Do you get confused when you go to the grocery store and look in the meat case? What does fresh, natural, no hormones or antibiotics, organic, or certified really mean?
These definitions come from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) which oversee labeling of meat and meat products. The FSIS is responsible for accuracy and truthfulness in labeling of meat and poultry products. Grades of meat are not included in this list as many stores only carry one grade of meat. Different stores may carry different grades of meat, so if you shop more than one store you may find the meat in some stores of higher quality than in other stores.
First, we will look at terms you see on poultry products:
· Fresh means the poultry has never been below 26°F, which is the temperature at which poultry will freeze. Fresh poultry should always have the statement “Keep refrigerated” on the label.
· Never Frozen means the poultry has never been at zero degrees.
· Natural means it contains no artificial ingredients or added color and is minimally processed. If natural is used, the label should have a statement as to its meaning.
· No Hormones stated on the label is prohibited by law unless it is followed by a statement explaining “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.” In other words they can’t use hormones to raise any type of poultry.
· No Antibiotics can be used on the label if the grower provides sufficient documentation to the USDA demonstrating they raised the poultry without antibiotics.
· Cage-Free means the bird was not caged and could roam in a building or enclosed area.
· Free Range or Free Roaming means the producers have provided the USDA with documentation that the poultry was allowed access to the outside.
· Fryer-Roaster Turkey is a young, immature turkey less than 16 weeks of age of either sex.
· Young Turkey is a turkey less than eight months of age of either sex.
· Hen or Tom Turkey designates sex of the turkey. Hen is female, and tom is male.
Beef and Pork Terms
· Fresh red meat cannot have been irradiated or treated with a substance that delays changes in color or with an antimicrobial substance. Fresh has to be a product that has not been canned, cured, dried or chemically preserved.
· Grass-Fed meat has to have come from animals that received most of their nutrients from grass during their life-time. This does not limit the use of hormones, antibiotics or pesticides.
· No Added Hormones or Raised without Hormones can be on the label if the producers of the beef products provide sufficient documentation showing no hormones were used in raising the beef animals. Hormones are not allowed by law to be used in raising hogs.
· Certified means the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Agriculture Marketing Service have evaluated a meat product for grade, class or other quality characteristics, such as “Certified Angus Beef.”
· Lean meat has to have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5 ounce serving.
· Extra Lean meat cannot have more than 5 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5 ounce serving.
· No Antibiotics or “no antibiotics added’ can be used on a label if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency assuring the animals were raised without antibiotics.
· Natural assures that the meat has only been minimally processed with no artificial ingredients or added color. The label needs to explain the meaning of the term natural, such as “no artificial ingredients.”
· Humane is a word not defined by a USDA definition and not regulated. Verification can vary widely.
· Kosher can only be used on meat products prepared under rabbinical supervision.
· Halal and Zabiah Halal products have been handled according to Islamic law and under Islamic authority.
All these terms can leave us confused and not sure what is the best product for our money. Use this list to make yourself aware of what terms you feel are important for yourself and your family. You may want to write them on your grocery list or make a list on your phone, which you can use at the store when you shop.
Pat Brinkman is the Ohio State University Extension Educator for Family & Consumer Sciences. CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clients on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information: go.osu.edu/cfaesdiversity.