The term organic refers to an ecological method of agricultural production that respects the natural environment. Organics focuses on enhancing the health and vitality of the soil, preserving biodiversity, promoting animal welfare and preserving the ecological integrity of our environment. No synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms are permitted in organics. Organic foodstuffs along with livestock feed are inter-provincially regulated in Canada under the Canadian Organic Regulation and must meet all requirements as set out in the Canadian Organic Standard.
This isn’t a certified label, but it indicates the farmer is in the three-year transition process to certified organic farming. Farmers must use and document practices on their farm for three years before they can be certified organic.
RANGE, RAISING, AND FEEDING
The terms above refer to the approach to raising animals; animals should be allowed to roam outdoors on pasture for the duration of their lives in order to get exercise and sunshine, and to eat grass and forage for bugs and other food integral to a healthy diet. Generally speaking, the term “pastured” refers to poultry, “free-range” and “cage-free” refer to egg-producing aniamal, and “grass-fed” refers to beef.
RAISED WITHOUT THE ROUTINE USE OF ANTIBIOTICS
Antibiotics were not given to the animal to promote growth or to prevent disease, but may have been administered if the animal became ill.
PESTICIDE AND CHEMICAL FERTILIZER FREE
No petroleum-based synthetic chemicals are used on this farm as pesticides nor are any industrial chemical fertilizers used. Typically these farms make a concerted effort to build healthy, natural soil ecosystems.
NO HORMONES ADMINISTERED OR NO ADDED HORMONES
Animals were raised without added growth hormones. By law, hogs and poultry cannot be given any hormones.
PASTURED or PASTURE-RAISED
Eggs, poultry, or meat actually raised outdoors on a pasture, eating grasses and food found there, rather than being fattened on grain in a feedlot or barn. Pasturing livestock and poultry is a traditional farming technique that allows animals to be raised in a humane, ecologically sustainable manner. Note: a chicken or pig can be pastured, but they aren’t solely grass fed; in most cases, they must eat grains, too.
Farmers use standard Farming Practices which likely include synthetic sprays.
NO ANTIBIOTICS ADMINISTERED
No antibiotics were administered to the animal during its lifetime. If an animal becomes sick, it is taken out of the herd and treated, but not sold.
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT (IPM)
A strategy of weed and insect pest management that uses as much information as possible to most effectively apply the least amount of pesticides to control pests.
GRASS FED/GRAIN SUPPLEMENTED
Cattle that are raised on pasture and eat grasses. At a certain point, grains are slowly introduced into the diet in a controlled amount, along with the grasses. By controlling the amount of grain, the animals do not become sick and do not develop digestion problems that solely grain-fed cattle can encounter. They are not forced to eat the grain.
This means the animals only eat grass and nothing else, and it pertains to cattle, sheep, and goats (not poultry nor pigs). Although it should imply that animals were allowed to graze naturally while roaming the pasture, it is possible the animals weren’t able to roam but were simply given grasses and silage to eat. Regardless, grass-fed meats should be free of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, grain, and animal by-products.
The animal was raised on a diet of grain. At its best, this is a mixture of corn and soy-beans and vitamins that is good quality feed, but when farmers and feed suppliers cut corners, these mixes are supplemented with animal by-products and miscellaneous matter such as cement dust and euthanized cats and dogs. Since mad cow disease is thought to be transmitted through animal by-products added to cattle feed, cows raised on a strictly vegetarian diet are preferred by many consumers. Note: Cattle are ruminants and eat grass; they cannot digest grains properly and can become sick if fed a diet of only grain. Although large-scale, confined grain feed lots enable industrial meat producers to fatten their animals quickly, they also foster disease within the cattle population, creating the need for antibiotics and increasing the risk of E. Coli contamination. Grain-fed animals tend to be raised on factory farms and should be avoided.
Cattle that are fed only grain before slaughter. Some producers raise their animals on pasture but then feed them grain for a certain amount of time before slaughter. Grain makes the meat fattier and creates the taste most people are currently accustomed to.
No hormones or feed additive antibiotics were given.
FREE RANGE OR FREE ROAMING
The animal had some access to the outdoors each day. It doesn’t guarantee the animal spent any time outside. As long as a door to the outdoors is left open for a period of time, the animal is considered free range. (The USDA has defined this term for chickens raised for consumption but no standards have been set for egg-laying chickens or other animals.
CHEMICAL FREE/NATURALLY GROWN
The following are practices that attempt to reduce dependence on synthetic and industrial chemicals on the farm.
Birds are raised without cages. This doesn’t specify whether the birds were raised outdoors on pasture, if they had access to the outside, or if they were raised indoors in overcrowded conditions.
Antibiotic/Hormone Free generally refer to livestock.