Grass fed

Grass fed

Under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, grass fed means that grass and forage are the feed source for ruminant animals (such as cattle, sheep, bison and llamas) for the duration of their life after weaning. Animals can't be fed grain or grain byproducts. They must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. Hay, silage, crop residue without grain, cereal grain crops in the pregrain stage and other roughage sources are acceptable feed.

Hormone-free

Hormone-free

Under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, this term isn't allowed on meat products. Beef may be labeled as "no hormones administered" if producers document that the animals were raised without hormones.

Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in the raising of poultry, hogs, veal calves or exotic animals not subject to USDA inspection, such as bison. Therefore, claims of "no hormones added" can't be used on labels for these products unless the label also states, "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones."

Natural

Natural

Under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, this term may be used on labeling for meat and poultry products if the product doesn't contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, or chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and if the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed. The product label must explain what is meant by natural, such as whether a food contains no added colorings. The term has no relevance to animal feeding or welfare.

Naturally raised

Naturally raised

This is a voluntary marketing claim that manufacturers can choose to use on labels of meat and meat products. This term means that livestock have been raised entirely without growth promotants and antibiotics (except for parasite control), and that they have never been fed animal or aquatic byproducts derived from the slaughter or harvest processes. If a manufacturer chooses to use this term, it must be able to provide evidence to support the claim. The term has no relevance to animal welfare.

Pasture raised

Pasture raised

This term, sometimes referred to as "access to pasture," is regulated as part of the National Organic Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Manufacturers who use this label must meet certain requirements, such as providing year-round access to the outdoors for all ruminant animals, providing them with pasture throughout the grazing season in their area and ensuring that the animals get at least 30 percent of their dry-feed intake from pasture grazing over the course of grazing season.

Vegetarian fed

Vegetarian fed

This term isn't regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is generally meant to suggest that an animal is fed a healthier diet and is raised without being fed animal byproducts or dairy products. According to the USDA, manufacturers that use this term on package labels must be able to provide evidence to support the claim.

Nov. 10, 2010 See more In-depth