Friday, December 23, 2011

Terminology:  "Natural"


In summary, "natural" steak is a steak which:
  • Contains no artificial ingredients;
  • Contains no added color;
  • Is minimally processed so as not to fundamentally alter the product; and
  • Has a label which explains the meaning of the word "natural".


In order for a steak to be labelled "organic", the steak must comply with the requirements of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  The FSIS maintains a glossary of meat and poultry labeling terms and is the agency responsible for ensuring the truthfulness and accuracy in labeling of steak (as well as all meat and poultry products).

FSIS provides the following definition of the word "natural""

"A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.  Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product.  The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed")."


The word "natural" has a fundamental flaw, when applied to "natural", because it implies that any steak which does not comply with the "natural" definition must therefore be "un-natural".

In fact, many steaks that are sold do not qualify for the natural label. These include, for example, any steak which:
  • Has been tenderized with needles (e.g. a Jaccard) or other mechanical means;
  • Has been tenderized with any un-natural, chemical means (see note, below); or
  • Has been injected with saline or any other solution.

Note that tenderizing a steak with natural means (such as dry-aging) does not disqualify a steak from the being labelled as natural.


Natural and Organic have very different meanings. Click here for our blog on "Organic Steak". In addition, the Food and Marketing Institute has an excellent summary of the differences between the terms.

In summary, the two terms have very different meanings, with some steak qualifying for one but not the other, some qualifying for both, and a small proportion qualifying for neither.

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