NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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What Does That Label Mean?


            What Does That Label Mean?


            It’s the time of year when a great many turkeys, larger cuts of meat for numerous dinner guests and questions about the labels on those meat and poultry items are happening.   There are multiple labeling terms that be used in the descriptions of meat and poultry.

            Following are some the meat and poultry labeling terms and their definitions that have been approved by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  FSIS is the agency responsible for ensuring the truthfulness and accuracy in labeling of meat and poultry products. Knowing the meaning of labeling terms can make purchasing of meat and poultry products less confusing.
            BASTED or SELF BASTED: Bone-in poultry products that are injected or marinated with a solution containing butter or other edible fat, broth, stock or water plus spices, flavor enhancers and other approved substances must be labeled as basted or self-basted. The maximum added weight of approximately 3% solution before processing is included in the net weight on the label. Label must include a statement identifying the total quantity and common or usual name of all ingredients in the solution. Use of the terms "basted" or "self-basted" on boneless poultry products is limited to 8% of the weight of the raw poultry before processing.

            CERTIFIED: The term "certified" implies that the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Agriculture Marketing Service have officially evaluated a meat product for class, grade, or other quality characteristics (e.g., "Certified Angus Beef").

            FREE RANGE or FREE ROAMING: Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

            FRESH POULTRY: "Fresh" means whole poultry and cuts have never been below 26 °F (the temperature at which poultry freezes). This is consistent with consumer expectations of "fresh" poultry, i.e., not hard to the touch or frozen solid. Fresh poultry should always bear a "keep refrigerated" statement.

            FRYER-ROASTER TURKEY: Young, immature turkey usually less than 16 weeks of age of either sex.

            HEN or TOM TURKEY: The sex designation of "hen" (female) or "tom" (male) turkey is optional on the label, and is an indication of size rather than the tenderness of a turkey.

            NATURAL: A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed").

            NO HORMONES (beef): The term "no hormones administered" may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the Agency by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals.

            NO ANTIBIOTICS (red meat and poultry): The terms "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.

            OVEN PREPARED: Product is fully cooked and ready to eat.

            YOUNG TURKEY: Turkeys of either sex that are less than 8 months of age according to present regulations.

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