What’s in a food label? Natural

Jun 08, 2017

By Contributing Author : Janeal Yancey, Ph.D., University of Arkansas JanealYancey

The USDA defined the term Natural in 2005.

Basically, Natural means that a meat product does not contain any…

  • Artificial color or flavoring
  • Coloring ingredient
  • Chemical preservative
  • Artificial or synthetic ingredient
  • And that the product is minimally processed.

The term natural refers to the meat itself and how it was processed. It has nothing to do with the way the animal was raised. The Natural term should be accompanied by another term that further explains what it means, like Natural, no artificial ingredients, minimally processed; Natural, Grass-Fed; or Natural, raised without antibiotics. You can see some examples of those claims in the picture above.

All fresh meat is eligible for the term Natural regardless of how the animal was raised.

Sometimes you may hear that meat was Naturally Raised. This claim was defined by the USDA Ag Marketing Service in 2009 and carries a different meaning than Natural does.
Animals that have been Naturally Raised have been raised without the use of ….

  • Growth promotants
  • Antibiotics
  • Animal byproducts

Naturally Raised actually refers to the animals and not the meat product. You shouldn't see it on a label on your food because its too easily confused with the Natural label. However, you may hear that animals are 'Naturally Raised.'

This term does not mean that the animal was exclusively grass-fed or does it have any claim of whether or not the animal was raised in confinement. So, Naturally Raised beef may be from cattle that have been only fed grass for their entire lives or they may have been fed grain in a feedlot for a few months.

Dr. Yancey is a mom of two fabulous little girls and an advocate of the meat industry. She has a passion for providing education and information to anyone who has questions, follow her blogs to stay informed!

Deb VanOverbeke, Associate Professor, Department of Animal Science, Oklahoma State University discusses what constitutes “All Natural.”

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