Stop Deceptive Labeling of "Natural" Meat

Have you noticed how confusing meat labels have become? What does "naturally raised" or "natural" mean when applied to a side of beef?

Well, not much, as it turns out. Yet the federal government is about to approve the use of the term "naturally raised" -- even though it doesn't mean that the animal was physically unaltered, able to roam freely, or graze on pasture. It will mean it didn't get growth promoters, although there is no verification of even that more limited claim. The existing term "natural" only means that no artificial ingredients were added during processing.

Instead of these meaningless and misleading terms, the USDA should allow only specific, understandable claims, like "no artificial ingredients added," "no antibiotics ever administered" or "no hormones ever used."

Tell the USDA that the current "natural" and proposed "naturally raised" labels on meat are deceptive; fall significantly short of consumer expectations; will only add to marketplace confusion; and should be withdrawn.

Dear Mr. O'Connor,

I urge you to withdraw the "naturally-raised" label standard [Docket No. AMS-LS-07-0131; LS-07-16] that would only add to the current marketplace confusion and deception around "natural" labels on meat. The proposed standard falls significantly short of consumer expectations and does not include basic tenets of raising animals in the true natural sense such as the ability to roam freely, graze on pasture, be unconfined and be physically unaltered. The standard also only applies to some but not all meat products. These factors seriously undermine the intent of proposing a "naturally-raised" claim.

While the proposed standards address some meaningful production practices such as prohibiting the use of all antibiotics, growth promoters (including hormones), and animal byproducts, they should be specifically labeled on a product and not shrouded as "naturally-raised," which consumers expect to mean more. By the same token, the current "natural" claim should be replaced with what it really stands for, "no artificial ingredients added during meat processing."

I understand that the intent in proposing this standard was to minimize confusion around "natural" meat labels. However, this proposal does exactly the opposite. Please minimize the marketplace confusion by withdrawing these proposed standards and only allow specific and meaningful claims to be used instead that would apply to all meat products. This is the approach that will add clarity and meaning to the marketplace and allow me to spend my dollars more effectively to get the value that I am seeking.


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