Natural vs. Organic Chicken

What does chicken labeled “natural,” mean? Is it the same as “organic”?

While the term “natural” sounds nice, it doesn’t have much meaning on food packaging. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stipulates that meat or poultry labeled “natural” can have no artificial ingredients added to the raw meat. It doesn’t cover how a chicken was raised. So a producer can tack the label on a package even if the animal was fed an unnatural diet, pumped with antibiotics, and/ or injected with broth or brine during processing.

On the other hand, “USDA Organic” is a tightly regulated term. It applies not only to the meat itself but also to how the animal was raised. To earn this label, the animals must eat organic feed not containing animal byproducts, be raised without antibiotics, and have access to the outdoors (though not for a specified amount of time).

THE BOTTOM LINE: If you see the word “natural” on a poultry or meat label, take it with a grain of salt: The term has very little meaning.

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