The labeling claim “vegetarian fed” means that the animals used to produce the meat, dairy, or eggs were fed a vegetarian diet with no animal products. In the absence of such a label, the Food and Drug Administration allows livestock feed to include slaughterhouse by-products, processed litter from the floor of chicken houses, and processed animal feces. (There is one exception: Ruminant-derived protein is not permitted in cattle feed.) Government agencies that oversee food labeling do not require the “vegetarian fed” claim to be third-party verified through on-farm inspections.
Look for these seals, for strong standards and assurance that a “vegetarian fed” or similar claim has been verified:
Don't rely on these claims:
Why it matters
Can you trust the claim? Is it verified?
Meat and poultry. Labels on meat and poultry are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). On meat labels, producers can make a “vegetarian fed” claim after submitting a one-time label application with the USDA, with required documentation describing the animals’ diet to support that the “vegetarian fed” claim is not false or misleading. However, there is no requirement for on-farm inspections and no requirement for annual review or auditing of the producer’s records to ensure compliance.
To obtain approval for the label, producers that make a “vegetarian fed” claim on the label have to submit the following:
- A detailed written description explaining controls for ensuring that the raising claim is valid from birth to harvest or the period of raising being referenced by the claim;
- A signed and dated document describing the diet of the animals to support that the claims are not false or misleading;
- A written description of the product tracing and segregation mechanism from time of slaughter or further processing through packaging and wholesale or retail distribution; and
- A written description for the identification, control, and segregation of nonconforming animals/product.
No additional verification or on-farm inspection is required for producers making a “vegetarian fed” claim.
Dairy and eggs. Labels on dairy products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which requires no verification or on-farm inspection for egg or dairy producers making a “vegetarian fed” labeling claim.