Decoding Meat + Dairy Product Labels

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

I subscribe to the Environmental Working Group’s Newsletter, as they provide interesting information and are always fighting to bring about change for a healthier planet.

Recently they sent out a report on how your food choices affect the environment. Now I didn’t agree with some of the information in the report, but there was a lot of top-notch info in there.

In particular they had a report titled Decoding Meat + Dairy Product Labels.

This report provided definitions for all of those label claims you see and don’t eactly understand. Here are a few of the usual suspects:

Cage-free: The term refers to hens that are not raised in cages, but it does not necessarily mean they have access to the outdoors. There is no standard definition of “cage-free,” but it generally implies that the birds are free to perform natural behaviors. Many cage-free claims are not certified, though some cage-free eggs are certified by American Humane Certified label.

Free-range: In the United States, this term applies only to poultry and is regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. It indicates simply that the animals have been “allowed access to the outside.” The USDA does not specify the quality or size of the outside range nor the duration of time an animal must have access to the outside.

Natural: The USDA defines a natural product as one that contains “no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.” Processing must not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a specific explanation such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed.” All fresh meat qualifies as natural. This term does not include any requirements that animals be raised in sufficient open space or that it has no added hormones or antibiotic; it is not the same as organic. The term can mislead consumers to think that the product is healthier and more humane than it is.

There are many more definitions like this, and from this report you can look at a lot of other interesting data, so check it out!

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Posted on July 19th, 2011 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. Darcy Says:


    This is a great post! I am always trying to make an informed decision as a consumer and sometimes all these terms- natural, organic, grass-fed, wild-caught, etc.- can be so confusing! Thanks again for posting such a useful reference!

    Hope all is well with the family:-)

  2. Ayoob Says:

    Joe – These aren’t gyavaweis that EVERYONE receives – rather there will be a raffle and by attending you have the chance to win these items. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.Pat’s seminar will be held at IFAST as well, just on the Friday before the other two seminars.MR

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