Pasture Raised

What it means: This claim is not defined by the USDA. The term suggests that the animal was raised outside or on pasture, but because there is no legal definition of this term, it can mean what the producer suggests it does.

Required: No.

Free Roaming

What it is: This term has only been defined by the USDA for poultry products. When used by a producer for another type of meat, the term usually means something similar to the definition used for poultry, but does not need to conform to that standard.

Required: No.

Grass Fed, 100% Grass Fed, Grass Finished

What it means: If a USDA-inspected producer wants to use this term, the agency must first verify the claim. The USDA will allow the use of the term if the producer can show that the animals received a majority of their nutrients from grass throughout their life.104 This claim does not ensure that the animal was pastured, as it can be considered grass fed while confined but receiving grass or forage for feed.

Required: No.

Organic

What it means: This term means that a product has been produced according to the standards in the Organics Foods Production Act (OFPA).105 Generally, a producer will not be able to use this term unless they or their supplier are certified as organic by the USDA under the National Organics Program.106 Basically, organic production limits the use of artificial chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other inputs, as well as genetic engineering. For more information about the specific organic standards for meat, please see our additional resources page.

Required:

Irradiated

What this means: This means that the meat has been exposed to radiant energy in order to reduce or eliminate bacteria with the goal of making it safer and more resistant to spoilage. The FDA requires that foods which have been subject to irradiation, be labeled as such.

Required: Yes.

Born and raised in Mexico, slaughtered in the USA

What this means: This claim means the meat was born and raised in Mexico, then shipped to the United States for processing. Prior to the new USDA rules addressing country of origin labeling, the producer could have listed the country of origin as the United States because the meat was processed there. Now, producers must include information about the animal’s production from birth to slaughter.

Required: Yes.

Hormone Free

What this means: Unlike poultry and pork, this claim can be used on beef. It may be approved by the USDA if “sufficient documentation” is provided to the agency showing no hormones were used in the raising of the animal.107