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How to Decipher Beef Labels

photo: courtesy Meat & Livestock Australia
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While the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed cattle would appear to be a simple distinction, the labeling on packages can be confusing. Consumers need to be wary of some grass-fed beef claims and to dig a little deeper. Labels that identify beef as “grass-fed” don’t always tell the whole story, and claims such as pasture-raised, grass-finished, and natural are sometimes
misused.

One type of label you’ll commonly see on some animal products is a certification or approval from an animal welfare advocacy group or a natural beef cooperative —a useful signal if you’re looking for more responsibly farmed products. The three labels you’re likely to see are “GAP-Certified,” “Certified Humane,” and “Animal Welfare Approved.” Note: The USDA used to have an official certification program for grass-fed cattle. However, it was removed in 2016. Now, if any rancher wishes to label their meat as grass-fed, grass-finished, or 100% grass fed, they must submit an affidavit to the USDA.

An Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) or Certified Humane seal certifies that the animals were treated humanely, while the USDA Organic seal verifies that the beef was produced in compliance with the federal National Organic Program regulations.

To ensure that your beef is 100 percent grass-fed and -finished, look for certifications from organizations like True Aussie Beef and the American Grass Fed Association.

 

 

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