Is the label verified?
Yes
Is the meaning of the label consistent?
No
Are the label standards publicly available?
Partially
Is information about the organization publicly available?
Partially
Is the organization free from conflict of interest?
Partially
Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?
No

This label can be found on: Beef, turkey, chicken, pork, lamb, corn

PROGRAM NAME: USDA Process Verified Program (PVP)

ORGANIZATION: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

url: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/auditing/process-verified-programs

LABEL STANDARDS: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/QAD1001Procedure%5B1%5D.pdf and https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Official%20ListingPVP.pdf

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What this label means 

The USDA Process Verified shield means that one or more of the claims printed near the shield has been independently verified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Companies that are approved under the USDA Process Verified Program may choose to display the USDA Process Verified shield and/or term on promotional materials, including on their product label.

The claims on the label correspond to “process verified points” which are verified by USDA auditors.The company develops the claim(s) and identifies the process point(s) they wish to have verified. This means that the company itself writes the claim and the standard behind the claim, so there is no consistency in the claims and standards that are verified.  

Various claims have been verified through the USDA Process Verified Program, and claims include:

  • Raised with no antibiotics ever (chicken) 
  • Certified tender (beef) 
  • Raised by independent farmers (turkey) 
  • Producers are trained on animal handling practices (turkey)
  • No antibiotics used for growth promotion — antibiotics only used for treatment and prevention of illness (turkey) 
  • Raised cage free (chicken)
  • All vegetarian diet (chicken)
  • No animal by-products (chicken) 
  • Non-GMO (corn)

Companies that use the USDA Process Verified shield and/or term on the label must ensure that they are used in direct association with a clear description of the specified process verified points. This can be done in one of three ways: by printing the process verified points immediately adjacent to the USDA Process Verified shield, by printing an asterisk referring the consumer to the information panel for further information, or by printing an asterisk with the shield referring the consumer to the point of sale information.

 

How meaningful is this label? 

The USDA Process Verified shield means that the accompanying claim is verified; however, the meaning of the claims vary. Some claims are meaningful, others are not.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) requires that the process verified points must be verifiable, repeatable, auditable, feasible, and factual. The label is therefore truthful, but not necessarily meaningful. AMS requires that process verified points must not be requirements of regulations; however, process verified points can be practices that are already the industry norm and therefore not add value for consumers who may not be aware of the industry norm.

For example, the USDA’s Process Verified Program has verified claims such as “cage free” for chicken, when this is not a meaningful claim on chicken because no chicken you buy in the store has been raised in a cage.

Another claim that is verified by the USDA Process Verified Program is “no growth-promoting antibiotics, antibiotics responsibly used only when needed for treatment or prevention of illness.” This is not a meaningful claim because pharmaceutical companies are no longer selling medically important antibiotics specifically for the purpose of promoting growth in food animals.

Other claims and verified process points are meaningful, such as “no antibiotics, ever.” For meaningful claims, the USDA Process Verified shield provides assurance to consumers that the claim has been verified by independent auditors, including on-site inspections.

 

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Is the label verified?

Yes.

The USDA Process Verified program uses USDA federal employee staff members to conduct audits to verify the claims. Verification includes an initial desk audit of the application submitted by the producer. After a new program receives a satisfactory desk audit, the applicant receives an onsite audit. This is followed by a surveillance audit within 6 months to ensure the program is being maintained. An annual on-site renewal audit is conducted within 12 months from the initial onsite audit with subsequent onsite audits conducted annually thereafter. 


Is the meaning of the label consistent?

No.

The Process Verified Program provides consistency in the verification process, but the verified claims (“process points”) vary in meaning. For example, the program verifies varying claims addressing antibiotic use, including “birds are never given antibiotics,” which prohibits all antibiotics, as well as claims such as “no antibiotics used for growth promotion — antibiotics only used for treatment and prevention of disease” and “responsible use of antibiotics,” which prohibits some antibiotics but allows for the use of others.

Are the label standards publicly available?

Partially. The USDA allows each company to write its own standards for the claims it verifies. The USDA makes available an official listing of all approved USDA Process Verified Programs, with the process verified points. However, the USDA does not always keep a file of a company’s more detailed standards that can be shared with the public.

Is information about the organization publicly available?

Partially. Information about the organization is publicly available, since it is a government agency (the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture). However, information about the organization or company that writes the claims and standards for these claims (verified process points) is not always publicly available.

Is the organization free from conflict of interest?

Standards development: No. The claims and the standard (verified process points) can be developed by the company that markets the product, so the development of the standard is not free from conflict of interest.

Verification: Yes. The USDA Process Verified shield means that the claim was verified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has policies in place to prevent conflict of interest of its auditors.

Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?

No. The claims and verified process points can be developed by the company, and do not have to be developed with broad public and industry input.