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Look for these seals, for strong standards and assurance that a “vegetarian fed” or similar claim has been verified:

USDA Organic

The USDA Organic label means that the animals were raised on a farm that was certified by an accredited agency and is in compliance with all of the requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic standards. These comprehensive regulations promote a sustainable system of agriculture; among the many requirements is a prohibition on feeding formulas containing manure and mammalian or poultry slaughter by-products to mammals or poultry.

Read more about USDA Organic.

USDA Process Verified

 The USDA Process Verified shield means that one or more of the claims made on the label have been verified by the USDA. The process verified program employs USDA federal staff to conduct audits to verify the claims.[H page 3 top] The USDA Process Verified program verifies “all vegetarian feed” and similar claims for various poultry producers.

Read more about USDA Process Verified.

PCO Certified 100% Grassfed

The PCO Certified 100% Grassfed seal means that the animals were raised on certified organic farms and, in addition, were fed only grass and forage, with no grain or animal by-products. Organic regulations prohibit administering antibiotics, hormones, and growth promotants, treating pasture with synthetic herbicides, planting genetically engineered plants such as alfalfa in pasture, and much more. This seal means the “grass fed” claim was verified, with on-farm inspection.

Read more about PCO Certified 100% Grassfed

American Grassfed

The American Grassfed seal means that the animals were grass-fed throughout their entire lives (after weaning), with no grain or animal by-products ever. The animals had continuous access to pasture and were not raised in confinement. The standards also prohibit antibiotics, growth hormones, and growth promotants, and the intentional feeding of GMOs. This seal means the “grass fed” claim was verified with on-farm inspection.

Read more about American Grassfed

Certified Grassfed by AGW

This seal means that the animals producing meat or dairy with the label were fed a 100 percent grass- and forage-based diet, with no grain or animal by-products. Certification for this label is only granted to producers who are also certified to the species-specific Animal Welfare Approved label standards. This seal means the “grass fed” claim was verified, including an on-farm inspection.

Read more about Certified Grassfed by AGW

NOFA-NY Certified 100% Grass Fed

This seal means that the animals used to produce meat and dairy were raised on certified organic farms and, in addition, meat animals must be fed 100 percent grass or grass-based feed for their entire life, with the exception of milk prior to weaning. Dairy cows must be managed on 100 percent grass or grass-based feeds for at least 90 days before being eligible to sell milk as NOFA-NY Certified 100% Grass Fed. Organic regulations prohibit administering antibiotics, hormones, and growth promotants, treating pasture with synthetic herbicides, planting genetically engineered plants such as alfalfa in pasture, and much more. This seal means the “grass fed” claim was verified, with on-farm inspection.

Read more about NOFA-NY Certified 100% Grass Fed

Certified Humane Raised and Handled

Animal by-products are prohibited in feed, including mammalian and avian-derived protein.

Read more about Certified Humane Raised and Handled

Global Animal Partnership, Step 1-5+

The standards for animal by-products in feed are the same for all step levels: Animal by-products are prohibited in feed, including mammalian and avian-derived protein.

Read more about Global Animal Partnership

 

 

 

Don't rely on these claims:

Natural

Government agencies only provide guidance, not regulations, for companies using the “natural” claim on meat and poultry labels. Since there are no consistent standards or federal regulations for the “natural” claim, each company can use its own definition, and definitions vary widely. Meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs labeled “natural” do not necessarily come from animals fed a vegetarian diet.

Read our natural review.

American Humane Certified

Standards for dairy cows and beef cattle prohibit ruminant-derived protein sources (such as slaughterhouse waste) with the exception of milk and milk product in feed. This is in line with FDA regulations for all dairy cows and beef cattle and therefore does not exceed the industry norm. Thus, pig and poultry slaughter waste products, poultry litter, and feces are allowed in cattle feed.

American Humane Certified standards for pork prohibit mammalian-derived protein sources, with the exception of milk and milk products. This means avian-derived protein sources, including poultry slaughter waste products, poultry litter, and feces are allowed in pig feed.

For chickens, turkeys and laying hens, standards allow feeding animal by-products, including slaughter waste products.

Read more about American Humane Certified.

 

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Why it matters

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Can you trust the claim? Is it verified?

No.

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.