Did you know that most full-grown chickens have less than one square foot of space to live in-- less than the size of an iPad? Pretty crazy to think about. Maybe the last thing on your mind is the size of the living quarters of a chicken, but let me tell you, it should be. Factory-like industrial farms subject billions of animals raised each year for meat, milk and eggs to painful practices and confine them in ways that stifle their basic needs and urges.
I am sure that is probably the last thing on your mind when you go to throw that juicy steak or chicken on the grill. But if you’ve ever googled a photo of a “factory farm” and seen what their living conditions are – I think you’d like about it a lot more.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking – Oh, well, I already buy “organic” everything. And maybe you do. But how can you be sure? Don’t be fooled. There are some pretty shady foods and labels out there, so make sure you are doing your research. Words like Organic, humanely raised, natural, cage free, free range, hormone free, antibiotic free and vegetarian fed, are thrown around all over the place. But in reality, they do not mean much.
This confusion prevents conscientious consumers from voting with their wallets for better treatment of farm animals.
In polling, 94% of Americans agree that animals raised for food deserve to live free from abuse and cruelty. Yet the majority of the nearly 10 billion farm animals raised each year in the U.S. suffer in conditions that consumers would not accept if they could see them. Most of our meat, milk and eggs come from industrial farms where efficiency trumps welfare—and both animals and humans are paying the price.
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.
Here are more resources to help you get 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.
As consumers, we have the power to change how food companies treat farm animals. Take the first step today: 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 to show off your dedication for humane and healthy food choices! Head over to my post on my blog to enter for some fun goodies!