There are many phrases stamped on food labels designed to make food appear both ecologically sound as well as healthier to eat. One phrase that I find confusing is “free range,” which I have also seen it written as “free roaming.” While it sounds idyllic, the first bit of info you need to know is that this term “free range” isn’t heavily regulated by the USDA.
The only requirement is that the animals have access to outdoor areas of where they could possibly “roam free.” The regulations do not specify how big the area needs to be either. This by itself, by no means, makes meat any healthier than conventional meat. Also beware “free-range” doesn't mean free of E. coli or salmonella.
When it comes to selecting meat, you want to look for are the words “hormone free” and “antibiotic free,” since both substances are stored in the animals fat and flesh and then passed onto you. Look for word “organic” too. This way you know the animal was fed pesticide-free foods. When it comes to beef, the ultimate label is grass fed and finished since the meat of grass-fed animals is higher in omega-3 fatty acids and beta carotene. Unfortunately, the USDA doesn’t regulate this term either. This is why it is best to find a ranch that follows the practices you believe in. Check out Local Harvest to find one near you.