Chicken Facts: A Quick Reference to the Packaging Puzzle
Monica Stewart, MS, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
All meat and poultry label claims are established and governed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), specifically within the agency of Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). FSIS is responsible for “ensuring the truthfulness and accuracy in labeling of meat and poultry products.” Before a product’s label can be approved, FSIS must evaluate and review claims for accuracy. Through federal regulations and premarket approvals, USDA determines what claims can (and cannot) be used on packages.
A few claims often seen on chicken products are defined below. These were taken directly from the USDA’s website, so rest assured when you see these on labels, you’ll know with certainty what you’re putting into the cart:
Organic standards for chicken include outdoor access for the birds and an organic diet including non-GMO feed. There are several types of organic claims, visit here to learn more. By definition, “’organic’ can be used to label any product that contains a minimum of 95% organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). Up to 5% of the ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products that are not commercially available as organic and/or nonagricultural products that are on this National List .”
By regulatory definition, this means poultry and cuts of poultry have never been below 26 °F (the temperature at which point poultry freezes).
No Added Hormones/Steroids
USDA does not allow added hormones or steroids in raising pork or poultry (chicken and turkey). If you see this claim on pork or poultry labels, it must be followed by a statement that says, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of added hormones or steroids.” This is an important point that sometimes is overlooked: you should know that all pork and chicken sold in the U.S. are raised without added hormones or steroids.
This animal raising claim is allowed to show animals were raised without the use of antibiotics if sufficient documentation is provided by the manufacturer to USDA. The terms ‘no antibiotics added’ may be used on labels for red meat or poultry products.
Read about our decision to eliminate antibiotics from Tyson™ Chicken.
There are resources available online to help answer questions about packaging claims and what they mean for your chicken.
Visit Chicken Check In or these USDA Food Labeling Fact Sheets to help you take control of your grocery cart and create your own decision tree and unlock the mystery in this packaging puzzle!
Published September 19, 2018.
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