Food labels are downright deceptive and misleading today. Most food labels are created by corporate marketing departments to drive profits and consumer sales at all costs, frequently making meaningless and misleading food label claims. Most food label definitions or claims are not controlled by the government, so there is no governing body or oversight to verify the accuracy of the marketing claims being made by companies today.
Some of the most common and familiar claims on food labels regarding animals, are either meaningless or untrue regarding animal welfare. Here’s information on the reliability of common claims to help consumers with the truth in understanding food labeling when it comes to animals:
CAGE FREE (Meat Chicken & Turkey)
This is a completely meaningless claim when used for chicken and turkey products, since birds that are raised for meat are usually not caged before transport and slaughter.
NO ADDED HORMONES / NO HORMONES ADMINISTERED (Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Pork, Goose)
This is marketing deception to mislead consumers, because the USDA prohibits the use of hormones already in the production of chicken and pork. If the label does carry this claim, it must be accompanied by a statement that shows the administration of hormones is prohibited by federal regulation.
NATURAL (Chicken Turkey, Duck, Geed, Lamb, Goat, Port, Bison and Goose)
If you see the “natural” claim on eggs and dairy, there is no USDA definition that applies. It only applies to meat and poultry. The term is not an indication that no hormones or antibiotics were used. The claim has no relevance in any way to how animals are raised. No regulatory definition exists for “natural,” but the USDA is considering one. The current USDA policy says that the term “natural” can only be used on a product that contains no artificial ingredients or added color, and the product must be minimally processed. And the label needs to explain the meaning of the term used.
VEGETARIAN FED (all products)
This can be a very misleading claim and is not regulated in any way by the USDA or an oversight body. Cows fed a vegetarian diet of corn (likely GMO corn and grain) is unnatural for cows, causes great gastric distress, gastric and intestinal ulcers and causes great suffering. It really means consumers are eating more corn, instead of grass and plants, which is the natural diet for ruminant animals. This claim is irrelevant when it comes to how the animal was raised, and does not specify grass-fed its entire life, which is free-range, and represents a completely misleading and meaningless claim.
KOSHER (Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Beef, Lamb, Goat, Goose)
Kosher products mean the animal was killed or slaughtered without prior “stunning” or making the animal insensible to the pain of slaughter before shackling, hoisting and cutting it open to bleed out. Stunning the animal first is the norm for slaughter under the U.S. Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, but today is often ineffective due to the high numbers of animals that are slaughtered. But under Kosher principles and rabbinical supervision, the animal experiences greater pain and suffering during the slaughter process.
HALAL (Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Beef, Lamb, Goat, Goose)
Halal products may come from animals who have been slaughtered without being “stunned” first. Animal welfare advocates consider slaughter of animals without prior “stunning” first, to be extremely inhumane. Under Islamic law and authority, it’s acceptable to not “stun” the animal first before shackling, hoisting and cutting them to bleed out.
UNITED EGG PRODUCERS CERTIFIED (UEP) (Eggs)
The U.S. Egg Industry created this certification for their own benefit and profitability, allowing hens to be crowded into tiny battery cages for their entire lives without any access to pasture, grass (for foraging), fresh air and sunlight. The birds are completely denied all natural forms of expression and behavior natural to chickens, such as dust bathing and boxes for nesting. In addition, the chickens are de-beaked with their beaks cut off without pain relief because they are housed in such cramped quarters. There is no third-party or independent oversight regarding this label, it is entirely a marketing and production set of standards to benefit the U.S. Egg Industry and sell more eggs – and is highly misleading to consumers.
Source: American Welfare Institute AWI | www.awionline.org
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