Food Label Misinformation Harms Animals, Consumers and Farmers

Packages of meat, eggs and dairy often bear terms that appear to indicate meaningful animal welfare standards, but only a fraction of them actually do. This confusion prevents consumers from voting with their wallets for better treatment of farm animals and negatively impacts the farmers who truly are raising animals using higher-welfare methods.
People Impacted
$ 17B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

It is important for food labels to clearly communicate the standards of animal welfare so consumers can make buying decisions that align with their values. However, today, common information on labels does not ensure animal welfare and often misleads consumers: 

  • 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.

  • USDA Organic: This label has vague and poorly enforced regulations for animal rearing, and none at all for transport or slaughter.

the impact
Negative Effects

When consumers cannot vote with their wallets based on clear information, they are unable to financially support the farms that are actually prioritizing animal welfare. This does not incentivize better practices of animal welfare which in turn impacts both farmers and animals. Unknowingly purchasing lower quality or sub-standard animal products can also negatively impact the health of consumers, since farms that are not properly maintained can be breeding grounds for Salmonella, E. coli and other pathogens that can be passed to humans.

To combat unsanitary conditions, animals are fed large doses of antibiotics—but bacteria is constantly adapting and evolving. Misuse, overuse and dependence on antibiotics in our food system creates the potential for dangerous, drug-resistant strains of bacteria to develop and spread among people and animals. 

Data Sources

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals -

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