Web Note: It is interesting that the disagreement over "natural" chicken has prompted officials to consider changing labeling guidelines. Meat is one of the few areas where the "natural" label actually means something. It would be really nice if labeling guidelines were introduced to regulate use of the word "natural" in any marketing context. Many "natural" products are simply conventionally farmed, additive and GMO-containing processed foods. OCA would like "natural" to mean "free of food additives, GMOs, hormones, chemicals etc." In other words, transitioning to organic. For more info please visit OCA's "Myth of Natural" Campaign Page.
A disagreement among poultry producers about whether chicken injected with salt, water and other ingredients can be promoted as "natural" has prompted federal officials to consider changing labeling guidelines.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had maintained that if chicken wasn't flavored artificially or preserved with chemicals, it could carry the word "natural" on the package.
But the agency agreed to take another look at its policy after some producers, politicians and health advocates noted that about one-third of chicken sold in the U.S. was injected with additives that could represent up to 15 percent of the meat's weight, doubling or tripling its sodium content. Some argue that could mislead or potentially harm consumers who must limit their salt intake.
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service plans to issue new proposed rules this fall.
Perdue, the nation's third largest poultry producer, is among those pushing for a change. The company has joined a group called the Truthful Labeling Coalition, which has hired a lobbyist and launched an advertising campaign.
"Our labels say natural or all natural only if there is nothing added," Perdue spokesman Luis Luna said. "Under no circumstances is it acceptable to label poultry that has been enhanced with water or broth or solutions as natural, or all natural."
Such mixtures are injected into poultry to make the meat tastier and more tender.
The two largest chicken processors, Pilgrim's Pride and Tyson Foods, are among those that affix "natural" labels to chicken injected with extra salt and water. Industry experts said the practice has become more common in the past decade.