Know the meanings of special meat labels
Words like free range, no antibiotics, natural and organic are buzzwords for meat buyers. But what do they really mean?Posted — Updated
Fat-free, sugar-free, and carb-free used to be the big buzz words. Now, meat labels have all kinds of special phrasing – words like free range, no antibiotics, natural and organic. Some people are passionate about those labels and are willing to pay more for them.
For some families, like the Manleys, the labels mean quality. “I want them to have the purest form of food they can," says K.K. Manley. She buys organic whenever she can – from vegetables to hot dogs. Her beef is grass-fed. Her chicken is free-range. But what do the terms really mean? What are we really getting?
“It's a very friendly word," says Dr. Dana Hanson, a meat extension specialist in North Carolina State University's Food Science Department. "It gives the consumer the warm, fuzzy feeling that that's a good product to consume, and certainly it is, but there really is no strict standard for what natural means.
“In a nutshell, kind of what it means is the product is minimally processed and does not use ingredients that are quote, un-natural, but that definition of natural is really in question.” adds Hanson.
“Birds are fairly social, and they'll congregate where most of the birds are,” says Hanson. “Unless you've got a large group that's going outside regularly, most of the animals will stay inside.”
Instead, a label might say "No Hormones Added." But on poultry or pork that's misleading because in the United States, neither can have added hormones. That fact must be spelled out in the label -- often it's in fine print!
All terms families like the Manleys look for. “I just feel like if it's being raised the way, it's gonna be better," says Manley.
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