The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it will adopt a policy of scrutinizing "grass-fed," "free-range," and "raised without antibiotics" labels on meat products. File Photo by Bill Greenblat/UPI | License Photo
June 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that it is implementing new procedures to evaluate meats labeled as "grass-fed," "free range," and "raised without antibiotics."
"Animal-raising claims, such as 'grass-fed' and 'free-range,' are voluntary marketing claims that highlight certain aspects of how the source animals for meat and poultry products are raised," the USDA said in a statement Wednesday.
"These claims must be approved by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) before they can be included on the labels of meat and poultry products sold to consumers."
The USDA also intends to evaluate "raised without antibiotics" labels that appear on meat products.
"FSIS, in partnership with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), will be conducting a sampling project to assess antibiotic residues in cattle destined for the 'raised without antibiotics' market," the USDA said.
"The results of this project will help inform whether FSIS should require that laboratory testing results be submitted for the 'raised without antibiotics' claim or start a new verification sampling program."
The latest initiative is part of a broader effort to crack down on potentially misleading food labels under President Joe Biden's 2021 executive order to promote competition.
The executive order includes provisions calling for increased transparency in meat and poultry processing, as well as a requirement that meats label "raised in the U.S." come from animals that were born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.
"Consumers should be able to trust that the label claims they see on products bearing the USDA mark of inspection are truthful and accurate," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.