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Meat Labeling Terms – What do They Mean? Part 3: No-added Hormones, No Antibiotics, and Humanely Raised

April 3, 2014
Beef Meat
Meat is a nutrient dense food product. Specifically, beef is a good source of protein, zinc, B vitamins, iron, and other essential nutrients.   

 By: Lindsay Chichester, UNL Extension Educator

This is Part 3 of a three part series that will provide information on meat labeling terms. Part 1 covered Grass-fed and Grain-fed and Part 2 covered Organic, All-natural, and Naturally Raised.

Meat is a nutrient dense food product. Specifically, beef is a good source of protein, zinc, B vitamins, iron, and other essential nutrients!

How many times have you been grocery shopping or watching your favorite television program and you see and/or hear that no-added hormones is better? Or that you should be consuming "no antibiotics" meat? It can be confusing, overwhelming, and frustrating – who do you trust? Below I will provide you with the facts and truth, as well as resources to do some homework of your own.

No-added Hormones

All cellular organisms contain hormones, they are naturally occurring – there is no such thing as hormone free! When something is labeled "hormone free" or "no hormones", it is a misnomer (as they are naturally occurring). The correct wording should be "no-added hormones", "raised without added hormones", "no hormones administered", or "no synthetic hormones".

Hormones are NOT allowed in hog, poultry, or bison production. The statement "no hormones added" CANNOT be used on any packaging for pork and/or poultry items, unless it is followed by a statement that says "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in poultry/pork", so as not to mislead consumers into believing that these meat protein products were grown with additional hormones.

For other meat production animals, the term "no hormones administered" may be approved for use on the label if there is sufficient documentation indicating the producer has raised the animal without additional hormones.

Labels indicating that no additional hormones were used can be used in any of the previously mentioned systems – organic, all-natural, naturally raised, grass-fed, grain-fed (organic and naturally raised are the only systems that do not allow for the use of additional hormones). These labels do not account for the diet of the animal, access to pasture, or how the meat was processed.

No Antibiotics

Is also referred to as "raised without antibiotics" or "no antibiotics administered". The term "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat and/or poultry products if the producer can provide sufficient documentation indicating the animal was raised without antibiotics. This indicates that no antibiotics were used on the animal in its lifetime. Antibiotics are used to prevent and treat disease in animals – just like in humans. If an animal does have to be treated with an antibiotic for illness, the meat, milk, and/or eggs cannot be sold in an organic or naturally raised system and cannot have a label with the wording "raised without antibiotics".

Labels indicating that no antibiotics were used can be used in any of the previously mentioned systems – organic, all-natural, naturally raised, grass-fed, grain-fed (organic and naturally raised are the only systems that do not allow for the use of additional hormones). The no antibiotic labels do not account for the diet of the animal, access to pasture, or how the meat was processed.

When trying to decide which meat option is best for you, it is important to purchase meats that support your values and beliefs, as well as meats that fit into your budget. Shopping around is always advisable too. You have many options when it comes to purchasing meat, you may be able to purchase meat directly from a producer, a small or local butcher shop, your local retailer, or a bulk retailer. Finally, you may decide you prefer the taste of one of the meat types over another, and purchase based on taste and your family preference.

Humanely Raised

It can be difficult finding a clear and accurate definition of "humanely raised". A list of possible criterion that a livestock producer would need to provide to his/her livestock to be considered "humanely raised" has been generated below from several sources.

Humanely raised can be:

- Produced in an ethical and humane fashion

- Raised with minimal stress

- Access to ample feed and water

- No antibiotics

- No additional hormones

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