USDA Announces Plans to Strengthen Approval of Animal-Raising Claims on Meat Labels

When the Biden administration issued an executive order on promoting competition in the American economy in July 2021, AWI responded by urging the US Department of Agriculture to address deceptive label claims as part of its effort to facilitate fairness in the marketplace. For the past decade, we have pressured the department to improve its process for approving animal-raising claims—releasing reports in 2014, 2016, 2019, and 2023 critical of the USDA’s approval of meat labels. In total, these reports covered our review of approximately 200 USDA-approved claims found on meat products. In March of this year, four US senators, led by Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), sent a letter to the USDA urging it to address misleading meat labels and citing our most recent report. 

On June 14, following receipt of the Senate letter—and after multiple meetings with AWI and other stakeholders—the USDA announced that it will soon take steps to improve its label approval program to avoid misleading consumers. Specifically, it plans to issue revised industry guidelines that will encourage companies to (1) strengthen the documentation they submit to the department to substantiate animal-raising claims and (2) use third-party certification to verify those claims. The USDA signaled that it may also conduct rulemaking related to this action, which would codify the change in regulation.

We have long urged the USDA to require—not merely encourage—producers to obtain third-party certification to verify holistic assertions related to animal welfare (e.g., “humane”) and environmental stewardship (e.g., “sustainable” or “regenerative”). Allowing producers to make animal welfare claims without adhering to higher standards harms animals, higher-welfare farmers, and consumers who expect these claims to indicate better treatment of animals. Please voice your support for improving the label approval process by contacting the USDA through our online Action Center.