Meat Labels Explained

There are sooooo many terms than just “organic” labeled on meat now. But what does it all mean???

I’m gonna help break it down for you….

A USDA inspection seal means that your food meets certain quality standards and has been inspected by USDA employees or company employees under USDA supervision to rank its quality. – But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy at all! Your meat could be locked in a cage, fed nothing but synthetic hormones, and never see sunlight and can still be classified as USDA approved.

Processed meat is meat that has been preserved by curing, smoking, drying, or canning. Sausage, salami, bacon, hot dogs, deli meat, etc.

Unprocessed meat is any meat that is red when raw, that hasn’t been through the preservative process. Chicken, Beef, lamb, pork, etc.



Non-GMO (genetically modified) means animals were not fed a diet containing genetically engineered crops.

Grass-fed meat comes from animals that have only grazed on grass. The type of grass varies depending on climate and region.

Grain-fed meat comes from animals that are fed grass for part of their lives (variable duration) and then given a grain-based diet for the remainder, depending on market requirements and seasonal conditions.

The biggest difference between the grass and grain is that grass-fed meat has a higher concentration of desirable omega-3 fats and potentially fat-soluble vitamins A and E.


Living conditions:

Cage free means that animals are raised without cages, but it tells you nothing about any other living conditions. For instance, cage-free eggs could come from birds raised indoors in overcrowded spaces at large factory farms.

Pasture-raised means that animals spent at least some time outdoors on pasture, feeding on grass or forage. However, there are no government standards for how much of its life the animal spent on pasture.

Free-range is completely misleading… The label can be used if the animal had any access to the outdoors each day for some unspecified period of time; it could be just a few minutes, and does not assure that the animal ever actually went outdoors to roam freely.



Hormone-free or No-added-hormones mean that the animal received no synthetic hormones. But Hormone-free labels do not disclose what the animals were fed or if they had access to pasture.

Antibiotic-free means that the animal received no antibiotics to promote growth or treat disease over its lifetime. Also, antibiotic-free labels do not disclose what the animals were fed or if they had access to pasture. BUT If an animal receives antibiotics for any reason, its meat, milk or eggs cannot be labeled “certified organic.”


Conclusion: The BEST options are going to be Non-Gmo, Grass-fed, pasture-raised, hormone-free and antibiotic-free. It’s quite a mouth full and not always easy to find, so try to choose meats that have meet the mark for majority of these categories. If you’re missing 1-2, its okay- you’re still picking the better option than if you were choosing the regular USDA approved (which means literally NOTHING)!

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