Below are food labels that WSPA rate as ‘A Good Start,’ ‘Even Better’ and ‘The Best Options’ in terms of their impact on the lives of animals raised for food:
A GOOD start
“Cage free” (eggs)
May be placed on organic pastured eggs or egg products that have come from hens who never have been confined to a cage and who have had unlimited access to food, water, and the freedom to roam. “Cage free” does not have the same meaning as “free range” or “pastured raised,” however, and can refer to birds who have lived their entire lives confined to a building or one room of a building. In fact, the space per hen may not be that much more than for cage birds, but generally the welfare of cage-free hens is superior to those kept in cages.
Must See This : organic pastured eggs
“Free range” (chicken, goose, duck, turkey)
When used on poultry means that the birds were allowed “continuous, free access to the outside for over 51% of their lives through a normal growing cycle.” However, some free-range birds may be housed in open-air barns with limited exits to the outside that are left open for only a short period each day. In other free range situations the birds may spend a large proportion of their day outdoors and are brought in only at night or bad weather. There is no way of telling which is the case without visiting the farm. Because meat birds are slaughtered at such a young age (6-7 weeks), many “free range” birds raised during winter months never go outdoors.
“Grass fed” (dairy, beef, lamb, bison)
USDA defines “grass fed” meat from animals whose diet was derived solely from forage and who had continuous access to pasture during the growing season. The feeding of grain is also prohibited under the label. However, the term applies to diet only and is not synonymous with “free range” or “pastured raised.” It is possible that an animal can be kept in confinement and the meat labeled as “grass fed.”
“Free range” (beef, bison, pork, lamb)
When used with cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs, “free range” means the animals were given continuous, free access to pasture for a significant portion of their lives and were never confined to a feedlot. Therefore, “free range” generally has more meaning in terms of animal welfare when applied to meat than when applied to eggs or poultry. However, unlike third party certification programs (such as USDA Organic, Certified Humane, Free Farmed Certified) the USDA does not verify on-farm compliance with the government’s free range standard.
“Pasture raised” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)
The terms “pasture raised” and “pasture grown” are similar in meaning to “free range” when used to describe the raising of cattle, sheep, and pigs. However, the terms have more significance when used with hens and meat birds. “Pasture raised” indicates that the meat or eggs came from birds who were provided genuine access to both the outdoors and natural vegetation. Many pasture operations use mobile shelters with perimeter fencing that are located in a pastured area and moved periodically to protect the plant growth and provide the birds with a continuous source of seeds.
“USDA Organic” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)
Currently the only recognized organic program in the U.S. The program’s standards have been written to apply to all farm animals and don’t address many animal care issues such as weaning, physical alterations like tail docking, minimum space allowances, handling, transport, or slaughter. However, the “USDA Organic” label does require animals have access to the outdoors and be provided with fresh air, sunlight, and freedom of movement. As a result, prolonged intensive confinement is probably rare under the label; however, some large producers have gotten away with keeping hens indoors and not providing dairy cows with access to pasture by exploiting loopholes in the Organic program.
The BEST options
“Certified Humane” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, goat, pork)
A humane food certification program administered by Humane Farm Animal Care and endorsed by leading animal advocacy organizations including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Species-specific standards require a nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones, and that animals be raised with shelter, resting areas, sufficient space and the ability to engage in natural behaviors. While certain species of animals (poultry and pigs) are not required to have access to the outdoors, the program requires that indoor housing systems for these animals adhere to strict air quality and lighting standards in addition to those that meet the animals’ behavioral and physiological needs.
“American Humane Certified” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, veal, lamb, goat, pork, bison)
The first humane food certification program in the U.S., American Humane Certified is administered as an in-house program of the American Humane Association. Its standards are similar to those of Certified Humane. Its auditing process now includes 24/7 video monitoring of all live areas, including transportation and slaughter facilities. The program has attracted some large producers that raise a majority of their animals under intensive “factory-farming” conditions. As with Certified Humane, certain species of animals (pigs, meat chickens, laying hens) raised under the American Humane Certified program may not be provided with the opportunity to go outside.
“Animal Welfare Approved” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, goat, pork)
The newest humane food certification program is administered by the Animal Welfare Institute. This program currently has the most stringent animal welfare standards and includes certain animals not covered by other programs, such as rabbits and ducks. Animal Welfare Approved requires that all animals have regular access to the outdoors and prohibits physical mutilations like debeaking of hens and tail docking of pigs. This program also requires that producers be family farmers and does not allow producers that have dual humane and factory-farming operations to participate.