I’ve been a fool to food marketing ploys for far too long. While standing over the egg display at Wal-Mart, I’ve found myself utterly confused over the use of words like cage-free, natural, free-range, vegetarian-fed and no added hormones.

I did a little research, and learned that I’ve wasted way too much money on meat, egg and dairy products marketed under the guise of humane living, only to learn I had been duped!

So here we go, my breakdown of all the glitzy, food marketing words that make us think we’re buying this:

free range chicken

when if fact, you’re probably getting this:

factory chicken


Natural means minimally processing which does not fundamentally alter the product. Guess what, whole meat purchased is natural whether the label says it or not. This label essentially means nothing when purchasing meat. This term does not reflect how the animal was raised, and only refers to what happened to the animal after slaughtering. Most labels that contain the word “natural” will follow with “no artificial dyes and colors.”

Don’t waste your money!


This is one of my favorites. I’ve seen this label a lot lately on chicken eggs, and have been tricked in the past to purchasing eggs from vegetarian fed chickens. Well, stupid me, chickens are not vegetarians by nature, and therefore means the chickens were not allowed to eat their natural diet! Purchasing grass-fed or vegetarian fed cattle, sheep, goat or bison is a good thing because those animals are herbivores.

A vegetarian-fed labeling means that animals have been fed a diet free of animal products. This does not mean animals were raised outdoors on a pasture or were fed a 100 percent grass-fed diet. Also, manufacturers may use this labeling without third-party verification.


This is a term used for poultry only. It generally means that they are required to have access to outdoors at least 51% of the time. There is no restriction on the type of outdoors provided, it just needs to be outdoors. There is also no independent third-party verification that this practice actually occurs.

Be prepared up to $2 more for a label that states “free-range.”


Cage free means not caged inside a barn or animal house without access to the outdoors. Previously, when I envisioned “cage free” I saw chickens roaming on hills with songs from The Sound of Music in the background – not so much.

Don’t waste your money!

No Added Hormones:

This label makes me most angry. Federal law prohibits the use of hormones in poultry and hogs. Don’t pay extra for pretty packing on chicken, eggs, and pork that says “no added hormones”.

Hormones are allowed in cattle to speed their growth, so it would be wise and worth the extra money to purchase cattle products that state “no added hormones.”


Don’t take my word for this, do your homework. Visit to learn more about food labeling and sustainable living.

By local, sustainable food when possible, and don’t be a food fool!



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