Common food labels designed to get your dollar: The ‘hormone-free’ label

Closeup of "No Hormones Added" on Perdue chicken

Unaltered image. Michael Lehet, Flickr. CC License.

Welcome back to my second article on the topic of food labels designed to get your dollar! If you missed my first article, in regards to the “natural” label, you can find it here.

The next label I want to talk about is one almost everyone has seen marked on a package of fresh meat, specifically pork and poultry products: “hormone-free”. It’s a no-brainer that most of us want our fresh meats to be, well, “fresh”, and with as few added ingredients as possible. Added hormones are definitely one ingredient that we all want left out of our meats. However, did you know that pigs and chickens aren’t allowed to be given any hormones in the first place? So why is there a label on the package?

Hormone-Free

“It is important to understand that all multi-cellular organisms contain hormones, whether they are beef, broccoli, eggs, soybeans — or people. No food or living thing can be hormone-free, despite marketing claims that may suggest this to be so. Livestock and poultry can be grown without added hormones, but they cannot be hormone-free.”
Meat Mythcrushers via The Farmer’s Daughter

According to the FDA, no steroid or growth hormones are allowed to be given to poultry, swine and a few other animals. These are also sometimes referred to as added hormones because, as in all animals and plants, hormones occur naturally. Beef cattle (non-dairy) are allowed to be given growth hormones, as long as the manufacturer that processes the beef can demonstrate that the edible meat contains fewer hormones than the amount deemed as safe by the FDA.

So why are packages of poultry and pork labeled “hormone-free”? It’s a complete marketing gimmick to get consumers to pay more for their product. If you look closely at the label, there is a small disclaimer that states, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in poultry/pork.” In fact, the USDA will not allow any manufacturer to use the “hormone free” label without this disclaimer.

The bottom line. Don’t pay extra money for pork or chicken labeled “hormone-free”.

Factoid on hormone-free meat

Source: Common Ground.

So what other labels are out there that you commonly see on your food packaging that might be deceptive? Are you surprised by any of the ones mentioned above? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

– Joohi Castelvetere is a nutrition and food scientist and a mother to three amazing children.  She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.


Read more:

  1. Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives, and Colors, Food and Drug Administration
  2. Hormones in Your Food, Thecowlocale
  3. Natural and other food labels that sound legitimate but may not be, CNN
  4. What are the benefits? (GMO crops), PBS

 

 

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