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Not Buying into Misguided Claims

We all have that one friend who can convince you into believing anything because they have all the facts laid out before you, am I right? Well, friends aren’t the only ones trying to convince you of something better: the food industry is too!

We see a jar of peanut butter on the shelf and purchase it because it claims, “No cholesterol”. Well, the truth is that there will never be cholesterol in peanut butter; cholesterol is only found in animal products (anything that has parents!). With so many different health claims on everything from fruits and veggies to ice cream, here is a guide to help you make your way through misguided claims. Let’s jump right in and go through what each claim actually means.


This is a term often used in health writing; however, there is no formal definition of “clean.” Typically, people refer to its meaning as eating more whole foods and consuming less processed foods.

Natural vs Organic

Natural: You might think that natural and organic should mean the same thing, but they’re slightly different. “Natural” simply means that the product does not contain artificial ingredients or added color, and is minimally processed. Because “natural” is such a subjective term, the company has to explain the claim: “no added colorings or artificial ingredients”, “minimally processed”, and the like. The term “natural” does not abide to any set standards regarding farm practices.1 The only foods that do have a standard for “natural” are meat and egg products.4

Organic: Meat, poultry, and eggs that have been raised according to strict organic standards. This term is NOT the same as natural.

Cage-free vs. Free-Roaming vs Pasture Raised: Choose Pasture Raised

Cage-Free: When reading this egg and poultry claim, think of it in a very literal way…This label indicates that the flock was able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.3 This is NOT the same as free-range.

Free-range or Free-Roaming: This label indicates that the flock was provided shelter in a building, room, or area with unlimited access to food and fresh water, but the key difference is that they also have continuous access to the outdoors. However, often times they are not provided with outdoor environments that are attractive to hens in terms for safety from weather elements, adequate space, and protection from predators.3

Pasture Raised: Pasture raised more closely represents outdoor raised hens. It is similar to free-range except that acceptable spaces that are secure and attractive to hens are provided.3

Grass-Fed (or Forage-Fed)

In kindergarten, you might have learned that cows eat grass. Why, then, are some beef packages labeled “Grass-Fed”? Cows have been fed grain, primarily to fatten them up better for sales. As this information got out to the public, companies met consumer demand for the more natural grass-fed beef. The diet is derived from forage consisting of grass, forbs, legumes, brassica, browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Animals are not fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. Routine mineral and vitamin supplementation may also be included in the feeding regimen(s). This is NOT the same as organic. The grass-fed label does not limit the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides.5

Good Source

To be a “good source” of something, the product must contain 10%-19% of the Daily Value (DV) per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed, and “Excellent Sources Of/High/Rich In” contains 20% or more of the Daily Value (DV) per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed.2


Another item to look for is “Enriched/More/Fortified/Added/Extra/Plus”. These items contain 10% or more of the Daily Value per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed than an appropriate reference food.2 This may only be used for vitamins, minerals, protein, dietary fiber, and potassium.


If it doesn’t have a mom and dad, it never had cholesterol. Often, this claim is shown on items that never had any cholesterol in the first place, making it potentially misleading. Cholesterol-free also does not mean the item is guaranteed to be healthy. Check the nutrition label and ingredients list to ensure there aren’t any added sugar or trans fats and limited saturated fat.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. What is the meaning of 'natural' on the label of food?. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published September 28, 2015.
  2. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. U.S. Government Publishing Office. Published September 30, 2015.
  3. Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (10. Appendix B: Additional Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published January 2013.
  4. Farm Animal Welfare: An Assessment of Product Labeling Claims, Industry Quality Assurance Guidelines and Third Party Certification Standards. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  5. Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms. United States Department of Agriculture. Published August 10, 2015.
  6. USDA Grass Fed Program For Small And Very Small Producers FAQ. United States Department of Agriculture. Published September 2014.