Other Labels on Meat Packages
In addition to the labels outlined in previous sections, the following are some labels that are commonly placed on animal products:
Meat that has been stamped with this label has been “evaluated” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture “for class, grade, or other quality characteristics.”
This label is used on beef to indicate that the cows ate a diet of grass—what cows would naturally eat—instead of the unnatural and unhealthy grain diets that most cows are fed in order to fatten them up before slaughter. Although cows surely suffer less when they’re allowed to eat grass (grain diets can lead to liver abscesses, constant digestive pain, and death), grass-fed cows are still subjected to mutilations without the use of painkillers and are often killed in the same slaughterhouses as cows from factory farms. The grass-fed beef industry also threatens fragile ecosystems by pounding down the earth and stripping it of most of the plant life in the areas where the cattle graze, all of which leads to erosion.
Use of this label is permitted if the product contains “no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed.” The animals used for these products might still have been treated with antibiotics or, in the case of cattle, hormones. According to farmer Amiel Cooper, “Natural is a virtually meaningless word [when applied to animal products].”
This label can be used on beef and poultry products, provided that the producer supplies “sufficient documentation … that the animals were raised without antibiotics.” Farms with no antibiotic policies have been known to kill animals or sell or transfer them to ‘conventional’ farms when they fall ill from cramped, filthy conditions.
This label applies only to beef. Since hormones are not supposed to be given to pigs, chickens, or turkeys, pork and poultry products cannot legally be tagged with this label without the disclaimer, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”
None of these labels indicates that the welfare of the animals they are applied to was regulated in any way.