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The advocacy group Animal Welfare Institute has recently released a report that found the government was unable to prove many meat labeling claims, such as “Humanely Raised and Handled” or “Sustainably Farmed.” The report covered an investigation that found the USDA failed to supply any supporting documentation for claims made for 20 out of 25 products.
Of course, there is a large consumer demand for organic, sustainable and humanely raised goods. While the report did not definitively prove that the claims on these products were false, there was simply no evidence to the contrary. The labels have become a large selling point for customers, and the USDA is responsible for evaluating any claims made on labels of meat in order to prevent fraud.
Part of the problem is that the USDA has no standard definition for animal welfare and environmental claims like “humanely raised” and “sustainably farmed.” When the Huffington Post asked a USDA spokesman how they approve claims for meat products, the response was “based on other claims on the label” and a quick change of subject. The AWI report could find little evidence of USDA’s involvement in protecting against label fraud.
As a result of the study, the Animal Welfare Institute is now calling on the USDA to change its current label approval process in order to prevent misleading and deceptive labeling. Their goal is to require that all animal welfare and environmental claims be verified by an independent third party.
As more consumer and animal welfare advocacy groups investigate the issue, their could be major changes to meat and poultry labeling practices. Food producers can be ready for any change in legislation by purchasing in-house printing solutions that produce custom printed labels on-demand.