Unpacking The Meat Label: What It Means and How to Read It
Being a conscious consumer isn’t easy when you don’t understand what you’re reading on a product label. Meat labels can be especially confusing. When looking at a wall of dozens of products, how do you choose the right one?
To really know what you’re feeding your family, you need to understand the types of statements and claims that are made on a meat label. This will help you find the best quality products and make the right decisions about the food you purchase.
We want to make this easier for you by breaking down everything you may see on a meat label, and what it all means.
What Common Meat Label Statements Mean
Meat labels can be packed with claims and statements about the quality of a product and its ingredients. Americans are more concerned with understanding where their meat comes from than they’ve ever been, so companies like Coleman Natural provide this information clearly on every product label.
Here are a few common terms you’ll see on a meat label and what they mean:
Raised in the USA
“Raised in the USA” means the meat was sourced from animals born and raised in the United States, never imported from overseas. Coleman Natural sources all of its meat from independent American family farms.
Made in the USA
“Made in the USA” means the end product was processed and manufactured in the USA. This does not necessarily mean that all of the ingredients are domestic. For example, a hot dog may be processed in the U.S., but the beef may be imported.
Cured and Uncured
“Cured” products are preserved with artificial preservatives, and “uncured” products are preserved only with naturally occurring nitrates in ingredients such as sea salt and cultured celery powder. All Coleman Natural products are uncured.
By USDA standards, the claim “no antibiotics” means that animals are not fed or treated with antibiotics during their life. This refers to all antibiotics, including medically important antibiotics, and those that could contribute to resistance in humans. The meat you purchase from Coleman Natural never comes from animals that have been given antibiotics at any time in their life.
No Added Hormones
The claim “no added hormones” means that animals have not been given extra hormones during their life. Although the USDA states that added hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry, growth promotants are nutrition supplements that can be added to animal feed to assist with muscle development. Coleman Natural promises that there are never hormones or growth promotants used in the raising of animals they source for their meat.
Always do additional research into a brand’s statements to see for yourself what a claim means to them. Simple packaging, like that on Coleman Natural products, makes it easy to track down all of this information. You can read about our product claims on our website.
Breaking Down Certifications
Meat producers use different third-party authorities to certify the claims they make about their products as an added layer of trust for shoppers.
Some certifications indicate that meat is free of additives and artificial ingredients, and others indicate that animals were treated humanely.
According to a national survey by American Humane, more than 9 in 10 consumers are concerned about farm animal welfare and look for humane certification labels on their food and meat labels.
Coleman Natural products, for example, are labeled American Humane Certified™. This means that hog farmers must meet at least 200 scientific standards for humane animal care. The American Human certification is based on the Five Freedoms, a worldwide measure of animal care that “goes beyond the basics of food, water, shelter, and health to include freedom from distress and the freedom to express normal behaviors.”
If you ever see an unfamiliar certification, do your research. Find out more about the certifying body giving the certification to ensure their practices and standards align with your values and expectations for the meat you feed your family.
Watch Out for These Red Flags
When reading a meat label, there are a few red flags you can look for to avoid low quality products.
First, pay attention to the ingredients list. Ingredients or preservatives with names you can’t pronounce may be chemical additives. Scan for anything artificial, from artificial coloring to artificial sweeteners. The ingredients should look like real food.
Second, avoid processed meat products that are not 100% a single protein, unless it is clearly stated as a combination product containing multiple proteins such as beef and pork. Fillers of other proteins are often added to meat products to bulk them up and lower the cost of production. These fillers may be low quality meat products or plant-derived binders such as soy lecithin.
Third, be wary of meat labels that contain little to no information about how animals are raised, or about the use of hormones and other stimulants. This information should be easy to identify on a meat label; if it’s not, you might want to steer clear. We put this information on all Coleman Natural packaging, front and center.
What You’ll See on the Coleman Natural Label
So what should you look for on a meat label? You want to see that a product is all-natural.
Sarah Findle, Director of Marketing & Communications at Coleman Natural, explains that although “natural” is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as minimally-processed and containing no artificial ingredients, Coleman Natural takes this several steps further, and has done so since the USDA began regulating what products could be labeled natural.
In fact, Mel Coleman, Sr., worked with the USDA to sell the first “natural” beef based on the animal being raised without antibiotics or growth promotants. Today, the USDA requirement is much less stringent, but Coleman Natural continues to hold to the highest standards of animal raising practices.
- No Antibiotics Ever – you’ll never be eating meat that comes from an animal that was treated with antibiotics at any point in its life.
- No Added Hormones – we let our animals grow naturally without the help of growth hormones or promotants.
- Raised in the USA – our livestock are raised by American family farmers.
- Crate Free – our hogs don’t spend any portion of their lives in crates and are free to interact with each other and their piglets as nature intended.
You can advocate for the causes you care about by being intentional about the meat you purchase. Coleman Natural uses ingredients you can feel good about feeding your family.