As 27 people in eight states have fallen ill from E. coli exposure after eating Topp Meat's hamburger, the company has issued a recall of 21.7 million pounds of frozen ground beef products. Topp advises consumers who've purchased Topp's hamburger burgers to discard them or return them to the store for a full refund. But better choices abound: The Green Guide offers help on sorting your way through the thicket of labels, read on.
Most Reliable Labels
Certified Organic-Animals are fed organic, vegetarian feed, are not administered any antibiotics and no irradiation or genetic modification takes place. They are raised under conditions which provide for exercise, access to outdoors and freedom of movement.
Pastured or grass fed-Cattle are fed on a confined or unconfined system with a grass floor. Claims are not necessarily verified by third party inspectors, though some grass producers do provide independent documentation that their animals are vegetarian (look for the USDA Verified Shield). Grass results in healthier animals with less need for antibiotics. Uncrowded and hygienic rearing conditions also result in lower E. coli infection rates.
[Note: all the beef available at Organic Connection is both Certified Organic & 100% Grass-Fed]
Least Reliable Labels
Free range or free roaming-"free range" is only defined by the USDA for poultry production. Claims are defined by USDA, but are not verified by third party inspectors.
No antibiotics administered, raised without antibiotics or antibiotic-free-The USDA allows producers to label meat and poultry products with the claims "no antibiotics administered" or "raised without antibiotics." The term "antibiotic-free" is not approved for use by the USDA. Claims are defined by USDA, but are not verified by third party inspectors.
No hormones administered, raised without hormones, or hormone-free-Cattle must not receive any hormones during their lifetime. The term "hormone-free" is not approved for use by the FDA. Claims are defined by USDA, but are not verified by third party inspectors.
Natural-Meat must be minimally processed without any artificial flavors, colors, chemical preservatives, or synthetic ingredients. However, the USDA does not exclude meats raised using antibiotics as growth promoters. Claims are defined by USDA, but are not verified by third party inspectors.