Animal Welfare Institute Urges Consumers to Take Action: USDA Seeks Comments from Public on Definition of Labeling Meat Products as "NATURALLY RAISED"
USDA EXTENDS DEADLINE TO SUBMIT CONSUMER COMMENTS TO MARCH 3, 2008
Washington, D.C. -- The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is seeking comments on a proposed voluntary standard for a "naturally raised" marketing claim for meats. According to its Notice and Request for Comments for Docket AMS LS 07 0131; LS 07 16, "the livestock and meat supply chain, along with consumers could benefit from a uniform standard for the marketing of this type of product."
The definition for "naturally raised" proposed by USDA is:
Livestock used for the production of meat and meat products have been raised entirely without growth promotants, antibiotics, and have never been fed mammalian or avian by-products. This information shall be contained on any label claim that an animal has been naturally raised.
Cathy Liss, President of the Animal Welfare Institute, asks consumers to urge the USDA to include animal welfare criteria in the standards. "We are seeking a better result. The definition as proposed contains no stipulations concerning the animals' own welfare or how the animals live, but applies narrow criteria related only to feed or other substances administered to animals. While farmers who raise animals under high welfare conditions should be covered by this term, the industrial producers will seek a weak definition so they can profit by selling the products of cruelly raised animals labeled as 'naturally raised.'"
According to the USDA, prohibiting use of antibiotics, growth promotants, and certain animal by-products are the main attributes consumers want for "naturally-raised" meat and meat products. However, many ranchers, farmers, and others testified in public meetings in 2006 and 2007 that the ability of animals to range freely, eat diets natural to their species, and engage in natural behaviors are essential aspects of a "naturally raised" claim.
Also, in July 2007, the independent Consumer Reports revealed that 83% of consumers polled regarding meat labels said a "natural" label should mean "it came from an animal raised in a natural environment." See page 15 of Consumer Reports Survey.
The Animal Welfare Institute asks consumers to urge the USDA to write a definition for "naturally raised" that:
- requires farm animals, including poultry, to be raised in a manner that is consistent with the biology and natural behavior of the species;
- disqualifies farms that use gestation crates, farrowing crates, battery cages, calf crates, slatted floors and liquefied manure, and other equipment or facilities typical of unnatural factory systems; and
- requires that animals have free access to continuous range on fresh pasture or woodlands, or, in inclement weather, be able to move freely in comfortable housing and clean bedding until outdoor conditions improve.
Additional points that could be added include:
- While it is appropriate to disallow routine administration of antibiotics to all animals via feed or water, individual animals that are sick should be able to receive therapeutic antibiotic treatment if needed. To deny them necessary veterinary care is inhumane.
- All animals should be provided with free and continuous access to nutritionally complete food and clean water consistent with the animals' natural diets (e.g., grass and hay for cattle
- Crowding of animals should be prohibited.
- Tail docking of pigs, beak trimming of chickens and turkeys and other mutilations necessitated by unnatural environments should be prohibited.
- The use of hormones or other agents, including beta-agonists and ractopamine, to promote growth and increase production should be prohibited.
- Early weaning, before the immune systems of the young are fully developed, should be prohibited.
- Genetic selection for high growth rates and high rates of reproduction that reduce the animals' ability to reproduce naturally and thrive in environments natural to its species should be prohibited. Examples include selection that makes natural birth difficult without human intervention (double muscled cattle) or makes normal reproduction impossible (conventionally bred turkeys).
The Animal Welfare Institute believes that a solid definition of "naturally raised" must be adopted by USDA to serve consumers, farmers and particularly the farm animals by differentiating the practices of farmers who address the physical and behavioral needs of their animals from the factory farms that don't. To contact the Animal Welfare Institute, call (202) 337-2332.
All comments, due by March 3, 2008, should reference docket number LS-07-16.
Comments can be submitted via:
- The AMS web site at http://www.regulations.gov/ (insert "naturally raised" in the search box provided on the site) or click on Comment Form to go directly to the online form: http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=SubmitComment&o=0900006480369411.
- Regular Mail:
Naturally Raised Marketing Claim
Room 2607 S, AMS, USDA,
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250 0254
- By Fax (202) 720 1112.
For over 57 years, AWI has been the leading voice for animals across the country and on Capitol Hill. Please join us in our ongoing campaigns to reduce the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. AWI promotes humane farming practices and fights the growth of animal factories for the benefit of animals, consumers, farm families, rural communities and the environment. Sign up for AWI eAlerts to receive the latest news on what you can do to help us protect all animals.
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