What is Organic Meat?

Question:

What is organic meat?

Answer:

We talked before about what organic means for grocery products in general, but now this term and many others are showing up on meats. Let’s take a closer look into the term “organic” and discover what it actually means when speaking specifically about meat.

organic meat

What is Organic Meat?

Organic Meat Labels

Lots of labels are placed on meats. Some are verified by the USDA and some are discretionary per the processor. Learn about all of the different possible labels in order to determine which ones make a personal difference to you when making a meat purchase.

  • Organic:
    The USDA has specific guidelines, and they also enforce these guidelines, before the organic label is allowed to used on a package of meat.
    This one means what it says – the animals were raised without any antibiotics or hormones and in such a way that promotes their “natural behavior”. When beef is labeled organic, it means that the cows were allowed to graze.
    If you are willing to pay more for your beef, this is the best option out of the entire list of meat label options. The package will contain this label.


  • organic meat


  • Antibiotic-free:
    There are also USDA rules here, but… they are not enforced unless the company pays for an audit.
    If the producer actually did pay for the audit, then the label would also include the words “USDA process verified”.


  • Grass Fed:
    The meat label must contain the American Grassfed Association seal to certify that the animals were fed grass, and this certification comes through a process within the association. This meat contains more Omega-3s and less fat because the animals were fed grass.
    The USDA withdrew its certification of grass fed animals in 2016, meaning that they no longer provide certification of this label.

    [1].


  • grass fed meat


  • Hormone-free:
    The USDA does not allow the use of hormones with chickens or pigs, so this label means nothing extra if it is printed on a chicken or pork label. But, hormones are allowed to be given to cows.
    So, on a package of beef the words “hormone-free” would mean that the cattle were not given any hormones. [2]


  • Humanely raised:
    There are no USDA standards here, but non-profit groups will provide their logos if the quality of life and slaughtering process is approved by them and their standards.
    Look for “Animal Welfare Approved”, “Global Animal Partnership” or “Certified Humane” if this option is important.



  • Free-range:
    This means that chickens are allowed out of the pen, but doesn’t necessarily mean that the animals actually wander outside of that pen. See our post on free range eggs for more information on this option.


  • Natural
    This one is meaningless when placed on a package of meat since none of the unprocessed meat sold in America contains artificial ingredients anyways – meat is meat!
  • What is Organic Meat?

    Additional Info

    Other posts that pertain to the organic label include how to read food labels.

    Here’s more on the “humanely raised” label from the ASPCA.

    To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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