i was 12 years
i am now 68 and will continue to support all animal welfare.

Yvette Perry

just do your research..most suppliers get the meat from factory farms..I went first Vegan and than Vegetarian only because of the animals.It is too painful to see what people do with them..those images never leave my mind and that is helping me to choose..cruelty free products ,make up,soap etc.,where the eggs are coming from?I found a private place in my neighborhood who sell fresh eggs from happy 'girls'.( that is why I eat eggs having a good conscience) matter what ,do the right thing,there is always another way...milk,cheese ,its a cruel business ,baby male calves suffer horribly..
It is up to us to boycott those businesses,when there is no demand,they have no option than to limit the amount of animals;we want them to shut it down for good.
But very important : NEVER BE SILENT !We have to speak for them..always and everywhere to everybody !


Yvette - Wise comment, wise actions. I also put the effort into personally finding humane sources for my cheese, eggs, etc. Once you start this research, you meet caring people who will help you to all ends. Personal request: to all vegans who say we should be vegans for the sake of animals: I appreciate and respect your research into industrial farming and your strength to stand against it, but I am begging you – think a little further. Unless you are personally operating and funding your own hobby farm, you are missing a big part of the picture. Cows, pigs, chickens, goats, etc. are expensive to raise, feed, and care for properly. Who do you expect to do this, without making any profit? Are you doing this? These animals need to NOT be abused, but they DO need to be raised and cared for by someone. I appreciate and personally support 1,000% the efforts to end animal suffering and factory farming, but factory farming is not the only kind of farming. I do my research and purchase my products (milk, cheese, eggs) from small, local farms: I personally know the people, I have visited the farms, and I help to care for the animals when owners get away for a day (rare). These animals DO lead happy, meaningful lives. Please think-unless you are caring for a cow, pig, goat, etc. for the entirety of its natural life, please stop promoting veganism as the only way to end the cruelty – it only solves half the problem. Small operation, humane, caring farmers give these animals happy, meaningful lives. Consider supporting the hardworking people who love these animals, work hard from dawn to dusk taking care of them (are you doing this?) and absolutely need to sell milk, cheese, and eggs (NOT CRUEL TO THE ANIMALS when done properly) to continue doing what they love.

Lisa B

Thanks so much!! I always try to buy only cage free or free range. I appreciate the clarification!!

S. O. Rooney

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the best way to ensure humane treatment of animals is to not eat them, or their eggs. Just sayin'.


S. O. Rooney, please also consider my comment above. Small operation, caring farmers who are literally passionate about these animals exist. they harvest cheese, eggs, wool, etc. humanely and need to make a return to continue. I buy my eggs from my neighbor, whose chickens are GORGEOUS and follow her around outdoors like dogs. I pay her more than I would at the grocery store (my choice, higher than the low price she quoted me). Esp. when it comes to the larger animals, I know very few people who have these animals only as pets as they are very expensive to care for properly long term. If we want these animals to exist and live happy lives, supporting caring small operation farmers as one of the options is not a bad thing.