You know how much I love my shelter pet kitties, but the ASPCA wants to help us all become more aware of animal welfare beyond our domestic animals and consider humane and healthy conditions for farm animals as well. These five good shopping habits will help us become more savvy consumers.
Maybe you already read your labels carefully, but so many people don’t. And even if you do, don’t be fooled. There are some pretty shady foods and labels out there, so make sure you are doing your research. Words like Organic, humane, humanely raised, natural, cage free, free range, hormone free, antibiotic free and vegetarian fed, are thrown around all over the place. But in reality, they do not mean much.
Packages of meat, eggs, and dairy often bear terms that appear to indicate meaningful, humane, and safe animal welfare standards, but only a fraction of them do.
This confusion prevents conscientious consumers from voting with their wallets for better treatment of farm animals.
Some of the most commonly misunderstood “labels”
- Natural: Does not impact animal welfare in any way.
- Free-Range: No legal definition for use on eggs, pork, beef or dairy.
- Humanely Raised/Humanely Handled: Undefined and subjective terms without codified standards.
- Hormone-Free/No Hormones Added: Hormones are not approved by law for use on pigs or poultry, so the term is meaningless on those products.
- Cage-Free: On eggs, this label indicates that hens were not raised in battery cages. However, it is an empty claim on poultry meat as meat birds are very rarely raised in cages, and are instead crowded into large, open sheds.
It’s important to understand the true meanings of food labels so you can make informed decisions and help animals by buying products that match your values. Learn more in this comprehensive guide from the ASPCA Meat, Eggs, andDairy Label Guide.
Animals are not the only ones suffering because of these unnatural, inhumane conditions. Human health, the environment, and farmers are being hurt by the intensive farming systems employed on factory farms. It is so important to understand the impact of what is going on here. The impact of how powerful it is for us to buy these types of foods and feed them to our families.
- Eat In-Season Foods – Eating foods in season means that you’re able to buy from a more local economy and avoid having your food ship from other countries. This means fresher foods picked at peak ripeness too!
- Shop Local Farmer’s Markets or CSA Farms – CSA’s and local farmers’ markets help support local, often smaller scale, farmers, and ranchers who are producing outside of the traditional factory-farm system. Their hand’s on approach means they are monitoring their animals’ health closely on a day-to-day basis and are open to your personal questions. If you aren’t sure where to start, visit your local farmers’ market and start asking some question – this conversation guide will get you started.
- Overcome Label Confusion – Marketers create confusion with their flashy labels and clever catch-phrases. But unfortunately, sometimes they care more about finances than transparency. Words like “natural” or “humane” often don’t have any oversight to actually tell you as a consumer anything concrete. However, some phrases and labels do have regulations associated with their use, and that’s what you can start to look for as a savvy shopper. Here’s a guide to labeling to get you started.
- Make the Most of the Food You Have – One of the ways we can treat the animals used for food respectfully and humanely is by making the most of the food we purchase. Purchase only what you know you’ll use and serve the right sized portions to avoid wasting what your family buys.
- Look for Certifications That Mean Something – Unlike marketing gimmicks, there are certain certifications and awards that have true meaning. For example, the USDA Organic label shows that the produce grown (or fed to the animal) didn’t use banned pesticides. Others include Animal Welfare Approved or Certified Humane.
See The Good Groceries Guide for more information about how our shopping habits impact the lives of those around us – animals included. Find more resources for savvy shoppers at the ASPCA Shop With Your Heart website!
Make sure you enter the giveaway for some ASPCA goodies too!