Home Diet Understanding Poultry Labels – The Real Food Dietitians

Understanding Poultry Labels – The Real Food Dietitians

20 min read

Not positive which rooster is the correct rooster? Let us assist with our information to understanding poultry labels.

Chicken is rooster is rooster, proper?

Wrong. And turkeys aren’t all created equal both, which is why in the present day as a part of our Real Food 101 Series, we’re right here to make life simpler on the subject of understanding poultry labels. Knowing what issues (and what’s simply fluff) on the subject of the label will show you how to make the perfect determination for you and your loved ones when it comes time to buy.

Because we’ve obtained so much to cowl in a brief quantity of our on-line world, we’re going to focus simply on rooster and turkey, and save eggs for an upcoming publish as a result of oh my, there’s a variety of info to sift by means of on the subject of eggs.

Cracking the code on poultry labels.

  • “Antibiotic-Free”
  • “Natural”
  • “Hormone-Free”
  • “Organic”
  • “Naturally Raised”
  • “Vegetarian Fed”
  • “Pasture-Raised”

If you’ve ever picked up a bundle of rooster or turkey within the retailer and skim the label solely to be left not sure or confused as to which one is greatest, you’re not alone. We too have scratched our heads and hoped for the perfect when navigating the label lingo, however it doesn’t should be that means. Let’s take a deep dive into the phrases you’re most certainly to come across that can assist you be extra knowledgeable when it comes time to decide on high quality poultry.

Photo Credit: Jess of Plays Well with Butter

Who’s in cost on the subject of labels?

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) creates guidelines about what labels can legally seem on poultry and what they imply whereas the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) oversees how labeling is used. However, exterior of the FSIS’s glossary of phrases that may be legally used on labels, you’ll typically discover all kinds of unregulated phrases or buzzwords slapped onto packages by food producers that aren’t regulated, which might make selecting the healthiest rooster troublesome. The trick to navigating the poultry aisle is understanding what every time period means.

Chicken is chicken, right? Wrong. Understanding Poultry Labels is the first step toward choosing the best option at the store. #realfood Click To Tweet

The Perfect Chicken Breast – See the way it’s accomplished here.

These are the commonest phrases and what each actually means:

Natural Perhaps the slipperiest of slopes on the subject of food labels, the time period “natural” when used on poultry signifies that the product is freed from synthetic colours or substances and is minimally processed. The time period ‘natural’ should even be accompanied by a press release that explains the way it applies to that individual product (for instance, “No artificial flavors” or “Minimally processed.” 

“Natural,” nonetheless, says nothing concerning the high quality of the poultry – what the animals have been fed, the way it was raised and so on., so until you’re shopping for purple and inexperienced dinosaur-formed rooster nuggets (don’t snort, these have been a factor at one time) and are not sure whether or not or not they include actual rooster, the time period “natural” actually doesn’t imply something when it’s on a bundle of poultry. 

Hormone-Free or No Hormones Here’s one other ineffective declare since hormones will not be allowed for use in elevating poultry. However, you’ll nonetheless see it on labels accompanied by the assertion, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones” so purchaser beware – it is a “greenwashing” time period and means nothing.  

Antibiotic-Free or No Antibiotics This time period can solely be legally used when the producer is ready to produce important documentation to the FSIS that the rooster or turkey was in actual fact produced with out the administration of antibiotics (whether or not used to deal with sickness or used prophylactically in feed or water to forestall illness). 

Chemical-Free This time period is just not legally allowed on poultry labels. 

Easy Instant Pot Shredded Chicken
Easy Instant Pot Shredded Chicken – Get the recipe here.

Naturally Raised Until lab-created and raised poultry turns into a factor, this time period means nothing. It says nothing about how the rooster was raised – what it ate, if it had entry to the outside, room to roam, humanely-handled and so on. 

Vegetarian Fed 

While not a *unhealthy* factor to see on a poultry label, it’s additionally not tremendous useful. While “vegetarian fed” does imply that the animals weren’t fed any animal by-merchandise (which is unlawful), it might additionally imply that they weren’t given entry to the outside the place they may get pleasure from a pure a part of their eating regimen – bugs, grubs, and worms.

In the case of free-vary (or “pasture-raised”) chickens, they might be consuming bugs and grubs along with the vegetarian feed, however the one method to know is to ask the farmer or do your analysis on-line.

Free Range 

Free vary is one other frequent time period you’ll see on packages of poultry. Synonyms for “free range” embody free-roaming or cage-free. 

It’s necessary to notice that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) solely permits the time period “free-range” for use for rooster and never for eggs or different animals (similar to cattle, pigs, or sheep). For chickens to be thought of “free-range,” they will need to have entry to the outside every day for an undetermined period of time. While this is able to suggest that the birds are freely roaming in nature, absorbing the solar and consuming their pure eating regimen of grasses and bugs, there are presently no regulatory businesses overseeing this to ensure that’s really what’s taking place. That means they may spend most of their lives outside, retreating to their coop solely when climate situations warrant doing so, or they may spend their whole lives in cramped, overcrowded indoor situations with a small door that opens to the skin for only some minutes every day. The regulation solely states that they “must have daily access to the outdoors” so the one method to know the way your rooster spent its days is to ask and do your analysis. 

Humanely Raised

This time period is just not regulated by the USDA, however is as a substitute overseen by a nonprofit group known as Humane Farm Animal Care who be certain that the birds obtain sure fundamental requirements of care and are allowed (and inspired) to take part in regular poultry behaviors similar to roaming, scratching, pecking, perching, and foraging for food of their bedding.


This can also be an unregulated time period however the Humane Farm Animal Care group has established a regular that states to be “pasture-raised,” birds should be raised outside yr-spherical with entry to shelter to guard them from climate and predators.

Certified Organic

This time period is regulated by the USDA and ensures that each one feed (that the animals are fed) should be licensed natural and freed from animal by-merchandise, artificial fertilizers or pesticides or different components similar to hormones or antibiotics. USDA natural requirements additionally require that poultry should meet “free-range” standards as effectively.

Questions to ask your farmer

Whether you’re shopping for domestically or purchasing at your native grocery store, these questions can assist you discover the solutions to your questions. Don’t be afraid to achieve out by way of electronic mail, on-line contact varieties or name firms in case you don’t see the solutions to your questions on the FAQ (often requested questions) web page of their web site.

  1. Can you inform me about how the birds are raised, what they’re fed, is the feed licensed natural (or no less than, organically grown within the case of small native producers who could not be capable of afford natural certification)?
  2. Can the birds freely entry the outside each time they please? If so, how a lot area have they got to roam? Acres? Square ft? Can they really roam or are they confined to coated porches?
  3. Can you inform me concerning the health of the flock and whether or not antibiotics are used repeatedly or solely when it’s a matter of saving or enhancing the lifetime of a chicken?
  4. Are you birds raised outside yr spherical of their pure habitat and allowed to forage for bugs and so on.? Do they’ve prepared entry to shelter when wanted?

Finally, in case you’re shopping for domestically don’t be afraid to ask to go to the farm. A farmer with joyful, effectively cared for, healthy animals with good dwelling situations shall be glad to indicate you round. 

Simple + Delicious: Get 5 Easy Chicken Marinade recipes here.


Progression > Perfection

Like all issues on the subject of nutrition and health, it’s higher to be persistently good (and making progress) than inconsistently excellent (as a result of who may be excellent 100% the entire time?!) and selecting poultry or red meat.

That being mentioned, it’s necessary to consider your funds and entry to high quality poultry. If you go for the highest quality you’ll be able to supply and/or afford, as typically as doable, you’ll be effectively in your means towards making progress by way of your health and the health and welfare of the animals, farm staff, and the surroundings. Remember, your food {dollars} act as “votes” and since demand drives provide. When you vote for more healthy, extra humanely raised meat, you’re serving to transfer the needle towards a more healthy and extra sturdy food financial system. 

Looking for a handy supply of excessive-high quality rooster, beef and pork? Check out Butcher Box.

What in case you can’t supply or afford natural or pasture-raised poultry? Our suggestion is to all the time select the leanest cuts you’ll be able to. Antibiotic, hormone, and pesticide residues are all saved within the fats of the animal so by selecting leaner cuts (and never consuming the pores and skin or rendered fats), you’ll be lowering your publicity to the chemical compounds.

Want to know extra about selecting more healthy crimson meat as effectively? Check out our How to Choose Quality Red Meat publish here.


This publish could include affiliate hyperlinks which received’t change your worth however will share some fee.

About Jessica Beacom

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist dwelling in Boulder, CO together with her hubby and two daughters. She’s been described as a ‘actual food evangelist’ and loves sharing her data with others to assist them break freed from the eating regimen mentality and discover their very own food freedom. In her spare time she enjoys CrossFit, telemark snowboarding, mountain biking, educating herself methods to play the banjo and tenting out beneath the celebrities.

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