What Do These Terms Really Mean?
NutritionWellness Aug 9, 2018
What Do These Terms Really Mean?

There are so many different types of food terms associated with healthier living that it can be confusing to try and sort them out. “Organic,” “free-range,” and “grass-fed” are probably terms you’ve heard but do you know what it means in relation to your health?

That’s why we’ve gathered three of the most confusing terms on the market today and deciphered them for you. You may be surprised to learn that some of these terms may actually indicate something else entirely.


The term “organic” can mean different things when applied to various types of food. Understanding the definition of organic food will help you understand whether or not it’s good for you (and your wallet).

As defined by the USDA, organic food is that which is “produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.” As a result, there is a wide range of possible foods that could fall under this heading. But is it really healthier than non-organic food?

There have been many studies confirming the health benefits of a variety of organic foods. For example, one study states that organic dairy and meat contains up to 50 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic foods. Another found that there was a higher concentration of vitamins in most types of organic foods.


Another term that causes a high range of confusion is free range. As defined by the USDA, free-range animals are those who can spend time outdoors. This means they have access to sunshine and fresh air.

However, the USDA’s definition is fairly loose and somewhat problematic when explored in more depth. For example, free-range animals are those that have access to the outdoors. This doesn’t mean that they necessarily live outdoors. As a result, simply having a door on a coop that allows them to get outside, even if they spend no time outside, falls under the conditions of free-range.

What is even more surprising is that free-range animals have been found to have a higher concentration of diseases, such as salmonella. This confusion means that free-range animals may not be quite exactly what you were led to believe.

Grain-Fed vs. Grass-Fed Beef

Grain-fed and grass-fed beef are exactly what their names indicate. For example, grain-fed beef comes from cattle that spend their lives grazing in pastures before spending the last 4-6 months in a feed lot. Grass-fed beef differs only in that the cattle spend all of their lives in a pasture rather than spending the last few months of their lives in an artificial feedlot.

So who’s the winner? While the health benefits from both are similar, grass-fed beef might offer up a few extra benefits. For example, grass-fed beef on average has less total fat than grain-fed beef and fewer calories. However, grass-fed beef usually has a lot more omega-3 fatty acids, sometimes as much as five times more than grain-fed beef. It also has more conjugated lionleic acid or CLA, a fatty acid that can reduce a person’s body fat.

Hopefully, we’ve clarified some commonly confusing terms for you so that next time you’re eating out or doing your grocery shopping, you’re one step closer to clarity and healthier eating.