The USDA’s Misuse of the “Natural” Meat Label

Concerned consumers are faced with a multitude of choices when shopping for food, particularly when it comes to deciphering labels on animal products.

A 2007 survey by Public Opinion Strategies found that 58 percent of consumers would spend an additional 10 percent or more for meat, poultry, eggs or dairy products with a humane label.

The “natural” label would seem comparable to “humane” and “organic,” which may lead many to the conclusion that products with this label fall under the same USDA guidelines, and may also conjure up images of animals who are given the opportunity to express their natural behaviors, spend most of their time outside and are given natural feed, along with limited use of antibiotics or other drugs.

Unfortunately, there aren’t really any guidelines for farmers when it comes to labeling their products as “natural,” which should make us wonder whether these labels hold any weight, or if this is just another way to get consumers to pay more for a product that comes from animals raised just as they would be on any other factory farm, as we saw with the truth behind the “cage-free” label.

In 2007, Farm Sanctuary petitioned the USDA “to consider the treatment and living conditions of farm animals when creating rules allowing producers to label their meat and poultry products as “natural.”

Farm Sanctuary’s petition to the agency is requesting that “the term “natural” should reflect what consumers understand to be “natural” conditions, and a nationwide survey reveals that 73 percent of consumers think it is inappropriate to label as “natural” meat from animals who are constantly kept indoors, confined in crowded cages, and forced to stand all day, every day on metal and concrete floors.”

Two years later, the USDA is finally accepting comments from the public on the matter until November 13th.

Please take a moment to tell the USDA to change its labeling guidelines to reflect the ways that animals are raised.

For more information on food labels, visit The Truth Behind the Labels


creative commons


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

pierluigi bonatesta

Go vegan!

Mike R.
Mike R.8 years ago

I raise beef cattle on family ranch and am contemplating using the words "all natural" on the label.we take every step to care for the land and treat the cattle humanely.I would like people to trust and believe that extra care does go into producing a healthy product.I am all for stricter guidelines for the word "natural"on the label,as our practices go above the standards.I would like to add there are alot more ranchers and farmers out who do care about what you eat,just visit your local farmers market.

Deborah B.
Deborah B8 years ago

The public simply does not understand that the "natural" or "all natural" label on ANY product is meaningless and essentially a ploy to entice the consumer into purchasing it. There is also such a thing as "all natural sewage sludge". We are not just talking about humane methods of raising healthy animals for food consumption. I am vegan.

Sarah D.
Sarah D8 years ago

"This one's easy, GO VEGAN!!!"

No it's not easy. If you did your research, you'd know that a vegan diet isn't suitable for everyone.

Fine if you want to be a vegan, but don't force your beliefs/lifestyle on others, and don't guilt others to be vegan.

Brad King
Brad King8 years ago

There aren't any real guidelines on the definition of "humane" either, although your article seems to suggest that there are.

So B.
So B8 years ago

This one's easy, GO VEGAN!!!

Lynda K.
Lynda K8 years ago

Profit and Power. As long as both of these are the main reason behind anything, nothing will be Humane.
I would advise everyone to watch, or at least listen to the 95 minute Dokumentry called It is something that noone wants to watch because it is so horrible, but that, wont change anything. I wish evertyone would watch it, completly, not only with the eyes, but with the heart, mind, reason and understanding.

V. G.
Veronica G8 years ago

"Natural?" A short walk from the crate outside to the slaughter truck? Sun & fresh air..."Natural." Pleeeease.

Avery F.
Avery F8 years ago

I do concur, more oversight on proper labeling. We all must understand its great "organic" is a known word now. Natural labeling means absolutely nothing. Now just an advertising agent on products. USDA organic, at this point, is an asurance of non gmo products. This pertains to any food from meats, grains, veggies. Buy locally when possible.