“Free range” means the animal has access to the outside. Generally, this does not mean the chickens have a large, grassy “range” but that they are given access to a fenced area or pen, outside the chicken house. Chicken labeled as “organic” must also be “free-range,” but not all “free-range” qualifies to be “organic.”
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines “organic” production and prohibits the use of the term “organic” on packaging of any food product not produced in accordance with its rules. The USDA standards for organic production prohibits the use of antibiotics in animal production and requires the use of feed made from organic ingredients, among many other requirements. The organic food label does not indicate that the product’s safety, quality or nutritional attributes are any higher than the conventionally raised product.
No Added Hormones & Steroid Free
The USDA regulations prohibit the use of artificial or added hormones in the production of poultry in the United States. The claim “no hormones added” or “no steroids” cannot be used on poultry labels unless it is followed by a statement that says, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones or steroids in poultry.”
Raised without Antibiotics
“Raised without antibiotics” on chicken packaging indicates that the flock was raised without the use of products classified as antibiotics for animal health maintenance, disease prevention or treatment of disease. All chicken is “antibiotic-free” in the sense that no antibiotic residues are present in the meat due to the withdrawal periods and other precautions required by the government and observed by the chicken producers.
All chickens are raised on farms, so any chicken could be labeled “farm-raised.” When this term is used on restaurant menus and the like, it usually refers to chickens raised on a local farm.
Under USDA regulations, a “natural” product has no artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients or chemical preservatives and is minimally processed, just enough to get it ready to be cooked. Most ready-to-cook chicken can be labeled “natural” if processors choose to do so.
You might see this label on chicken packages. However, no chickens raised for meat are kept in cages. They are all raised cage-free in large barns.