Believe it or not, today in America there are over 300 types of explanatory labels that adorn cuts of beef and pork on store shelves. Let's dwell on the most common and useful (both for the body and for the wallet) shortcuts:
Certified. This term indicates that the meat is certified by one of the USDA-controlled organizations. That is, the manufacturer of the product was subject to a number of strict rules. For example, he gave pigs a certain brand of food and in a certain amount.
It is very important here to pay attention to the company that was engaged in the production of meat. There is no “Certified” label, but the “Certified by Dave McKeeley's Farm in Indiana, located at ...” should raise the bar for confidence. In general, the more information about the certifier, the better.
Organic (organic). As much as the proponents of a healthy lifestyle praise organic meat, its quality is still highly questionable. On the one hand, it is forbidden to feed such cows and pigs with hormones and antibiotics. They should have free access to natural food and water (that is, walk in the field), be killed without pain and suffering.
On the other hand, farmers are free to decide when and how much to release cows and pigs from their pens. In fact, a piglet that walks "free" for 40 minutes a day is already considered organic. In addition, the high cost of meat with an Organic label is explained by the large number of third parties watching the animal breeding process. “The steak is expensive not because the cow ate natural grass, but because it was raised by seven people instead of one, ” the farmers joke.
Grass-Fed (access to grass). This term means that the animal did not feed on dry hay, but on living grass (growing from the ground) for a certain period of time (usually from spring to autumn). Farmers have to bring USDA inspectors to their fields and go through a lot of bureaucratic procedures to be eligible to affix such labels to products.
Independent experts believe Grass-Fed products are the best value for money. They are slightly cheaper than Organic.
5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Program. A very curious five-step classification developed by USDA partners. It is quite simple to decipher it: the higher the number on the package, the better conditions the animal was kept. For example, a unit (1) means that the cow or pig was not in an enclosed space (box / crate). A five with a plus (5+) occurs only on meat produced on farms that are ideal in all respects. Farmers care about cows so much that they don't even use gasoline vehicles nearby. You never know whether the animal will be poisoned or scared.
No Tail Docking According to statistics, approximately 67% of cows undergo tail cutting without anesthesia. As a result, they experience pain, cannot drive away flies and horseflies from themselves, and forget about their natural instincts. True gourmets believe that the presence (or absence) of a tail affects the taste of meat. However, there is very little scientific research on this subject. Therefore, it is up to you, dear readers, whether to pay attention to No Tail Docking.
Prime / Choice / Select (USDA estimates). These three words in the background of the USDA logo are the most common on meat packs. They determine the appearance and taste of the product.
Prime is a sumptuous, marbled and freshest meat typically found in high-end restaurants. A half-pound slice of such a product can cost $ 18 - $ 20 in a Brooklyn supermarket.
The Choice label stands for tender, tasty and juicy meat that cooks quite quickly. You do not need to "conjure" over it for a long time at the stove. A little vegetable oil, salt and pepper and a few minutes in a hot skillet guarantee a delicious dinner.
Select is good meat, which in appearance and taste is only slightly inferior to Prime and Choice. In most cases, it is taken from the loin and ribs (finely and thinly sliced pieces).
Most of “our” immigrants from all kinds of poultry prefer to buy chicken, but sales of ducks, geese, partridges and turkeys in the United States are increasing every year. Sometimes bird labels coincide with meat labels in their semantic meaning, but there are also several significant differences.
Fresh Poultry (fresh poultry). This inscription does not in any way indicate the shelf life of the chicken. It only indicates that the temperature of meat after cutting has never dropped below 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3.3 Celsius). Therefore, even well-frozen chicken legs are fresh. In fact, Fresh is the opposite of Frozen (frozen chicken).
Cage-Free (no cage). One of the most controversial labels on our entire list. It means that the bird was free until the moment of death, that is, it had the opportunity to run on the grass, spread its wings and contact with its own kind.
It is difficult to say who exactly this inscription is intended for. Humanists who care about the living conditions of birds, as a rule, are vegetarians and eat only plant foods. Chicken lovers do not think at all about whether the bird could spread its wings before it turned into a hearty meal. According to independent experts, the Cage-Free label does not in any way affect the taste of the product.
Natural (natural product). This word is the most successful marketing ploy in the history of poultry sales. People always associate this inscription with the concepts of "tasty" and "healthy". In reality, however, the Natural label on American chicken, goose, and duck means that the product has been slightly processed after cutting. That is, the term Natural does not tell us what the chicken ate, in what conditions it lived and what kind of death it died.
In most cases, the label is accompanied by the words "no artificial ingredients" (no ingredients) and "minimally processed" (minimal processing procedure), which also do not make much sense.
Young (young bird). Another tricky marketing ploy. On the one hand, this designation is intended for turkeys and chickens under 8 months of age. On the other hand, some farmers use so many hormones and antibiotics that in 4 to 5 months the bird reaches gigantic proportions (the legs, as a rule, break, as the skeleton does not keep pace with the growth of the mass). Therefore, Young Chicken may in fact turn out to be not a tender chicken at all, but a real "mutant".
Fish is the most problematic food on the American market. In most cases, you will not see anything on the window except the name and value of this product. Labels, as a rule, appear only on deeply frozen seafood (shrimp, crab legs, lobster tails, etc.). Nevertheless, it is still worth taking note of a few important phrases for the consumer.
Farm-Raised (raised on a farm). Such a fish has only one indisputable plus: it does not contain a large amount of mercury (mercury), as in some "wild" brethren. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been scaring Americans with "mercury fish" for several years in a row. It is believed that the regular use of this product provokes chronic diseases, up to cancerous tumors.
In general, “domestic” fish is worse than “wild”, if only because farmers are increasingly saving on natural feed and water filters. Sometimes fish swim in dirty water and feed on their own waste.
Wild-Caught (caught in a river, sea, ocean, etc.) This tag means practically nothing, since the seller does not indicate the place of catch. In the same New York, there are several oceanic zones that divide fish according to taste and degree of usefulness. Some of the basses were caught near the Sheepshead Bay, which is polluted with fuel oil, while others are in the cleanest offshore zones.
Dolphin-Safe (safe for dolphins). You will laugh, but in some cities of the United States this phrase appears on fish products more often than all the others combined. It means that when fishing for tuna (less often for salmon), the dolphins did not fall under the arm of the fishermen and survived. In the 60s and 70s, the mass killings of dolphins while fishing were normal, but now they are protected by various environmental organizations.
Finally, it should be said that the most reliable way not to be mistaken when choosing meat, poultry or fish in a supermarket is instinctive instinct, professional experience (both of the cook and the consumer), as well as regular observation. According to statistics, almost 73% of residents of the United States buy non-vegetarian foods in the same place and are well aware of the advantages and disadvantages of one or another type of meat, poultry and fish.