Meat Labels and Antibiotics - What do they mean?

Buying antibiotic free meat is important to your own health and the world's health. We wrote an article on the topic of farm animals and antibiotic resistance. If you have not read it, check it out: Superbugs, Antibiotic Resistance, and Farm Animals . Pediatricians are also warning about feeding factory farmed meat to children due to the superbug threat.

Shopping for antibiotic free meat is a challenge and the labels in grocery stores can be misleading. In an article on, some of the labeling is explained.

Organic: If mean has an organic label, it has to be certified by the USDA and antibiotics are not allowed. If an animal gets sick and needs antibiotics, the organic label cannot be used. The one exception is that the USDA allows injections of antibiotics for 1-day-old chicks and into eggs that will become chickens.

No Antibiotics/Raised without Antibiotics: This label can only be trusted if it has the USDA Process Verified shield. If this is not on the package then there is no formal monitoring and consumers could easily be mislead. Producers have to request to use the shield in order to actually get monitored by the USDA. This request includes documentation from the meat producer explaining their processes.

GAP Steps 1-5: This is a label provided by the Global Animal Partnership. It includes third-party certification. No antibiotics have been used. The Global Animal Partnership has an extensive explanation of their rating system and their food producing partners. It is worth looking at it.

Animal Welfare Approved: This label means that antibiotics cannot be used in a preventative way or to promote growth. However sick animals can be treated with antibiotics.

American Humane Association: This label means that animals cannot be given antibiotics to speed growth. They can be given as a preventative medicine however.

Grassfed: This label alone doesn't specifically address antibiotics. If the label says "American Grassfed Association," you can be assured antibiotics have not been used. There is a verification process in place.

Natural or All Natural: This label is not synonymous with organic. It means nothing really related to antibiotic use. According to the USDA, natural just means a product is minimally processed and does not contain artificial colors or ingredients.

No Hormones: This doesn't mean anything related to antibiotics. According to the USDA, hormones are not allowed in the production of hogs or poultry.


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