New Guidelines Set by USDA for Meat Labels


The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released clarification on its requirements for accuracy in labeling of meat and poultry products. The guidelines outline the needed documentation to support label claims.

An Agri-Pulse report says the Food Safety and Inspection Service says the only way beef can be labeled “grass-fed” is if they fed on grass or forage 100 percent of the time after they were weaned. Because cattle would then have to have access to pasture until slaughter, they can’t ever be put into a feedlot.

Products that come from animals with less than 100 percent access to grass or forage before slaughter can’t use the term grass-fed. The only way that can happen is if the label makes it clear that at least some of the animal’s dietary needs came from grain. As an example, the report says an acceptable label could be “Made from cows that are fed 85 percent grass and 15 percent corn.”

The guidance that came out late last week also says certified organic products can be labeled legally as “raised without antibiotics” or “no added hormones.” No documentation would be required as long as the farm that produced the livestock, as well as the processor, are certified organic under USDA standards.

The agency also said that it would allow non-organic products to be labeled as having been produced without the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics, but only if there is an explanation of what that means. For example, the label could read that the products come “from animals that do not receive antibiotics on a daily basis; animals only receive antibiotics in the treatment of illness.”

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition welcomed the clarification saying, “This is an important update for organic producers that will streamline their operations by reducing unnecessary duplicative paperwork, and one for which NSAC strongly advocated.”

Click here to read the updated guidelines.


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