The USDA Process Verified shield means that one or more of the claims made on the label have been verified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both the claim and the standard behind the claim can be written by the company; the USDA only verifies whether the standard has been met, not whether the claim is a meaningful one. The label adds credibility to meaningful claims like “no antibiotics, ever,” but also allows for claims with lower standards that mostly reflect the existing industry norm and add little value, such as “raised without growth-promoting antibiotics.”
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)
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.