Animal Welfare Approved

What do Food Labels Really Mean?

Food labels are packed with information, but some of the common claims and terms found on food labels can be very confusing – if not downright misleading. For example, a dozen eggs in a carton boasting the statement, “natural” can legally come from an industrial farm where hens are permanently confined, fed antibiotics and never see a blade of grass – much less roam and forage the way a chicken does “naturally.”

So how do you know if a food label is accurate – or even true? Fortunately some of the terms and claims used on food labels are legally defined. And in some cases the claims are independently audited (as with Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Organic and American Grassfed Association). However, in most cases the terms and claims used on food labels are not verified at all. In such cases you may wish to request further information from the supplier to ensure that the product really does meet your expectations.

To help make sense of the bewildering range of food claims and terms, AWA created a comprehensive labeling guide, Food Labels Exposed. For more information on the benefits of grassfed foods and farming, see AWA’s Grassfed Primer. To see the slides from AWA Program Director, Andrew Gunther’s, September 2014 presentation, “Understanding Meat Labels,” click here.