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Special Reports June 2015 Issue

Meat Secrets

The USDA has specific rules governing the use of familiar terms such as “fresh” and “free range” when labeling meat and poultry products:

Fresh — Cannot be used on any product that is cured, canned, hermetically sealed shelf stable, dried or chemically preserved. “Fresh” poultry must not have been cooled below 26 degrees Fahrenheit. “Fresh” red meat cannot have been treated with a substance that delays discoloration, and “fresh” products cannot have been treated with an antimicrobial substance or irradiated. (The FDA has its own rules for “fresh” and “frozen.”)

Never frozen — Means poultry has never been below zero degrees and red meat has never been frozen.

Free-range — Indicates that the flock was provided shelter in a building, room or area with unlimited access to food, fresh water and continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle.

Cage-free — Indicates that the flock was able to freely roam a building, room or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.

Grass-fed — Animals must receive a majority of their nutrients from grass throughout their life. (Organic animals’ pasture diet may be supplemented with grain.) Does not limit the use of antibiotics, hormones or pesticides.

No added hormones or Raised without hormones — Note that federal regulations have never permitted hormones or steroids in poultry, pork or goat, so this term is merely a marketing ploy on such foods.

As for the term humane, multiple labeling programs make claims that animals were treated humanely during the production cycle, but the verification of these claims varies widely. These labeling programs are not regulated under a single USDA definition.

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