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Since food marketers are so good at creating clever phrases we thought we’d clarify what some of these seemingly reassuring phrases actually mean. This list is far from complete. If you notice a catchy phrase you’d like us to include just send us an email.

“All Natural” There is no government-approved definition of this phrase. It is meant to convey a measure of quality, without any nagging legal requirement to back it up.

“Non-GMO” This phrase has captured consumers. Many assume that non-GMO means the foods so labeled are free of pesticides and herbicides. This is not true. Only “certified organic” foods are, by law, pesticide and herbicide free. Non-GMOs are lower in these residues than conventional feeds which nowaday almost always contain grains that have been genetically modified (GMO) to absorb poisons that would have previously killed the plants.

“Cage-free”. Egg companies used to routinely cage their laying hens in individual spaces barely wide enough to fit the hen. They spent their entire lives caged within large poultry houses packed with other hens with no access nature. “Cage-free” hens still have no access to such things as sunlight, fresh air and grass, but at least they’re out of their cages.

“Fed an all-vegetarian diet”. The phrase is usually associated with food labels for chicken and eggs. It is meant to convey a measure of quality. Instead, it is a clever spin to describe a confined production facility that doesn’t provide the animals access to its natural environment. In nature chickens, like humans, are omnivorous, eating all sorts of things including, but not restricted to, vegetative matter.

“Grass Fed”. This is usually applied to beef and dairy products. The term capitalizes on research showing the health benefits of beef raised only on grass and other forages versus those fed grains for prolonged periods. The USDA definition of “grass-fed” allows animals to be fed non-grass forage, i.e., grain, for up to 90 continuous days. Studies show this is enough time to materially alter both the meat’s taste as well as its healthfulness, reducing CLA, for instance, by up to 500%. The only way consumers can be assured the beef they buy is genuinely and exclusively grass fed is to know their farmer.