When you read phrases such as "free-range" and "cage free" or "raised without antibiotics" or "no antibiotics or hormones added" you would assume as anyone would that these meant just that, but unfortunately we live in a world where words and phrases can be (and are) manipulated as easily and as often as the very food these phrases are associated with.
Free range and cage free to someone who cares about their health, that of the animals, and for that matter the world around them, stands for the animal FREE to be itself and do as it would without man's intervention or should I say oppression. Or as someone like Joel Salatin the man at the forefront of beyond organic sustainable farming might say, "to allow the animal to fully express its physiological distinctiveness."
To the world of industrialized farming, words like free-range are nothing more than a way to profit on the public's growing "want" for organic products. To them it means access to the outside. It does not have to be more than a small opening nor does it mean that any of the birds will ever find their way out there, especially since they are raised indoors in crowded buildings on cold hard floors with minimal if any lighting; oh does this sound familiar (CAFO). The truth is even if the few birds that are closest to this opening to the outside manage to venture out, there does not have to be any viable grass for which they can, well, be chickens!
To the world of CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) the words cage-free means something like 200 birds shoved into an enclosure, instead of one bird to a cage... sounds like freedom to me!
To the naive yet ignorant consumer who wants to "eat healthier" without having to put much personal effort into the cause might expect "raised without antibiotics" or "no antibiotics or hormones added" to simply mean just that, but unfortunately in a world where the grain industry (animal feed) owns the most real estate in our corrupted misguided food pyramid, such phrases are more misleading then the "exit this way" signs in an Ikea store. When companies like Tyson or Purdue have found ways to inject eggs with antibiotics before the chick ever hatches, I think it's time to rethink your grocery store food selection.
So what does this mean to you the consumer? Everything actually!
In a world where nearly everything on the food pyramid (meats, dairy, eggs, grains, and junk food) are tied directly to one or both of the two largest monocrops in the world (corn and soy), and with nearly all these grains (and legumes) produced being GMO's and heavily sprayed and nutrient deficient, we need to now more than ever rethink our food choices. We need to start taking the notion that we are what we eat, literally! And living by it! We need to see beyond that notion, and into "we are what our food eats"!
We need to understand that when we (mankind) feel we're justified without consequence to manipulate all plants and animals for our own selfish needs and as far as current biotechnology will allow, feeding the ever hungry agricultural machine that is factory farming, we create a world dependent upon pharming (not farming). A world where the lines between farming and science & engineering have become increasingly blurred and nonexistent.
This is not the world I want to live in, and so I choose to eat food... real food! Locally grown organic sustainably farmed food! And in turn I get rewarded with a healthy lifestyle and healthy conscience!