We’re getting accustomed to seeing new terms pop up on the packaging of our food. In the last decade or so we saw the proliferation of natural, then organic, then all-natural and healthy labeling. We’ve learned that some of these terms, such as certified organic, are strictly regulated. Others, such as healthy, wholesome, or good for you, aren’t regulated at all.
I wanted to help demystify some of the most common and important terms we’re seeing in relation to meat and dairy, according to regulations spelled out by the USDA AMS (United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service), and other legitimate 3rd party certifiers. All the rest is marketing language potentially without substance.
Confirm What You Hear
I’ve heard an old adage that goes something like,
noble are those who receive a message with eagerness, but examine the word to see whether it is so,
and I believe it holds true today. We need to be careful about what we read and what we believe. I recently received a well-meaning article warning against misleading grass fed claims. The writer asserted that the grass fed regulations have changed, unbeknownst to the general public, and that a “grass finished” claim is more legitimate than “grass fed.”As is my usual practice, I searched and searched, but in this case could find no evidence to back his claim.
That sent me on a short tirade. I’ve provided here 5 livestock related terms, definitions and information sources to hopefully make it easier for you to be and stay in the know on what you’re eating. If you have disagreements or better information, please mention in the comments. Our goal is always and only to say what is true and do what is right.
Terms and Conditions
1. Natural vs. Naturally Raised Beef
The designation USDA certified “natural” denotes that the meat contains no artificial additives such as colors, flavors or preservatives, and refers entirely to the meat processing after butchering. “Natural” does not mean that the cow was raised naturally. It refers only to food processing.