Animal Production Claims

Natural

All fresh meat qualifies as "natural." Products labeled "natural" cannot contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed (ground, for example). Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”).

Standards for organic production of livestock were developed in 2000 under the National Organic Program. The program requires that all feed the animal consumes must be pesticide and chemical fertilizer free, the animals must have year round access to the outdoors, space to move and not have been treated with antibiotics or hormones.

Organic

In order to use the official Organic label, a food must be made from 95% or greater organic ingredients. If a food has greater than 70% organic ingredients, the label can state that it is made with ‘Organic ingredients.’ If it is less than 70% organic, the organic ingredients are just listed on the ingredient statement.

No Antibiotics (red meat and poultry):

The terms "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.

No Hormones (pork or poultry):

Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim "no hormones added" cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones."

No Hormones (beef):

The term "no hormones administered" may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the Agency by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals.

Free-Range

The label claim “Free-range” or “Free-roaming” indicates the animal had access to an outdoor area during production.

Grass Fed

According to USDA, in this system, the animals are simply grown on grass or stored forage (hay). The animals can consume grasses, legumes, or cereal grains in their vegetative state. These animals cannot ever be fed grain, or grain-by products during this process. The USDA does allow for mineral and vitamin supplementation.

Cage Free

Products labeled “Cage free” indicate that the animals were able to freely move around a large building, enclosure, or pasture without restriction and with access to food and fresh water throughout their production cycle. Almost all poultry, cattle, and pigs used for meat production in the United States are raised “Cage free.”

Humanely Raised/Humanely Handled

The USDA currently does not have a definition for, nor regulate, the claims “Humanely raised” or “Humanely handled.” Many meat products sold with these claims are from producers that have enrolled in a private certification program administered by a nongovernmental third-party, which may also be listed on the label.

Sustainably Raised/Locally Grown

Similar to humane handling claims, the USDA currently does not have a definition for, nor regulate, “Sustainably raised” or “Locally grown” claims. These terms are used by producers to represent a variety of meanings. For these label claims to be meaningful, they should be accompanied by a definition to clarify, such as what area would be considered as “local” for the product

Sources:


Video Podcasts and Webinars

  • Grass or grain? Is there a definitively sustainable beef production system?

    03/22/2016

    The webinar examined the science relating to grass-fed and grain-fed beef in terms of sustainable... read more »

  • 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Update

    01/12/2016

    Kris Sollid, Registered Dietitian with the International Food Information Council and Sarah Romo... read more »

  • Meat in the Diet

    08/10/2015

    read more »

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