Shopping for “no antibiotics” meat and poultry can be confusing. Some of the labels can be misleading or unclear. To empower you while shopping, we have investigated the claims. For more label ratings, go to GreenerChoices.org/animalag

These Labels Mean There's No Routine Antibiotic Use:

Animal Welfare Approved. No antibiotics are used for growth promotion or disease prevention. Sick animals can be treated with antibiotics. Animal welfare and hygiene practices are fully addressed.

Certified Humane. No antibiotics are used for growth promotion or disease prevention. Some animal welfare and hygiene practices are addressed.

GAP Steps 1-5+ (sold at Whole Foods). No antibiotics are used. Animal welfare and hygiene practices are addressed to varying degrees.

No Antibiotics/Raised Without Antibiotics. The drugs aren’t used for any purpose. Similar claims: “no antibiotics administered,” “no antibiotics ever,” and “never given antibiotics.” Though those claims on their own are accurate, the ones accompanied by the USDA Process Verified shield are more reliable.

Organic. Animals can’t be given antibiotics. Sick animals treated with antibiotics can’t be labeled organic. The exception is chickens: They can be given antibiotics in the egg or on the day they hatch but not afterward.
 

More From Consumer Reports
Read our three-part series: "The Rise of Superbugs,"  "How Your Hospital Can Make You Sick," and Superbugs in Meat. Plus, check our special report "How Safe Is Your Ground Beef?" and antibiotic resistance guide.

Woman shopping for

These Labels Mean Antibiotics May Be Used

American Humane Association. Neither animal nor human antibiotics are used for growth promotion, but both can be used for disease prevention. Some animal welfare and hygiene practices are addressed.

Grassfed. Don’t assume all grass-fed beef is raised without routine antibiotics; look for a no-antibiotic or organic label as well. Also, the American Grassfed Association seal means no antibiotics, and the claim is verified.

Natural/All Natural. This has nothing to do with antibiotics, hormones, or other drugs, or how the animal was raised. In fact, “natural” on meat and poultry means only that it contains no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed.

No Hormones. This doesn’t mean no antibiotics or other growth promotants. By law hormones can’t be used in poultry or hogs, so packages of meat from those animals with this claim are no different from those without it.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the January 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.