New Food Economy editor Joe Fassler answers your questions about meat labeling

From "grass-fed" and "cage-free" to whether free-range chicken really tastes better

Our second Meat Month Q&A features The New Food Economy’s own Joe Fassler, who recently covered the way foreign beef can legally labeled “Product of U.S.A.”—and how it’s affecting America’s grass-fed cattle industry.

It’s just one example of the ways that every day product labels can be confusing, misleading, or downright deceptive. In a Twitter chat Thursday, Fassler helped us make sense of some of the most vexing decisions we face in the meat aisle, from how much marketing claims like “grass-fed” and “cage-free” really mean, to whether we should actually care about the “sell by” date on meat, and if free-range chicken really tastes better.

If you missed the conversation, don’t panic. Here’s a recap.


Our first question came from an NFE staff member on whether or not a meat’s country of origin actually matters:

Turns out, it all depends on why you’re buying it:

This user is concerned about his local grocer keeping meat on the shelves past the “Best By” date:

To the surprise of many, as long as the product isn’t visibly spoiled, it can be legally sold:

And perhaps if we stop letting “Sell By” dates scare us, we could reduce food waste. But be wary, this rule doesn’t apply to all packaged foods:

Another NFE staff member is confused about eggs and what it means when eggs are labeled “cage-free” vs when they aren’t:

TL;DR “cage-free” means nothing:

One question was about the effect that labels like “free range” actually have on taste:

Fassler says, ultimately, taste is subjective. But there is a study that’s tested this theory and “free range” reigned superior:

Food Policy Action wanted to know about the level of clarity we should have about where our food is coming from:

Fassler hopes that clarity is something the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) addresses in order to help those who want their grass-fed beef to be local and purchase it to support local farmers:


Now you’re all caught up! Thanks to Joe Fassler for a great Q&A. And stay tuned: We’ll be hosting more #CarnivoresDilemma discussions all throughout the month of July.

The Counter Stories by our editors.