Label Reading 101: Meats

Food Labels on Meat, Poultry, and Dairy. Which ones hold weight? Which ones are just marketing scams? What should I be looking out for?

By
Bella Grace
Label Reading 101: Meats

Food labels. Do they even carry any weight anymore, or is it all just a marketing scam? “No Hormones Added,” “Natural,”Cage Free:” What do these even mean?

Here's your 101 on how much we can trust specific food labels commonly found on supermarket meat, dairy and egg products.

Some of the most meaningless, or untrustworthy labels:

  • American Humane Certified
  • No Added Hormones
  • Farmed Responsibly
  • Heritage Breeds
  • Humanely Raised
  • Farmed Fish
  • No Nitrates Added
  • Cage Free
  • Natural
  • Omega-3 Fortified Eggs and Milk
  • Vegetarian Fed

Further Explanation on some of these...

Cage Free

Many "cage-free" chickens still live in overcrowded and unsanitary areas with a small outside area.

No Added Hormones

It's illegal to add hormones in poultry or pork. Another marketing scheme.

Natural

Natural is a marketing scheme. Minimally processed and free from chemicals doesn't mean much.

Free-Range/ Roaming

By law, poultry must have access to the outdoors 51% of the time. There are no restrictions on what the birds are fed and many suppliers still enforce beak cutting and molting through starvation.

Vegetarian Fed

Chickens are not meant to be vegetarians! Our chickens on the land forage for bugs and worms (their natural diet).

Better labels to look for include:

  • No antibiotics given
  • No synthetic growth hormones
  • Pasture- Raised
  • Grass-Fed or Grass- Finished
  • USDA Organic
  • No cages allowed and outdoor access required
  • Frequent on-farm inspections (every 12 to 36 months)
  • Wild Caught Fish

Further Explanation on some of these...

Pasture Raised

This should be TOP priority whenever possible! Animals grazed in their natural environment is always best.

Grass Fed

Grass-fed meats are healthier for us! Meat that is grass fed tends to be a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They have more bioavailable sources of minerals and vitamins.

Organic

Be careful here. The animals are fed organic food which is great. The problem? These aren't necessarily foods that are natural for these animals to eat. This label holds more weight with produce and other products at the store.

Curious to learn more? The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit focusing on improving human and environmental health, released a label decoder to help consumers quickly identify meaningful labels. Long story short, the best food labels have strong third-party certification with regular inspections and accountability.

A note on farmers: many small local farmers may not be able to afford the testing process to obtain a label such as USDA organic. Do not immediately discredit them! Instead, ask them about their farming practices, the conditions the animals live in, if they receive ample if not all time outside, what they eat, and if their animals are medicated. More often than not, your small local farmer will have higher quality meat than that which you find in the store!

Bella Grace

Isabella Grace is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner focusing on toxin-free, natural living to its fullest extent. Her mission is to provide personalized integrative health solutions to create sustainable, lifelong change and enable you to live, love, and serve at your fullest health potential.

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