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Writing about humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian. Your comments and feedback welcome. (All replies are screened and posted, if thoughtful and respectful.)

Action Opportunity: Ask USDA for a clear “humane” label

October 7, 2014

Rarely do we get a chance to make change in the world of meat labeling. But thanks to leadership by the Animal Welfare Institute, we consumers can now write to the USDA and ask that “humanely raised” labels be made clear and straightforward.

It’s not a clear and straightforward term, remember. “Humanely raised” can mean different things to different people, and this wide range of opinions is reflected in the wide range of “humanely raised” products now in the marketplace: the phrase is slapped on all sorts of meat that was raised in all sorts of conditions (as I explain in this recent post).

What’s more, the USDA itself doesn’t have clear standards for what the phrase means, and requires very little evidence to approve a humane claim. (Remember, the USDA has the authority to approve or reject the use of food labels by farms and companies.)

To bring clarity to the poor consumer, Animal Welfare Institute (with support from Friends of the Earth, Compassion in World Farming, and other farm & food groups) is asking the USDA to allow use of a humane label ONLY if the product comes from a humane certified farm.

This means that if imaginary Rose Petal Farm in Oklahoma wants to sell its pork in stores and put “humanely raised” on its label, it could do so only if it were audited annually by, say, Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved, or Global Animal Partnership. Consumers interested in Rose Petal pork could look up the standards of the certification program that was used and be clear on how the animal was raised.

(The petition to the USDA doesn’t specify whether all or some of the four humane certification programs would qualify a farm or company to use “humanely raised.” That decision would be made during the rulemaking process, as would other decisions, such as whether this rule would apply to small farms.)

As of this writing, nearly 30,000 people have signed the petition, according to Dena Jones of the Animal Welfare Institute. (E-blasts by major food & farming groups are to thank for that.)  To sign the petition, click here.

If you have questions about how this labeling process might work, post them below.

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