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What is Natural beef?

According to the USDA, "Natural" may be used on the label when products contain "no artificial ingredients and are no more than minimally processed."  In effect, all fresh meat in the USA qualifies as “Natural” under the current USDA definition.  As a result producers and marketers who use this label try to further define what they in particular mean by “Natural”.  Most in the general public link in their mind the idea that natural meats are raised without the use of antibiotics and synthetic hormones.  Since these product attributes help to define what that particular producer means by “Natural” the sharp consumer needs to look for their inclusion on the label.  Unless a label specifies that it is produced without using antibiotics or synthetic hormones, which are additional claims under AMS/FSIS rules, then I think the consumer should assume that the product was raised including both.

In my opinion, the term “natural” has been so abused in marketing to consumers seeking healthier and safer food choices that it is now meaningless.  The consumer cannot take the leap of faith that “Natural” means all the warm fuzzies of antibiotic and hormone free, cattle raised on open pastures rather than in pens and produced by family farms.  “Natural” is without meaning, so look on the label for verification of what is meant by the term.  The USDA/AMS also offers a process verified program to show that the product has been checked out and the claim verified as truth.  This is evidenced by the USDA process verified shield.

Posted by Patti on August 28, 2007

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