Canada drafting 'free-range' meat guidelines

As the popularity of "free-range" meat grows, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working on a strict definition of the term to ensure that consumers get what they pay for.

Under the new guidelines, "free-range" will mean animals and fowl that have unrestricted access to the outdoors to roam and graze on unsprayed vegetation. The guidelines will also ensure that free-range meat does not contain antibiotics or hormones.

With the absence of guidelines, the CFIA says farmers have been labelling meat "free-range' even if it came from caged animals that ate feed containing medications and other additives. the new rules will put an end to different interpretations of the term.

Some Canadian farmers say the rules will be hard to follow since they often don't know what's contained in the feed they give their livestock, feed that can contain growth hormones and antibiotics.

Rules already exist that govern when meat or produce can be labelled "organic." Organic food must be free of feed additives like growth hormones, pesticides or herbicides. Violations can lead to charges under Canada's Food and Drug Act.