So what’s it going to be this weekend? Burgers, ribs, chicken, lamb chops, steak…the opportunities are seemingly endless (and not just for the carnivorous among us).
Equally long and daunting is the list of claims you’ll find on the meat packaging: “Non-GMO,” “No added hormones,” “Grass-fed,” “Organic” and “Antibiotic-free,” just to name a few.
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“Natural” is a widely used and often misunderstood claim. What does “all natural” even mean?
To get to the bottom of this mystery, the Homegrown crew solicited the help of Sarah Blacklin, Extension educator and program director for N.C. Choices, who has worked with meat industry professionals throughout the supply chain for more than a decade.
Sarah gets a variety of questions tossed her way, like if the “natural” claim describes how the animal was raised, whether antibiotics or hormones were used, and how the claim is verified.
Watch our latest In the Kitchen segment to find the answers and discover other facts behind the “all natural” claim that will help you make better informed food decisions for you and your family!
The Meat of the Matter
Understanding Meat Label Claims (Video)
Meat label claims can be categorized as either certified or non-certified. Understanding the details of each claim and how they are (or aren’t) verified can make all the difference.
In terms of scope, “natural” applies only to how the meat is processed after slaughter; it’s not reflective of animal welfare or factors like antibiotic or hormone use. Ultimately, all fresh meat is eligible for the “natural” label, regardless of how the animal was raised.
The “natural” claim can be used on any meat product that doesn’t contain artificial ingredients or added color, and is minimally processed without fundamentally altering the product.
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
More Meat Label Resources
- Quick Guide to Common Label Claims (Printable PDF) – a downloadable version of the food label claims chart below.
- What Do All of These Label Claims Really Mean? (PDF) – this comprehensive guide includes definitions for many common food label claims while addressing popular consumer questions.
- Homegrown: Understanding Meat Label Claims (Video) – Sarah Blacklin discusses some of the most common meat labels found in the marketplace.
Find additional resources pertaining to label claims and niche meats on the N.C. Choices website.