Farming Terms


Note:Many of these terms are voluntarily used by producers and it can often be unclear as to their meanings. It is always best to create a dialog with your local farmer. Most respectable producers are happy to answer any questions you may have about their operation. 


Antibiotic Free

An undefined term by the USDA; it can mean “no antibiotics ever” or simply that animals have met the antibiotic withdrawal period and no antibiotic residues are present in the meat.


Cage Free

Under USDA regulations poultry must live uncaged, however they can still be housed in barns or other enclosed areas.


Certified Humane

A volunteer certification administered by Humane Farm Animal Care. Certified producers meet standards for space, shelter, handling, fresh water, and diet free of hormones and/or antibiotics.


Free Range

Under the USDA this applies only to poultry raised for meat. It refers to poultry that have access to the outdoors, however, there are no USDA requirements for amount of time spent outdoors or the quality of the area. There are no USDA standards regarding laying hens, but it is often a voluntary term used for uncaged birds in confinement or on pasture.


Grain Fed

USDA defines this as livestock fed grains such as barley, canola, corn, flaxseed, oats, rye, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower seed, wheat or other possible grains.


Grain Finished

A voluntary marketing term used to indicate that livestock are raised on pasture or forage and then feed grain for the last 60-90 days in cattle, 30-45 days in sheep/goats to add additional fat cover.


Grass Fed

Under USDA regulations this refers to livestock that are on forages or grass for the duration of their life after weaning. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.


Hormone Free

By USDA regulations this term is not allowed on meat products as all mammals produce natural hormones. If producers can document that animals were raised without added hormones the label “no hormones administered” may be used.



Under USDA regulations this term may be used when labeling meat/poultry if no artificial flavoring, coloring, or chemical preservatives are used. Labels must explain what is meant by natural. This term is not relevant to animal welfare, husbandry, or feeding.


Naturally Raised

A voluntary marketing claim that means livestock have been raised without growth hormones or antibiotics along with animal or aquatic byproducts. It does not apply to animal husbandry or welfare.


Pasture Raised

The USDA regulates this through the National Organic Program and refers to providing year-round access to the outdoors, providing pasture throughout the grazing season, and that animals get at least thirty percent of their dry feed intake from pasture grazing.


Vegetarian Fed

A voluntary marketing term generally meaning  that animals are fed a healthy diet and raised without animal byproducts or dairy products.

 Posted by at 5:51 am