Grass-Fed, Cage-Free: What Difference Does It Make?

| November 2, 2012

Restaurant menus nowadays list so much more than the names of dishes; they also use terms such as “grass-fed” and “cage-free” to describe how certain food items were produced. Learn what these terms mean, then use DexKnows restaurant listings to discover establishments that place a high value on food, from its origins to the plate.

What Does “Grass-Fed” Mean?

The United States Department of Agriculture released voluntary grass-fed marketing claim standards in 2007. They state that in order for an ingredient to be listed as “grass-fed,” the animal should have consumed only grass and forage during its lifetime, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. Animals should not be fed grain or grain byproducts and carry this label.

Why Does the “Grass-Fed” Label Matter?

Multiple reasons exist for chefs to use grass-fed meat for their dishes. Many believe it tastes better, and studies show that it contains higher levels of nutrients and healthy fats, both selling points to diners. Many diners, even though they still eat meat, also want the animals to be raised humanely with pasture feeding instead of in factory-farm settings.

What Does “Cage-Free” Mean?

The USDA also has voluntary standards for the use of this term in relation to poultry and eggs. The label should only be used if “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.”

Why Does the “Cage-Free” Label Matter?

While chefs and diners alike may say that cage-free eggs taste better than those produced in factory-farm settings, the main reason for looking for this label on a restaurant menu involves the desire for animals to be treated humanely, even those that become food.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, “On average, each caged laying hen is afforded only 67 square inches of cage space — less space than a single sheet of letter-sized paper on which to live her entire life. Unable even to spread their wings, caged laying hens are among the most intensively confined animals in agribusiness. Caged hens also suffer from the denial of many natural behaviors such as nesting, perching, and dustbathing, all important for hen welfare.”

Local farm-to-table restaurants aren’t the only ones to call for more availability of cage-free eggs; Burger King pledged to “transition its U.S. supply chain to 100% cage-free eggs by 2017.”

If finding restaurants that use healthier ingredients and value the humane treatment of animals ranks high on your to-do list, DexKnows restaurant listings can help. This information can be found in descriptions and reviews, and by looking at menus available online, all features of DexKnows restaurant listings.

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Category: Food & Dining, What's in Your Food

About the Author ()

Pamela Mitchell spent more than 15 years at daily newspapers such as the Hartford Courant and Houston Chronicle before becoming a full-time freelancer. She now writes about a variety of topics, from dining and entertainment to pets and travel.