navigation

Learn the Labels

To truly eat better meat, we need to know where our meat comes from, who raises the animals, how they are cared for, and what their diets consist of. This means that the best way to eat better meat is to buy direct from local farmers and butchers whenever possible.

But what to do when buying direct isn’t an option?

Thanks to the recent rise of food labels and product claims designed to help consumers make more educated decisions about their grocery purchases, there are some labels you can rely on in choosing meat and poultry.

Third-Party Verified

The following labels are all third-party verified and indicate high standards for production and processing practices:

USDA Organic
  • USDA Organic LogoNo antibiotics ever
  • Access to the outdoors for all animals
  • Ruminants must receive 70% of their diet from grazing
  • Animals are fed 100% organic diet
  • No cloned or genetically modified animals
More details

(The USDA prohibits antibiotics and bans withholding antibiotic treatment to maintain certification. Any animals given antibiotics cannot be labeled as USDA Organic.)

 

Animal Welfare Approved
  • Animal Welfare LogoNo sub-therapeutic antibiotics
  • Continual access to the outdoors for all animals
  • Farms must be family owned and operated
  • Welfare standards for slaughter practices
  • No cloned or genetically modified animals
More details

(The AWA prohibits small doses of antibiotics in animal’s feed as preventative measure and growth promoter. Antibiotics usage is allowed as a last resort after herbal, homeopathic etc treatments, but require twice the recommended withdrawal period before milking or slaughter.)

 

American Grassfed
  • American Grassfed LogoNo antibiotics
  • Animals diet consists of 100% grass or forage
  • Animals must be raised on pasture
  • All animals born and raised on American family farms
  • No cloned or genetically modified animals
More details

(The AGA prohibits small doses of antibiotics in animal’s feed as preventative measure and growth promoter. Any animals given antibiotics cannot be labeled as AGA Approved.)

 

Certified Humane - Raised and Handled
  • Certified Humane LogoNo sub-therapeutic antibiotics
  • Outdoor access for beef cattle and dairy cows
  • Prohibits cages for laying hens and farrow crates for pork production
  • Welfare standards for slaughter practices
  • No cloned or genetically modified animals
More details

(This label prohibits small doses of antibiotics in animal’s feed as preventative measure and growth promoter. Antibiotics are allowed to be used therapeutically, as decided by a veterinarian.)

 

There are several other labels with meaningful standards and third-party verification. Some of these, such as Global Animal Partnership, are currently retailer specific. Others, such as the Demeter’s Biodynamic label and the Food Alliance label, are not as widespread nationally.

Unverified and Loosely Regulated Claims

Most of the confusion about meat and poultry labels centers on a list of common product claims that can be found in supermarkets across the country. Examples include “Cage Free”, “Raised Without Antibiotics”, “No Added Hormones”, and “All Natural”.

These claims are often loosely regulated or voluntary and have been shown to cause confusion among consumers.

So what do they really mean?

Natural: The natural label denotes that a product contains no artificial ingredients or added color and has been only minimally processed, (a process that doesn’t fundamentally alter the product). The “Natural” label says nothing about animal welfare, antibiotic use, or environmental stewardship.

USDA Grass Fed: Products with this label come from animals that eat a diet of grass and forage. Cattle can still be confined for long periods of time but they must have access to pasture during the “growing season”.

Free Range: Free range applies to poultry production where birds are given the option to go outside. Access to the outdoors can as simple as a small yard accessed by a single door.

No Added Hormones: While the USDA has never allowed the use of hormones in chicken and pork production, companies are still allowed to include these claims on their labels.

USDA Process Verified: The USDA process verified label indicates that a company has paid the USDA to verify that their product claims are accurate.

More Label Resources:

connect

get the latest news on the Slow Food movement.

×




top