You’ve seen it all: grass-fed, cage-free, free-range, grass-finished, grain-finished, pastured, organic… do these all have different meanings? Which one is the best? We raise pastured chicken and we want you to understand what that means so you know just how good the meat on your plate is!
Pastured meat is when the animal was raised on a grassy piece of land – a pasture. In some cases, this means the animals are confined by a fence. In others, like ours, it means they are in moveable, bottom-less shelters on pasture. These shelters are moved every day to fresh pasture.
Grass-fed means the animal must have continuous access to grass during the growing season, and it must be their sole source of food after weaning. This term is typically used to describe beef since chickens (except for some heritage breeds) and pigs need to eat a fair amount of grain to get enough calories to survive.
Cage-free means that the animal (typically chicken) was not raised in a cage. This often means the chicken still lived in crowded, dirty, stuffy chicken barns – just packed in with other chickens, not in a cage.
Free-range means that the animal must have access to the outdoors. That is the USDA regulation for the term. Often, this means that a “free-range chicken” is raised in a huge chicken barn with thousands of other chickens – but they do have a little run outside where they are allowed to venture out. This does not mean they ever go outside, however.
Grass-finished is a term that applies to beef. Some beef is grass-fed up until the last 90 days of its life, when it is switched to grain-fed to fatten it up quickly (this is still classified as “grass-fed,” however). Grass-finished beef, however, is on pasture its whole life and is not finished on grain.
Grain-finished is the opposite of grass-finished. It means that the beef is fed grain during the final period of time before processing, whether or not it was on pasture previously.
Organic is a term that is highly regulated by the USDA. Organic food is raised without the use of man-made fertilizers, pesticides, feed additives, or GMOs. While this sounds like a good thing, much of the organic produce and meats for sale today were raised in similar fashion to conventional food – for example, an organic chicken confinement house can look exactly the same as a conventional one. Those chickens simply get organic feed and are not fed artificial antibiotics. Our chicken is not certified organic. We call it “beyond organic” because we go above and beyond the regulations and truly care about how our animals are raised.