Your Guide to Meat Labels

PHOTO: This year, the USDA began requiring nutrition labels on meat.
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This year, the USDA began requiring nutrition labels on meat. But some of the language can still be confusing. This guide can help:

Natural

All fresh meat qualifies as natural, as it doesn't contain additives and is not more than minimally processed, which is what the USDA requires, so this phrase is useless.

Organic

The USDA's criteria state that foods cannot contain hormones or antibiotics, and the animals must have been fed a vegetarian, pesticide-and herbicide-free diet without genetically modified sources or animal byproducts, and had continuous access to pasture.

Grass-Fed

Nearly all cattle are fed grass at some point in their lives, so this term is virtually meaningless. If you want beef from cows that grazed exclusively on grass for their entire lives, look for the American Grassfed label, which requires that animals were raised on pasture and have never been confined, fed grain, or given antibiotics or hormones.

The Benefits Of Grass-fed Beef

Pasture-Raised

While there is no specific pasture-raised certification, animals raised this way can roam freely in their natural environment. Certified organic meat must come from pasture-raised animals.

Certified Angus Beef

Nearly 65 percent of cattle are black-hided and receive the Angus stamp, but only 25 percent of Angus-influenced cattle actually meet Certified Angus Beef standards, which are the criteria that truly make a cut of beef the best quality.

rBGH-Free or rBST-Free

Signifies that the product came from cows that were not treated with a genetically engineered growth hormone that artificially increases milk production but which may cause health problems in humans.

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