When it comes to your food, do you really get what you pay for? Consumer studies document a strong market desire to purchase ethically produced products that meet higher standards of animal welfare. And many consumers will pay more if it means that the product aligns with their values. But what are the standards for animal welfare? Who sets them and what do they mean?
Labels identifying meat, poultry or dairy products as humanely raised, cage free, and ethically or responsibly sourced offer what we think are better alternatives to the cruel realities of factory farming.
However, the fact is that corporations have caught on to consumer desire for a more ethical product and have responded in force with marketing campaigns and product identifiers that promise higher standards of animal welfare and charge accordingly.
Unfortunately, governmental regulation of such claims lags far behind. While some of these humane labels have definitions and are government regulated, most lack any legal definition. Additionally, most label claims are self made by the companies themselves, with a keen eye for profits over truth-telling. Sadly, the conditions in which many of these animals are raised and slaughtered would meet no one's definition of humane.
So what to do? When the average food label is confusing at best and deliberately misleading at worst, how can the average consumer make purchases that reflect their values?
Most importantly, be an informed consumer. The Animal Welfare Institute has an incredible pocket guide that demystifies labels and arms you with knowledge for making informed choices. They also have an excellent “What You Can Do” guide to making food choices with farm animal welfare in mind.
Lastly, If the quality of animal life is a priority to you as a meat consumer, the best transparency comes from knowing the people behind the products. By investing in small businesses that reflect your values you can play a part in the food revolution.