Concerned consumers are faced with a multitude of choices when shopping for food, particularly when it comes to deciphering labels on animal products.
A 2007 survey by Public Opinion Strategies found that 58 percent of consumers would spend an additional 10 percent or more for meat, poultry, eggs or dairy products with a humane label.
The “natural” label would seem comparable to “humane” and “organic,” which may lead many to the conclusion that products with this label fall under the same USDA guidelines, and may also conjure up images of animals who are given the opportunity to express their natural behaviors, spend most of their time outside and are given natural feed, along with limited use of antibiotics or other drugs.
Unfortunately, there aren’t really any guidelines for farmers when it comes to labeling their products as “natural,” which should make us wonder whether these labels hold any weight, or if this is just another way to get consumers to pay more for a product that comes from animals raised just as they would be on any other factory farm, as we saw with the truth behind the “cage-free” label.
In 2007, Farm Sanctuary petitioned the USDA “to consider the treatment and living conditions of farm animals when creating rules allowing producers to label their meat and poultry products as “natural.”
Farm Sanctuary’s petition to the agency is requesting that “the term “natural” should reflect what consumers understand to be “natural” conditions, and a nationwide survey reveals that 73 percent of consumers think it is inappropriate to label as “natural” meat from animals who are constantly kept indoors, confined in crowded cages, and forced to stand all day, every day on metal and concrete floors.”
Two years later, the USDA is finally accepting comments from the public on the matter until November 13th.
For more information on food labels, visit The Truth Behind the Labels.