When you go to throw that chicken or steak on the grill or in the oven, do you think “Hmmm, I wonder where this meat actually came from?” Most people don’t. Or maybe you are already label savvy and you have done your research. Either way, it is vital to know the conditions and where your meat, dairy, and eggs come from. Really – where ALL of your food comes from.
The majority of people think that if they see a label that says Organic, Cage-Free, No Hormones, etc… that they are getting a good product, and they settle for trusting what that label says. Packages of meat, eggs and dairy often bear terms that appear to indicate meaningful animal welfare standards, but only a fraction of them do. Many labels even mask ingredients by using words that sound good or that you would never know what they mean.
This confusion prevents conscientious consumers from voting with their wallets for better treatment of farm animals.
Some of the most commonly misunderstood “labels”
- Natural: Does not impact animal welfare in any way.
- Free-Range: No legal definition for use on eggs, pork, beef or dairy.
- Humanely Raised/Humanely Handled: Undefined and subjective terms without codified standards.
- Hormone-Free/No Hormones Added: Hormones are not approved by law for use on pigs or poultry, so the term is meaningless on those products.
- Cage-Free: On eggs, this label indicates that hens were not raised in battery cages. However, it is an empty claim on poultry meat as meat birds are very rarely raised in cages, and are instead crowded into large, open sheds.
It’s important to understand the true meanings of food labels so you can make informed decisions and help animals by buying products that match your values. Learn more in this comprehensive guide from the ASPCA Meat, Eggs and Dairy Label Guide.
Over the last few decades, corporatized, industrialized agriculture has largely replaced America’s independent small farms—with catastrophic consequences for animals. Because federal law fails to protect most farm animals, state laws are these animals’ last defense. The majority of U.S. states expressly exempt farm animals, or certain standard farming practices, from their anti-cruelty provisions, making it nearly impossible to provide even meager protections. While in common industry use, these exempt farming practices are often shockingly cruel. Although a few states include farm animals in at least some of their anti-cruelty laws, such laws are rarely enforced in favor of farm animals.
So how do you know what you are getting yourself into and what to look for if you are looking for food that is truly good?
Here are some fantastic resources from the ASPCA to get you started!
Shop with Your Heart Brand List – Plant-based and welfare-certified brands available at supermarkets across the country.
Meat, Eggs, and Dairy Label Guide – Download or print this handy guide to make the most informed decisions every time you shop.
Certified Farms by State – Locate a nearby farm that’s certified by Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), Certified Humane (CH), or Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Steps 2 and above.
How to Shop at the Farmer’s Market – Check out this video and list of questions to ask farmers so you can make the most humane choices at your local farmers market.
Welfare Conscious Dining – Learn about REAL Certified, which integrates comprehensive farm animal welfare standards into its restaurant and foodservice certification program.
Good Grocery Resources – Farm animal cruelty, foodborne illness, worker abuse and pollution are interconnected problems, but you can help make our food supply healthier for people, animals and the planet.
Find more resources for savvy shoppers and take the pledge to #ShopWithYourHeart at the ASCPA Shop With Your Heart website!
And don’t forget to enter to win some fun items from the ASPCA!