What Does an “All Natural” Label Mean?
So what’s it going to be this weekend? Burgers, ribs, chicken, lamb chops, steak…the opportunities are seemingly endless (and not just for the carnivorous among us).
Equally long and daunting is the list of claims you’ll find on the meat packaging: “Non-GMO,” “No added hormones,” “Grass-fed,” “Organic” and “Antibiotic-free,” just to name a few.
While some of these terms may be new to you, we’d wager that you’ve already come across the now ubiquitous term, “all natural” (or just “natural,” for short).
“Natural” is a widely used and often misunderstood claim. What does “all natural” even mean?
We turned to Sarah Blacklin, Extension educator and program director for N.C. Choices, who has worked with meat industry professionals throughout the supply chain for more than a decade.
Watch our latest In the Kitchen segment to find the answers and discover other facts behind the “all natural” claim that will help you make better informed food decisions for you and your family!
The Meat of the Matter
While “all natural” has a legally regulated definition, there’s no requirement or process for a third-party to certify the claim (meaning no company or organization is required to audit the farm to ensure proper use of the claim). USDA approves individual claims based on documentation provided by the farm operations.
The “natural” claim can be used on any meat product that doesn’t contain artificial ingredients or added color, and is minimally processed without fundamentally altering the product.
In terms of scope, “natural” applies only to how the meat is processed after slaughter; it’s not reflective of animal welfare or factors like antibiotic or hormone use. Ultimately, all fresh meat is eligible for the “natural” label, regardless of how the animal was raised.
More Meat Label Resources
- Quick Guide to Common Label Claims (Printable PDF) – a downloadable version of the food label claims chart below.
- What Do All of These Label Claims Really Mean? (PDF) – this comprehensive guide includes definitions for many common food label claims while addressing popular consumer questions.
- Homegrown: Understanding Meat Label Claims (Video) – Sarah Blacklin discusses some of the most common meat labels found in the marketplace.
Find additional resources pertaining to label claims and niche meats on the N.C. Choices website.