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Beef Buyer’s Guide

How to buy the healthiest beef at the grocery store.

What Labels Mean

Raised Without Antibiotics: This term indicates that the cow was raised without antibiotics for health maintenance, disease prevention or treatment of disease. Medications not classified as antibiotics may still be used.

No Hormones: Producers that show documentation that they do not use hormones in raising their cows may use this label.

Natural: One of the most widely used labels, the term means that the meat has been minimally processed and doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients or preservatives. "Natural" has absolutely nothing to do with standards of care, type and quality of feed or administration of medications.

Percent Retained Water: To control pathogens like Salmonella, producers must quickly lower the temperature of cows during processing. Most do this by immersing the slaughtered cows in a cold bath, which causes them to absorb water. The USDA requires producers to list the maximum amount of water that may be retained.

Certified Organic: This USDA-regulated term means that all feed given to cows must be certified organic, which means no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, animal by-products or other additives. Cows raised to meet certified organic standards also must have access to pasture.

Certified Humane Raised & Handled: Overseen by a nonprofit endorsed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States, this label ensures your cow received basic standards of care. For example, in conditions of extreme heat sun shades and water-cooling systems must be available to cattle. Feed must be fresh. Cattle must have sufficient room to lie down in their normal positions in a clean area.

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