Want to make a difference?
Put your money where your mouth is—literally. The food choices you make in
the grocery store have a significant impact on the welfare of farm animals
across the country. Your purchases let retailers and producers know that
consumers are interested in humanely raised food products. If the products
are selling, they will continue to produce and stock them in your store.
is making it easier for restaurant goers to find humane choices when eating
out. Look for “The Humane Choice” at www.fact.yelp.com.
For each restaurant we review, we research the ingredients used – where they
come from and how the farms treat their animals. We then rate the
restaurants on a scale of one to five, based on their humane purchasing
practices. Right now our reviews are limited to Chicago but we hope to
branch out to restaurants in other areas in the future. We will continue to
add restaurant reviews and update past reviews throughout the year so please
be sure to check back often.
To become a
more informed consumer, check out our
Chicago Humane Choices
Guide and our Guide to Egg
Unfortunately for the well-meaning shopper, food labels can often be
confusing and misleading. The following is a guide to help you make the best
food choices possible.
Cage-free eggs are produced by hens that live in barns or buildings, moving
around on the floor, not in battery cages. These birds do have freedom of
movement and the ability to engage in many of their natural behaviors such
as walking, nesting, and spreading their wings. Because the cage-free label
is not monitored or regulated by the federal government, cage free
facilities vary greatly in terms of flooring, lighting, airflow, nesting
facilities and stocking density.
“Free-range” or “free-roaming” on a label implies that the bird had
unrestricted access to the outside world. In reality, the term only
guarantees that the bird has an opportunity to go outdoors each day, with no
requirement that it actually gets there. The use of the term “free-range” is
only defined by the USDA for chickens that are raised for meat, not those
that lay eggs, and thus does not tell the consumer very much about how the
hens are raised. Most eggs labeled as “free-roaming” are in fact cage free,
meaning the hens are on the floor, not in battery cages.
Food certified as organic can often be a good choice when choosing meat,
poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
Organic regulations prohibit the use of hormones and antibiotics. The
National Organic Program (NOP) standards, which were fully implemented in
October 2002, include some provisions for the humane treatment of animals,
although they are fairly vague. In addition, animal by-products are
prohibited in feeds for organically raised animals. Certified organic
products carry the USDA's Organic seal.
Products labeled as organic are inspected annually by a government-approved
certification agency. The certifier inspects the farm and where the food is
raised and reviews all the necessary documentation to make sure the farmer
is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.
the case of organic eggs, the hens are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet
free of antibiotics and pesticides. The birds are uncaged inside barns or
houses, and are required to have outdoor access (although there have been
concerns about lax enforcement, with some large-scale producers not
providing birds meaningful access to the outdoors). Forced molting through
starvation is permitted.
USDA has defined the term “natural” for meat and poultry as
“a product containing no artificial ingredients or added color and is only
minimally processed.” Because shell eggs are not processed (except for
cleaning and grading) and do not contain artificial ingredients, they would
all be considered “natural.” Therefore, when applied to eggs, the term
“natural” is meaningless and has no relevance to animal welfare. In general,
this label is not meaningful for meat, poultry, or eggs.
Antibiotics or No Hormones - Products
labeled as "No Antibiotics Used or Added" can be a good choice. However,
just because a food is antibiotic free, it doesn’t guarantee that the
animals were raised humanely, were fed healthy food, were able to exercise
and express natural behaviors, or spent time outside.
Packages of chicken sold in supermarkets commonly sport a claim that reads
“no added hormones.” While customers might take this to mean that the birds
were raised humanely, in reality hormones are not permitted in chicken
production by law. Using hormones with chickens is illegal and no chicken
product sold in the U.S. contains them. Therefore, a "no added hormones"
claim on chicken is unnecessary and misleading.
Perdue “Humanely Raised” or “Raised Cage Free”:
One of the largest producers of poultry in the country, has recently started
to include the claims “raised cage free” and “humanely raised” on packages
of some its chicken meat. It is FACT’s opinion that these claims are
misleading to consumers who expect strong animal welfare standards. To begin
with, unlike egg laying hens, chickens raised for meat are not raised in
cages. Confinement in cages causes bruising to the muscle, making it
unappealing to purchasers. FACT believes that Perdue’s “raised cage free”
claim may give consumers the wrong impression that these birds were treated
differently than birds on other large-scale, conventional operations. Perdue
also claims that the birds were “humanely raised” in compliance with the
company’s welfare standards. While Perdue states that their standards exceed
the National Chicken Council’s (NCC) animal welfare guidelines, Purdue’s
standards are not publicly available to consumers.
UEP Certified (United Egg Producers) “Produced in Compliance with United Egg
Producers’ Animal Husbandry Guidelines”:
Many cartons of eggs found in the supermarket carry the United Egg Producers
Certified logo along with the statement “Produced in Compliance with United
Egg Producers’ Animal Husbandry Guidelines.” In FACT’s opinion, this label
may be misleading to consumers if they expect strong animal welfare
standards. UEP Certified guidelines claim to provide a best practice
approach to egg production, but they do not prohibit battery cages,
beak-trimming or forced-molting. FACT’s position is that customers concerned
about animal welfare should seek out egg cartons with additional labels such
as Certified Organic, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and