Consumers Approve of Antibiotic-Free Meat — Here’s How to Know What You’re Buying

by Bob Curley on July 12, 2012

More than 60 percent of shoppers say they’re willing to pay a five-cents-per-pound premium for antibiotic-free meat, and 37 percent say they’d pay a dollar or more extra, Consumer Reports reported July 9. But to get the most out of your grocery purchases, shoppers need to get educated on what the various health claims on meat and poultry mean.

For instance, the claim “antibiotic-free” on a package of chicken or beef sounds promising, but it doesn’t actually have any official meaning authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). So there’s no way to know that what you’re buying contains what the package claims. Same with the label “no antibiotic residues.”

Likewise, a label saying the food is “natural” means there the meat has no artificial ingredients or added colors and is minimally processed, but the meat could still have been raised “naturally” with antibiotics.

Instead, look for labels that say “no antibiotics administered,” “no antibiotics added” or “never ever given antibiotics,” along with a “USDA Process Verified” shield label or private certifier logo (e.g., the Global Animal Partnership) which means that the food has undergone independent agency review. Anything labeled “USDA Organic” is also raised antibiotic-free.