Making sense of Meat-Label Lingo

Are you as mystified by the variety of labels out there today?  What they do and do NOT mean?  The Food Industry’s desire to make the labeling system more user friendly, has gotten more complicated than ever to most consumers.  Here’s a little help decoding the mystery of the labels on meats sold in the USA to start. 

No Antibiotics or Used Routinely Category:

Animal Welfare Approved: No antibiotics are used for growth promotion or disease prevention.  Sick animals can be treated with antibiotics.  Animal welfare and hygiene practices are fully addressed.

Certified Humane: No antibiotics are used for growth promotion or disease prevention.  Some animal welfare and hygiene practices are addressed.

Gap Steps 1-5+: (i.e.sold at Whole Foods) No antibiotics are used.  Animal welfare and hygiene practices are addressed to varying degrees (sometimes?).

USDA Processed.jpgNo Antibiotics/Raised without Antibiotics: Antibiotics are not used for ANY purpose.  The labels accompanied by the USDA Process Verified shield are more reliable.

USDA Organic.gifOrganic: Animals cannot be given antibiotics.  Sick animals treated with antibiotics can’t be labeled organic.  The exception is chickens:  They can be given antibiotics in the egg or on the day they hatch but no afterwards.

Antibiotics May Be Used Category:

american-humane-certified.pngAmerican Humane Association: Neither animal nor human antibiotics are used for growth promotion, but both may be used for disease prevention.  Some animal welfare and hygiene practices are addressed.

 American Grassfed.gifGrassfed: Not all grass-fed beef is raised without routine antibiotics.  Look for a no-antibiotic or organic label as well.  The American Grassfed Association seal means no antibiotics, and the claim is verified.

Natural/All Natural: This label is not related to antibiotic, hormone, or other drugs administration or how the animal was raised.  “Natural” on meat and poultry only means that it contains no artificial ingredients or added color and is minimally processed.

NO Hormones:  Simply put, this means no hormones administered.  It doesn’t mean no antibiotics or other growth promotants.  By law hormones cannot be used in poultry or hogs, so packages of meat from those animals with this claim are no different from those without it.


All clear now?  Not really, right?  Since new labels are popping up all over the place (some only marketing to make their product look more inviting) it is best to re-read those above.  Then make a decision about what are the best  quality products that fit into your budget and are the best for your family.  Once that is decided, you will know what to look for in the store every time you grocery shop.  Atleast, for now.  

(Source – Consumer Reports, January 2016)

One thought on “Making sense of Meat-Label Lingo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.