Most animals raised for meat, milk and eggs are on industrial farms that contaminate our air, soil and water. These farms rely heavily on antibiotics and other synthetic treatments to boost outputs, and combat diseases caused by stressful, crowded and unsanitary conditions. Weak bacteria are killed, leaving behind the most resilient and hard to kill — so-called “superbugs.” These bacteria are capable of causing untreatable infections.

On the other hand, better practices, such as raising animals on pasture, have documented positive effects on the planet and on the quality of the meat and milk.

Some companies have committed to more responsible practices. Yet shoppers can find it difficult to tell which claims on labels represent truly responsible practices. In fact, so called “free range” chickens may have very little access to the outdoors and “natural” meat products may still be from animals fed antibiotics critical to human health.

To help you find the most reliable labels and avoid deceptive claims, the Environmental Working Group reviewed and ranked common label claims for meat, dairy and eggs. See which certifications are most reliable and which third-party standards set a low bar.


EWG Meat Label Decoder