What image comes to mind when you see the claim "free range" on a chicken or turkey product? Do you think of birds indoors with occasional access to a small barren lot? Probably not. What about claims like "humanely raised," "sustainable farmed," and "thoughtfully raised?" Should producers be able to raise animals to any standard—even woefully inadequate industry standards, and still be able to use these claims? If you said no, you are among the majority of consumers who—according to a recent poll—believe that producers should have to exceed minimal industry standard before they are allowed to use animal welfare claims.
AWI investigated the USDA's label approval process for the free range, humanely raised, and sustainably farmed claims to determine if consumer expectations are being met. The investigation revealed insufficient evaluation of each of the claims, allowing producers to mislead consumers and hurt farmers who do provide animals with better care. In fact, the USDA approved a majority of these claims based on bare affidavits from the producer or with no supporting evidence whatsoever. Furthermore, the department's own definitions for these terms are vague, ambiguous, and sometimes nonexistent.
Please tell the Secretary of Agriculture that consumers deserve to know that the USDA is on their side, making sure that food labels are not deceptive or misleading. You can send an email to the Secretary through AWI's Compassion Index by clicking here, or write to the following address:
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Also, be sure to share our "Dear Humanitarian" eAlert with family, friends and co-workers, and encourage them to sign the letter, too.
As always, thank you very much for your help!
Director, Farm Animal Program