In general, Trader Joe’s has three classifications for its beef, pork, and poultry — Organic, which can not contain antibiotics; the Trader Joe’s “Natural” line, which the store claims is raised without antibiotics; and conventional, which may or may not contain antibiotics (but most likely does, as that is standard procedure for most non-“organic” meat).
Though your typical TJ’s offers Organic and Natural meats, the majority of what you get — and almost all pork products — fall under the heading of conventional.
But when our cohorts at Consumers Union’s NotInMyFood.org talked to a number of Trader Joe’s customers, they found that store employees are not being honest about how much of the store’s meat has been treated with antibiotics:
A customer from Ventura, California was told specifically that only two percent of the meat sold at Trader Joe’s was raised on antibiotics. A Portland, Maine store employee promised a customer that all of the meat sold at Trader Joe’s was in fact organic (and had been for years), but the labels didn’t indicate that in case they needed to switch suppliers quickly.
In another conversation in Reno, Nevada the staff member reported that the government had recently passed a law that no grocery store in this country could sell poultry that had been given antibiotics. When the dubious customer pushed back, the employee swore it was true.
While it might be understandable, and even forgivable, for newer or entry-level TJ’s employees to have incorrect information regarding the company’s meat selection, Consumers Union says it knows of 10 instances in which store managers, who should know otherwise, provided false info about antibiotics in the meat products.
The company’s VP of Marketing confirmed to CU that the employees in these instances, which he called “unfortunate and unintended,” were indeed not speaking the truth. He says that Trader Joe’s HQ is already reaching out to stores to better educate employees and customers about the different types of meat, admitting that “we have work to do.”
“Ensuring customers accurate and honest information is the most basic responsibility of any business,” writes Consumers Union’s Meg Bohne. “But that’s not enough. People assume that Trader Joe’s is already doing the right thing on antibiotics because the company has built an image of affordable quality with high standards and a sense of responsibility to its customers. Selling meat raised on antibiotics goes directly against that reputation and thus confuses its customers and even its staff.”