Misleading claims of “Hormone Free” or “Antibiotic Free”

Jun 08, 2017

Hormones are a part of life, so no meat is really “hormone free.”

HormoneFreeHormones help animals grow, reproduce, and maintain the body’s daily functions; therefore, any animal product, from meat, to milk or eggs, contains naturally-occurring hormones. So when we see a meat product that claims to be “Hormone Free”, in reality it should be that those animals that were raised without added hormones.  The USDA allows some meat products to be labeled as “Raised without Hormones” meaning that there were no extra hormones given. These animals come from process verified programs that are monitored by USDA so they allow that claim.

This brings up the next misunderstanding of labeling. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations prohibit any use of hormones in pork and poultry, so those industries do not use artificial or added hormones in the production process. Therefore, all pork and poultry is eligible to be labeled with “Raised without Hormones”. However, if they use that label they must also have a statement that no hormones are used in the production of any pork or poultry as well.

All meat should be free of antibiotic residues, so it should all be “antibiotic free.”

Farmers may choose to use antibiotics to treat or prevent sickness in animals. Even if an animal is given an antibiotic, farmers and processers must allow a specific amount of time to pass before that animal is legal to slaughter. This “withdrawal period” allows time for the animal’s body to metabolize the antibiotic and the residues to exit the animal’s system before it is harvested. USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) randomly samples animals and tissues at the time of slaughter to test for residues, to ensure a safe food supply. 

Recently, the label “Raised without Antibiotics” is being found more frequently on packaging. This indicates that the animals were grown without any antibiotics that are used for animal health maintenance, treatment or prevention of diseases.  These trends are a growing topic, and will continue to spread, so it is important to be aware of the marketing terminology, and what is really means.


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