Many shoppers may look for labels on the foods they regularly buy, but few may actually know the standards attached to the certification of farms for labeling the meat and poultry that ends up in the grocery store. Being able to differentiate the label and know what it means could alter the way many individuals shop for their family’s food, and which companies or products they endorse and buy in the future.
Certified food labels are foods that are approved by a third-party audit of compliance, with standards that are open to the public. Many shoppers want to buy meat to feed families, but object to some of the standards and treatments of the animals used for food. Some practices such as “beak-cutting” and “tail-docking” continue to raise arguments from those concerned about the welfare of these animals. This transparency allows for buyers dedicated to animal rights and enhanced treatment of farm animals and livestock select the products most congruent with their own ethics and priorities. Some examples include:
Animal welfare approved
These labels indicate the highest adherence to quality standard of any humane food certification. This means that animals have access to pastures, and pain relief is provided to animals having horns removed. These labels signify that no inhumane procedures such as beak-cutting or tail docking are involved in processing of the meat.
These organic food labels indicate that the animals are given outdoor access, although vegetation is not mandated. Cattle, sheep and goats have access to pastures. There is some ambiguity regarding the level of animal welfare provided, and pain relief is not required for the aforementioned procedures. Many groups such as PETA dispute many accepted practices of organic farms in terms of animal treatment.
Outdoor access is not necessarily provided to pigs, hens and birds, but “environmental enrichment” must be provided inside of facility. Protocols such as beak-cutting and tail-docking are conducted in some circumstances under variable conditions.
American Grass-fed certified
This label indicates that animals were permitted outside and grains or feedlots were prohibited. Beak-cutting and tail docking occur, without pain relief, and there are no predetermined standards or conditions mandated during the slaughter.
The major difference between two other labels, the Food alliance certification and the American humane association, is possibly the conditions the animals lived in prior to slaughter or sale. The American humane association maintains the lowest standards of the certification groupings, and is under scrutiny by concerned citizens regarding the treatment of these animals.
Some labels possessing unverified but relevant claims in regard to animal welfare, include free range, free roaming, grass-fed, and pasture-raised. Also, the term cage-free when used to describe poultry is a misleading assertion. Although some organic meats may seem like a more humane and conscientious choice, the fact is that animals are still frequently kept in unhealthy conditions according to many animal activists. As for animals that are grass-fed, this may simply refer to the animal being nourished through feedlots at farms and not actually being permitted to graze and roam as the label may infer. Be informed when making choices and support those farms and grocers most in-line with personal objectives and preferences.