Cruelty-free foods

Want to be like Wolfgang Puck—or even Burger King, for that matter? Here’s what you need to know to buy the animal-friendly products that many of your customers are starting to demand you serve. A step-by-step guide to what all the different cruelty-free food designations mean, including: battery cages, cage-free, certified humane, certified organic, certified sustainable, crate-free, controlled-atmosphere stunning, free-farmed, free range, gestation crates, grass-fed or pasture-raised, hormone-free, natural and United Egg Producers-certified. Knowing them grows more important every day.

BATTERY CAGES Wire-mesh cages used to house laying hens; typically each bird has 67 square inches of space, or smaller than an 8.5”x11” sheet of paper. Practice now banned by Burger King and Wolfgang Puck.

CAGE-FREE Label for eggs denoting that hens are uncaged indoors, generally without outdoor access. No third-party auditing.

CERTIFIED HUMANE Label applying to meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products indicating that animals are kept in conditions that allow them to engage in their natural behaviors. Monitored by third-party auditing.

CERTIFIED ORGANIC Label indicating adherence to the USDA’s National Organic Program, whose requirements for animals and poultry include outdoor access and a ban on hormones and antibiotics. Compliance monitored by third-party auditors.

CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE Seafood label indicating approval by the Marine Stewardship Council and its environmentally responsible fisheries program.

CRATE-FREE Term applied to pork, indicating that pigs are not confined to gestation crates (see right). Not backed by auditing or other compliance measures.

CONTROLLED-ATMOSPHERE STUNNING Method by which chickens are knocked unconscious prior to slaughter. An alternative to electric shock. Burger King will favor suppliers who use this method.

FREE-FARMED Label indicating that animals live in a humane environment under conditions that limit stress. Compliance monitored through third-party auditing.

FREE RANGE USDA label indicating that poultry raised for meat have access to the outdoors. Term is also used frequently in regard to egg-laying hens; however, the USDA has not issued guidelines for free-range egg production.

GESTATION CRATES Twenty-four inch by seven-foot cages used to confine sows during their roughly four-month
pregnancies. Now banned by Smithfield Foods, Burger King and Puck.

GRASS-FED OR PASTURE-RAISED USDA label indicating the animals have access to the outdoors and can engage in natural behaviors, such as grazing.

HORMONE-FREE Label for dairy products indicating that cows were not injected with hormones to increase milk production. 

NATURAL USDA-approved Label for meat products indicating they have been minimally processed and are preservative-free.

UNITED EGG PRODUCERS CERTIFIED Label denoting approval by egg industry group. Animal welfare advocates claim the group’s standards, which permit use of battery cages, are inhumane. Compliance monitored by third-party auditing.


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