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Health Food Labels Decoded

By Sara Butler

If you’re trying to eat healthier, then the good news is that food labels are going to be way easier to understand! Healthier foods are usually easier to read the food labels on because they’re simple foods without a lot added junk. But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things that may mystify you when it comes to healthier food labels. Here are a few things you might find on food labels and what they mean for your health.


Organic foods are the king of the health food world. It can mean a lot of things, but what is labeled helps to give you a clue to what it means by organic. Here’s what it means:

  • On produce – This generally means the foods were grown from seeds that aren’t genetically modified and were not grown with herbicides, pesticides, and not irradiated.
  • For meat – This means the animals were fed an organic diet with no animal by-products and were not given hormones or antibiotics. It doesn’t necessarily mean they had open access to the outdoors, though.
  • Packaged food – This means that the food must be made up of at least 95 percent ingredients that are organic. If the label says “made with organic ingredients,” then about 70 percent of its ingredients will be organic.

Cage Free

Eggs are a nearly a perfect food and should be a part of a healthy diet. But, you may find yourself concerned with the way the chickens from which the eggs were harvested were treated. When you see eggs labeled as “cage-free” it means that they were not confined to cages, but it doesn’t mean they had access to the outdoors either. Also, if they’re not also organic, then cage-free hens can still be fed from crops that have been genetically modified and treated with pesticides.

It’s important to keep in mind that “cage free” isn’t a claim confirmed by a third-party, so it’s largely a claim that almost any company can make to sell you their products. If you’re really concerned about how hens are treated, then look for a verification seal that says “Animal Welfare Approved” or “Certified Humane.”

Free Range

You can find this on both eggs and poultry packaging. This means the animals had some access to the outdoors. This doesn’t mean they are certified organic nor does it mean they were fed non-genetically modified grains. They can also still be treated with hormones. 

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