If you're anything like me, you want to make sure that the meat you buy is of good quality and properly raised. Most of the time we eat poultry, and very rarely red meat or beef. After checking into some of the labeling that's out there, it wasn't too hard to decide to raise our own. Here is what I found:
Animal Care Certified
Beware! This label is sponsored by United Egg Producers - "animal care" seems of little concern to the authors of the label guidelines. They include allowing hens to be caged in an area smaller than a sheet of copy paper for their entire lives.
This label guarantees that chickens were not restrained in cages, but it does not guarantee that they spent any time outdoors.
For poultry producers to legally use the "Free Range" label, the USDA requires that their animals be allowed free access to the outdoors for a "significant portion" of each day. The problem with the law is that "significant portion" is not defined. The label guarantees only that for some undefined portion of each day a door was left open, but does not guarantee animals ever made it outside. To find out if the label on your poultry products has meaning, you'll need to call the producer and ask them for specifics on their rearing practices.
This label is administered by the American Humane Association and testifies that dairy cows, chickens, cattle and hogs are raised humanely and under healthy living conditions.
Natural (meat and poultry)
The USDA permits any product containing no artificial ingredient or added color, and that is only minimally processed, to be labeled "Natural."
No Antibiotics Used or Raised Without Antibiotics
These terms may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the USDA demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics. Heavy antibiotic use on factory farms causes more strains of drug-resistant bacteria which are transferred to humans who eat treated animals. As a result, antibiotics used to combat human diseases are becoming ineffective. Animals raised under less crowded and healthier conditions do not need excessive antibiotics to avoid disease.
Does it really matter how the meat you buy is raised and reared? Of course it does.
I think Leo Tolstoy said it very well: "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
Something to think about.