When you walk through the supermarket today, it’s all too easy to get lost in the labels. Every food category has its own unique differentiators that can prove tricky to decode — especially when you’re focused on crossing off your grocery list.
It’s important to remember that these labels serve an important purpose. Groups like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) work hard to ensure the packaging you see on your favorite foods is honest. For those looking to make healthier choices or get a better understanding of what they’re eating, this is essential.
Whether you’re planning to make some swaps to your diet or just interested in learning more about pork, let’s break down some of the labels you’ll see when shopping:
No Hormones Added, No Steroids Added
No matter which pork product you purchase, you should know that legally, farmers can’t give hormones to pigs. You may also see the claim “Raised Without Growth Promotants,” which requires an additional disclaimer that the animals received a ractopamine-free diet since the use of this feed additive ractopamine is still permitted in the U.S.
In the world of pork, all-natural carries a very specific meaning. This label refers to meat that was minimally processed without artificial ingredients, chemical preservatives or colors. You may also see the term “minimal processing” used in reference to a meat product that wasn’t radically altered during processing.
USDA Process Verified
A producer can only label their products as such after a USDA auditor has made an in-person visit to their farm or facility. During this inspection, the USDA will also work to certify any additional claims the producer is making such as the diet their animals were fed or whether they used antibiotics — we’ll cover those shortly, however.
No Antibiotics Ever/No Antibiotics Administered/Raised Without Antibiotics
If you see the phrase “no antibiotics” in any form, this means that a producer has certifiably proven that their animals were never given antibiotics. This includes both through food and injection.
Fed a Vegetarian Diet
Animals who have been fed a vegetarian diet have never consumed animal byproducts and instead get their nutrients from foods like corn, soybeans and wheat. Companies who make this claim are required to prove this through proper documentation.
Animal Welfare / Care
Many producers have their own internal certification stands, however, some also work to align themselves with the guidance of third-party animal-welfare programs such as “Animal Welfare Approved,” “Global Animal Partnership (GAP),” “Certified Humane” and “American Humane Association Certified.”
Each of these labels carries its own unique meaning, however, they typically include high standards for how animals are housed, weaned and cared for. To find more information about the product and claim you’re looking at, you always learn more by going to the company’s website or the certification provider’s.
Start cooking with pork
In addition to the labels we covered, you may also hear pork referred to as the “other white meat.” This is because it can be a great source of lean protein that’s delicious and easy to cook. Now that you’re officially fluent in all things pork, you’re ready to navigate the grocery store like a pro.
If you’re in need of ideas on how to prep and serve your own pork dishes, look no further for some cooking inspiration.