How to choose products that benefit:

People

Animals

Environment

Claim Scale

Kiss the Ground created this simple scale to help you navigate marketing claims found on food products. Always assume the lowest rating unless there is a third party certification that can verify its quality, or you personally know the producers farming practices.

Cage Free, Free-Range & Pasture-Raised claims are not regulated, so to help ensure higher animal standards look for a Regenerative Certification or buy direct from a local farmer near you!

Cage-Free

Laying hens should always be cage free, but the “cage free” label only means that they are not confined to a battery cage–they are still raised indoors in crowded conditions.

Free-Range

We love the image of animals roaming free, but the term “free-range” is not regulated by the USDA and more often than not the animals are not free to roam. Rather it means animals have access to the outdoors, but may never actually see the light of day.

Pasture-Raised

We believe all animals should have access to diverse green pasture, but this claim is not regulated and does not necessarily mean that the animals were raised in open pasture for their whole life cycle.

Corn, soy & potatoes are commonly produced with GMOs, so it’s best to avoid these products unless you see an organic, regenerative, or Non-GMO Verified certification. Remember, Non-GMO doesn’t always mean chemical free.

Fair Trade

The human implications of food production, like working conditions, are important. Certification programs like Fair Trade USA, Fair for Life, or Fair Trade International help ensure that producers and workers have fair wages and safe working conditions.

GMO Free

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are an animal, plant, or microbe whose DNA has been altered using genetic engineering. The good news is that because of steadfast activism, GMOs are required to be labeled. If you want to ensure your food is GMO-free, you can look for organic or the Non-GMO Project Verified seals. Remember, GMO-Free does not mean chemical-free and unless they are organic they likely contain toxins like glyphosate.

Grass-fed

Ruminant animals are healthiest when they eat grass and forages, but “grass-fed” is not a regulated term by the USDA and could be claimed on products where cows were raised in degenerative environments like CAFOs. Look for certifications to ensure animals receive most, if not all, of their diet from grass, such as Certified Grassfed by AGA, Certified Grassfed by AGW, or  Certified Grass-Fed Livestock Program.

Humanely Raised

We all want animals to be raised humanely, but this claim is not regulated and has little relevance unless accompanied by trusted third-party programs like Animal Welfare Approved, Animal Welfare Certified, or Certified Humane.

Organic is not always well enforced, so refer to our Regenerative Certifications guide to learn more about certifications that have stricter requirements for soil health and animal welfare.

Regenerative

If you see the word regenerative without a certifying label from one of these regenerative verification programs it is pretty much meaningless unless you are buying directly from a farmer you know or one who clearly states their practices and approaches to food production. Because regenerative doesn’t have a strict definition and is a relatively newer term, the greenwashing risk is higher.

ORGANIC

If you see the word organic, there should be a certifying label such as USDA, CCOF or OTCO –otherwise the ingredients may not all be organic. The USDA Organic label is regulated, and helps ensure food is produced without synthetic chemicals or GMOs. However, the farming practices of organically certified products can range from low to high, so it is best to look for certifications like the Real Organic Project and Regenerative Organic Certified to ensure high animal and soil health standards are met.

Chemical free

The vast majority of food we consume in the US is produced using chemicals that can be toxic to our bodies and the Earth. If you want to be sure your food is free from chemical pesticides and fertilizers, look for organic labels like USDA Organic or a label like Glyphosate Residue Free. Even better, get to know your local farmers and learn about how they care for their crops, their animals, and their land!

Sustainable

If you see products with sustainability on the label, make sure that there are other certifications or verifications, as there is no oversight of the term. Generally, sustainable is a catch-all phrase and you will want to look for certifications that are organic or regenerative, or a label such as Rainforest Alliance.

There is nothing natural about the claim “All Natural,” which can  include very unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup – so be sure to read the ingredient labels!

Antibiotic Free

Antibiotics used to raise animals can end up in our food, which has led to increased antibiotic resistance among both people and animals. The claim “antibiotic-free” assures consumers that the animals were not routinely treated with antibiotics during their growth period. However, it’s important to note that regulations and standards for antibiotic-free claims can vary by region, so look for certifications like Organic or additional information to verify the claim’s accuracy and credibility.

Hormone-Free, No Hormones Added

 These labels on dairy and meat products mean the animals were not given artificial hormones. These labels on chicken, turkey or egg products are not relevant as producers are not legally allowed to use hormones.

All Natural

As common as this phrase is, it is not regulated by the FDA and it unfortunately doesn’t mean a lot. In contrast to the FDA, the USDA does regulate use of the word “natural” when applied to meat, poultry, and eggs, to indicate that they don’t have unnatural things like synthetic ingredients added to the meat.

Until March 2024, the U.S federal government was allowing meat imported from other countries to be labeled “Product of the USA.” Kiss the Ground and many other groups advocate to help ensure companies can’t deceive consumers. This will especially help our local grass-fed grazers, as a whopping 85% of grass-fed meat is imported and could be labeled as a U.S. product. 
We always encourage you to get to know and buy from your local farmers when possible. Check out our Regenerative Certifications and Regenerative Purchasing guides to learn more about how to purchase regeneratively!

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