What Meat Labels Mean

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People are now conscious that there are meat labels on animal foods. However, they may be confused and uneducated on what these labels mean. To give information on what these are, listed below are the definitions:

Meat from ruminants such as cattle that fed on grass and forage during their lifetime is labeled as "grass-fed." These ruminants can't be fed with grain and grain by-products and should always gain access to pasture throughout the growing season.

Meat from grass-fed animals contains saturated fat and is also full of nutrients compared to grain-finished meat. If a person sees a label which says "100% grass-fed" or "grass-finished" and verified by a third party, it just implies that the meat comes from ruminants that are only fed with grass and hay.

This is the most misleading label on meat since this is true to all fresh meat. Therefore, it is meaningless. The USDA defines "natural" as those food products which has no preservatives or artificial ingredients and has been minimally processed, an operation that does not basically affect the raw product.

Naturally Raised
The USDA standards for "naturally raised" meant that meat from livestock shouldn't be raised with hormones, antibiotics, not fed with animal by-products obtained from the slaughter, including meat and fat, animal waste, and aquatic by-products. However, this doesn't include animal products like milk and cheese since there are no regulations that govern how the product is processed.

The USDA specifies that meat from livestock labeled as "organic" must not be given growth hormones, antibiotics, fed with animal by-products nor genetically modified feeds. Thus, prior to labeling these products as "organic," a government-approved certifier inspects the farm to make sure that the USDA standards have been strictly followed.

Pastured Raised
This meant that the meat where the animals originated from was "raised on pastures." Pastures are parcels of land for grazing animals where there is usually an abundant species of grasses, forages, flowers, herbs and other plants.

Pastured beef means grass-fed beef, where cattle spent their lives eating nothing but grass. However, there are cattle that are finished on grain and meat that comes from this is unhealthy.

Free Range
The standards set are for chickens and not for other meat. This means that chickens labeled as "free range" or "free-roaming" can wander outdoors and does not necessarily indicate that they should be in pastures. These chickens may be in locations where there exists dirt or gravel.

Cage Free

This refers to chickens which are not caged and raised on open floor barns.

No Antibiotics
Producers are required to submit documentation on meat that is labeled "raised without antibiotics." However, there is no third party verification or testing done.

No Hormones
Meat with labels as "no hormones administered" meant that there was no growth hormones given by the producers. Very much the same as those labeled with "no antibiotics," documentation is required. There is also no third party verification or testing done on it.

Want to buy fresh farm products? At the Farmers Market in Raleigh, North Carolina, farmers convene to sell their garden-fresh fruits, vegetables, and fresh meat products such as grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, pastured pork nags head, and others to provide consumers the best produce that suits their needs. So, come and shop at the Market now!

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