I have been in the natural meat business for well over half of my life, some 30 + years to be exact, and to this day one of the most difficult and confusing aspects of my business is to create a clear picture about what the word ”natural “ really means. At this time of the year, I would like to address turkeys.
Put simply, the USDA states that any meat product, such as Turkey, can be labeled “natural” providing it has not been marinated, brined or otherwise altered after it has been harvested.
The USDA definition of “natural”, however, does not address how the turkey was raised prior to being harvested, which includes whether or not it had been administered antibiotics, fed vegetarian feed or whether or not it was humanely treated. Some retailers (in my opinion, those that wish to trick you) use this USDA “natural” designation and pretend that it means all of the things that we want it to. No antibiotics, no hormones, all vegetable fed, humanely treated, etc.
Natural to Me and to Alfalfa’s means ALL the below (as officially noted on Our Definitions page)
• No antibiotics ever
• No hormones administered ever
• All Vegetable fed
• Humanely treated (cage free, range grown, pasture raised, etc.)
So how will you know if your turkey meets The Alfalfa’s standard for “natural” or if it’s simply being passed off as the real thing even though it simply means nothing. I’ll tell you how…
Force your retailer to show you the label on the turkey itself. Some retailers will verbally declare the callouts, “no antibiotics, etc.” if asked, but cannot substantiate it on any written label. This is a solid warning that the bird meets none of the more stringent criteria. So, If the label simply states minimally processed no added ingredients, and no added hormones but does not include any of the Alfalfa’s standard statements, YOU AIN’T GONNA LIKE IT.