The Difference Between Organic and Free Range

From eggs to poultry, decoding the difference between organic and free range can be confusing! Here are the facts to help you navigate which is best for you and where your dollars are best spent.

Organic refers to growing and raising standards. For a food to be “certified organic,” the food must meet these standards:

  • Fed organic feed since birth.
  • The organic feed (grains/soybeans) must have been grown in soil free of pesticides and chemical fertilizer for three years.
  • Must not have been given drugs or antibiotics.
  • Must have outdoor access.

This is in contrast to free range which is not concerned with the food source or chemicals, but rather access to the outdoors. For a food to be free range, the animal must have access to the outside, although the size of the yard or whether it was actually used is not defined making “free range” somewhat ambiguous. That is to say, organic animals are raised under free range conditions, but free range standards do not qualify as organic food.

Although scientific research is mixed in confirming whether organic or free range provide better health outcomes than conventionally raised, organic chicken raised without antibiotics do not contribute to antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. In addition, both organic and free range are popular for providing more humane living conditions.

Sarah Mattison Berndt, MS, RD, CD
Owner Fit Fresh Cuisine & Hybrid Athletic Club

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