Meaningless Food Labels
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, misleading, and false 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.
Misleading or Meaningless Food Labels
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, Geese)
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 Geese)
If you see the claim “natural” 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 is minimally processed. 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 any oversight body. Cows fed a vegetarian diet of corn and soy (likely GMO) is completely unnatural for cows, causes great gastric distress, ulcers, suffering, and essentially means consumers are eating more corn and grains, instead of a grass-fed animal, which is a natural diet for ruminant animals. This claim is irrelevant when it comes to how the animal was raised, and does not specify grass-fed during any part of its life. This is a completely misleading and meaningless label.
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. Stunning the animal first is the norm for slaughter under the U.S. Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. But under Kosher principles and rabbinical supervision, the animal experiences far 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 not to “stun” the animal first before shackling, hoisting and cutting them.
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 created by and to benefit the U.S. egg industry by the United Egg Producers, essentially to mislead and confuse consumers.
Credit: American Welfare Institute AWI | www.awionline.org