Labels in Meat & Seafood and How to Read Them

At Lakewinds, our meat and seafood products are fresh, delicious, and raised using sustainable, humane methods. We also like to offer choices, but realize that can lead to extra words on the labels in meat & seafood. We’re here to help you understand the various classifications and terms that apply to food in the meat and seafood department.

All-Natural and Organic:

Certified organic is a label that can only be applied to food that has been vetted by a licensed certifying agency. These organizations scrutinize a vast array of criteria including feed, water usage, land management, and animal welfare. Which certification a company chooses to attain is up to them, and the standards of those certifications vary somewhat beyond the standards dictated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In a nutshell, organic meat and seafood is fed organic non-GMO feed, has access to clean water, is raised in a manner that is less damaging to the land/soil, is processed in certified humane ways, and does not contain additives like growth hormones or preservatives.

Free-range turkeys at Ferndale Market

All-Natural is the term that Lakewinds applies to all our food guaranteeing that it meets our own set of criteria. This means that even if a product has not been certified organic, it will be free from growth hormones and preservatives, raised and processed sustainably and in a humane way, and sourced from a business that practices proper land stewardship.

Wild-Caught and Farm-Raised Seafood:

Wild-caught means that the seafood product was caught in the wild. The title itself does not guarantee much beyond that, though at Lakewinds we source wild-caught seafood from fisheries that are certified sustainable and use sustainable methods. The certification programs we rely upon are the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and the Marine Stewardship Council. Some wild-caught seafood comes from areas that are artificially stocked to promote greater abundance.

Duluth resident Dave Rogotzke catches wild Alaskan sockeye salmon

Sometimes changes in fishery health lead us to no longer carry certain seafood products. For example, if the Copper River in Alaska experiences a depleted season, we may opt not to sell any salmon from that fishery for the season. Our knowledgeable counter staff can answer any questions you may have regarding inventory and ordering.

Farm-raised seafood comes from controlled populations of fish raised on “farms,” many which operate in open sea pens. Some use indoor recirculating aquaponic systems that recycle the nutrient-rich wastewater to fertilize hydroponic agriculture, which is cycled back into the fish tanks once purified. Seafood farms can achieve Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification once important criteria are met. At Lakewinds, we strive to offer farmed seafood with a BAP 3-star rating, which guarantees the water is the cleanest quality, no chemicals are used in raising or processing, there is little to no negative impact on the local land or communities, and that employees enjoy a safe working environment and fair compensation.

Salmon farming in open-sea pens

Cage-Free, Free-Range, and Organic Poultry:

The difference here involves outdoor access. Cage-free poultry is not confined to cages within their enclosure, ensuring they are able to enjoy normal social behavior. The cage-free chicken that we carry is raised in clean, spacious barns with ample natural light and fresh air. Free range means that the poultry is given access to the outdoors, where the birds are allowed to forage for supplementary food and socialize in a more natural setting. Organic standards for poultry also require outdoor access, so free range is implied in poultry labeled organic.

One of Kadejan’s cage-free chicken barns

Air-Chilled:

This is a method of poultry packaging that relies on dry refrigeration to lower the temperature of freshly processed birds. More conventional processors will submerge them into cold water (or a chemical preservative solution) to accomplish this task, but that can lead to soggy skin and excess water weight. You’ll pay less for unnecessary water with air-chilled chickens, and notice better flavor and considerably crispier skin when roasting them.

Pasture-Raised and Grass-Fed:

These terms apply to our beef and lamb offerings. A pasture-raised steer has been allowed to graze for a significant portion of its life. This practice allows for a more natural environment for ruminants like cows, sheep, and bison that spend their lives grazing. When practiced properly, it can also be an important element of soil restoration and land stewardship. We source our pasture-raised beef and lamb from Peterson Craftsman Meats and the Lamb Shoppe, local farms that rotationally graze their animals and grow their own cover crops, ensuring that their practices enhance instead of damage the soil. During winter months and while being finished, pasture-raised animals will often receive supplemental feed including grains. This tends to yield well-marbled meat.

 

Pasture-raised cattle at Peterson Craftsman MeatsThe grass-fed label ensures that the animal was fed a diet composed primarily of grass. The label does not guarantee they’ve been pasture-raised, as cattle fed dried hay in feedlots can still be considered grass fed. We source our grass-fed beef from Thousand Hills because they pasture raise their cattle on 100% grass diets. There are a few reasons why you may want to choose grass-fed beef. Meat from grass-fed animals tends to have higher amounts of omega three fatty acids than grain-fed beef (but shouldn’t be considered a significant source, see link below). It’s also a good option for those looking to avoid corn or soy in the feed of their meat. A grass diet tends to yield a leaner meat with more robust flavor than traditional grain-fed beef.

For those looking for more information regarding the debate on the health and environmental benefits and impacts of grass-fed vs. pasture-raised, check out these articles from the Washington Post and National Public Radio.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/is-grass-fed-beef-really-better-for-you-the-animal-and-the-planet/2015/02/23/92733524-b6d1-11e4-9423-f3d0a1ec335c_story.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/08/13/746576239/is-grass-fed-beef-really-better-for-the-planet-heres-the-science

 Dry-Aged:

Dry-aged beef has been stored at near-freezing temperature for several weeks. Moisture is evaporated from the fat, leading to greater flavor concentration, and enzymes in the connective tissue begin to break down, ensuring greater tenderness. This process is also known as “hanging” and is often used in steakhouses and upscale butcher shops. Since it requires beef with high amounts of fat, leaner grass-fed beef does not typically get dry-aged. Our pasture-raised beef from Peterson Craftsman Meats has been dry-aged for a minimum of 21 days.

Cuts of beef being dry-aged

Labels in meat & seafood can come with a lot of terms and phrases that help you make the right decisions about the food you buy from Lakewinds.

Learn more about Peterson’s pasturing practices, read about Superior Fresh’s recent certification for non-GMO salmon, or discover all of our local vendors.