Farm Sanctuary – report on “humane” meat labels

04-05-2009 | | |
Farm Sanctuary – report on “humane” meat labels

Farm animal protection organisation Farm Sanctuary has released a new report that evaluates the animal welfare claims made by agribusiness industry groups, food retailers and third-party certification organisations.

“The Truth Behind the Labels: Farm Animal Welfare Standards and Labelling Practices” analyses the criteria used to define such commonly-used marketing phrases as “humane,” “free range” and “naturally raised”.

As more consumers have learned about the animal welfare concerns related to factory farms, they have increasingly demanded that farm animals receive better treatment. They have also shown that they are willing to pay a premium for meat, milk and eggs from so-called “humane” farms. This growing demand has led to the creation of more than a dozen animal welfare assurance schemes sponsored by industry groups, food retailers and third-party organic and humane certification organisations. Government-regulated animal welfare labels and marketing claims have also emerged and expanded, says Farm Sanctuary.

According to Farm Sanctuary Co-founder and President Gene Baur, “Most people will be surprised to learn that even the most stringent standards often fail to meet their expectations about how animals should be treated. For example, in many of these labelling schemes, ‘free range’ birds still spend their entire lives tightly packed together in sheds, physical mutilations like debeaking are still allowed, and there are no requirements for outdoor access for some species. We developed this report to provide the facts and increase the transparency of the labelling process so the public knows what they are purchasing.”

“The Truth Behind the Labels” is an updated and expanded version of a 2005 Farm Sanctuary report entitled “Farm Animal Welfare: An Assessment of Product Labelling Claims, Industry Quality Assurance Guidelines and Third-Party Certification Programmes.” The creation of this report has led to the launch of Farm Sanctuary’s Truth Behind Labels campaign which serves to educate consumers about the reality of these labelling schemes and to advocate for transparency in animal welfare standards.

Farm Sanctuary has produced two versions of “The Truth Behind the Labels” to meet the needs of different audiences. One is a 16-page summary booklet designed for consumers, and the other is a 68-page report for academics in university agriculture departments and other specialists (such as government officials working for the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration) who are studying these issues for the purpose of policy formation.

To access Farm Sanctuary’s summary booklet and report entitled “The Truth Behind the Labels: Farm Animal Welfare Standards and Labelling Practices,” click here.

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Natalie Berkhout Freelance journalist