What Do Those Farming Practices Labels Mean?

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So Many Labels ~ So Many Words

What Do All Those Farming Practices Labels Actually Mean?

If you’ve ever been to the grocery store – and I’m gonna assume that you have – you’ve probably noticed a plethora of terms used on labels that describe the product as being ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ or ‘non-GMO.’

In an effort to help you understand what some of these phrases actually mean, we’ve compiled a short list of the more common farming practices labels and phrases that producers, packers and advertising bigwigs use to entice you to get excited about their products.

USDA Certified Organic

USDA Certified Organic Icon - Farming Practices LabelsUSDA Certified Organic: Certified as organic by a USDA-approved food-certifying agency. Organic foods cannot be grown using synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, or sewage sludge, cannot be genetically modified, and cannot be irradiated.

Organic meat and poultry must be fed only organically-grown feed (without any animal byproducts) and cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics. Furthermore, the animals must have access to the outdoors, and ruminants must have access to pasture (which doesn’t mean they actually have to go outdoors and graze on pasture to be considered organic).

Read More at USDA’s website.

Certified Naturally Grown

Certified Naturally Grown Icon - Farming Practices LabelsCertified Naturally Grown (CNG): To be granted the CNG certification, farmers don’t use any synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, or genetically modified organisms. CNG livestock are raised mostly on pasture and with space for freedom of movement and their feed is grown without synthetic inputs.

How it’s verified: The SNG program uses other organic or CNG farmers as inspectors, and they randomly test 10% of members’ products for pesticides. Also known as CNG.

Read More at CNG’s website.

Grass (Forage) Fed

Grassfed Icon - Farming Practices LabelsGrass (Forage) Fed: Grass and forage is the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage consisting of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state.

Animals are not fed grain or grain byproducts and have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. Hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources may also be included as feed sources. Routine mineral and vitamin supplementation may also be included in the feeding regimen. Note that animals may have spent a portion of their lives confined to feedlots.

AGA Certified

American Grassfed Certified - Farming Practices LabelsThe American Grassfed Association defines grassfed products from ruminants, including cattle, bison, goats and sheep, as those food products from animals that have eaten nothing but their mother’s milk and fresh grass or grass-type hay from their birth.

For non-ruminants, including pigs and poultry, grass is a large part of their diets. Many products have been and continue to be marketed as ‘grassfed’, when grass is only part of their diet. This mis-marketing is just one of the reasons the American Grassfed Association is pushing hard for strict USDA guidelines on grassfed marketing claims.

Read More at AGA’s website.

No Hormones Added

No Added Hormones IconNo Hormones Added: No hormones have been used on the animal during its life. The term “no hormones administered” may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the Agency by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals. This label may not be legally used for pork or poultry products because federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones with pork or poultry. Also known as: No Added Hormones, Non-Hormone Treated.

Raised without Antibiotics

No Antibiotics IconNo Antibiotics: No antibiotics were administered to the animal during its lifetime. If an animal becomes sick, it will be taken out of the herd and treated but it will not be sold with this label. Also known as: No Antibiotics Added, Raised without Antibiotics.

Pasture Raised

Pasture Raised IconPasture Raised Animals are raised on, or have constant access to pasture and are never confined to a feedlot or other facility.

Free Range

Free Range IconFree Range or Free Roaming: This applies to poultry only and means that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

No Animal By-Products

No Animal Biproduct IconNo Animal By-Products: Mammalian and avian by-products were not used in feed, including animal waste (e.g. poultry litter) and by-products as defined by 9 CFR 301.2 (e.g. products derived from the slaughter/harvest process including meat and fat). Fish by-products and vitamin and mineral supplementation may be used.

USDA NeverEver3

Never Ever 3 - Farming Practices LabelsNever Ever 3: This is a USDA Process Verified Program where animals have not ever been exposed to antibiotics, growth hormones or animal by-products. Also known as: Never Ever 3, Never Ever Three.


Certified Humane

Certified Humane IconCertified: Humane: Animals have been certified by the Humane Farm Animal Care organization.

Animal Welfare Approved

Animal Welfare Approved IconAnimal Welfare Approved: Animals have been certified by the Animal Welfare Approved program.

Global Animal Partnership

Global Animal Partnership Icon - Farming Practices LabelsGlobal Animal Partnership: Animals have been certified by the Global Animal Partnership’s 5-step Program.

Chef Selected

Chef Selected IconChef Selected: Products are on the menu(s) of one or more restaurants. Also known as: Restaurant, Trade.


Halal IconHalal or Zabiah Halal: Products have been handled according to Islamic law and under Islamic authority. Also known as: Zabiah Halal.


Kosher IconKosher: Kosher food is food prepared in accordance with Jewish Dietary Laws. Jewish Dietary Laws are rules and regulations concerning food that are derived from Biblical laws and rabbinical extensions.

Small Farm

Small Farm IconSmall Farm: Animals were raised on a farm of between 1 and 99 acres dedicated to livestock.

Medium Farm

Medium Farm IconMedium Farm: Animals were raised on a farm of between 100 and 1,999 acres dedicated to livestock.

Large Farm

Large Farm IconLarge Farm: Animals were raised on a farm with more than 2,000 acres dedicated to livestock.


CoOp IconCo-Operative: A group of farmers who join together to share expensive items of machinery, to buy in bulk and to sell their produce together as a single entity. Also known as: co-op.

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