Last year, we hosted a training for our staff about local, pasture-raised pork. Emily Moose from A Greener World (the certifying agent for the Animal Welfare Approved label) discussed standards and labeling. Below are some of the things we learned.
A Greener World
A Greener World was founded in part to establish and promote trusted farm certification programs that help reconnect shoppers with producers, and that encourage positive farm management. They also identify and promote agricultural systems that impact the environment, society, and animals in a good way, and educate consumers about the environmental, social, and animal outcomes of their food purchasing decisions. They use science-based standards and focus on outcomes.
Three certifications/labels that A Greener World (AGW) manages are Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW, and Certified Non-GMO by AGW.
Misleading Labels and How to Spot Them
Shoppers rely on food labels to tell us about the products we buy, but some terms and labels are not regulated, leading to misinformation. Here are some things for shoppers to consider when examining a label:
- Is it a series of talking points (e.g., “humane”) or are there actually standards?
- If so, are the standards publicly available? Are the standards simply suggested practices?
- Does a farm or operation have to be audited to get this label?
- Is the label reliable and meaningful? If you’re a producer, does it reflect and protect your production claims?
- What do consumer advocates say about the label?
A Greener World publishes a booklet guide to common food labels and what they mean. (Download it here: https://agreenerworld.org/resources/food-labels/) For example, “Humanely raised” has no legal definition or minimum agreed welfare standard, so it can appear on food products where animals were raised on dirt feedlots or indoors in confinement systems, and where antibiotic use and beak trimming or tail docking are routine practices. While “Free range” does have a legal definition, there is no definition of the type of outdoor access provided (such as pasture or dirt lot), the size of the outdoor area, the length of time the birds are required to have outdoor access, and how this must be verified. Therefore, this claim provides no assurance of proper animal welfare or environmental management.
Shoppers Want Information
In this day, shoppers are interested in where their food comes from and how it was treated. They want to be sure of what they are buying. Consumer Reports conducted a survey in 2016; some of the results are these:
- 88% believe a farm should be inspected to verify a “humane” claim
- 93% want to know if food is from the U.S., and 94% want the USDA to ensure standards are consistent for meat labels
- 84% want products form animals routinely given antibiotics to be labeled “raised with antibiotics”
- 80% believe a humane label should cover slaughter
- 78% believe a humane label should mean that the animal went outdoors
The “Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW” label is the only food label in the U.S. with meaningful welfare and audited slaughter standards for all species. AGW audits, certifies, and supports farmers raising their animals according to the highest welfare standards, outdoors on pasture or range. There are no cages, crates, or feedlots. The label has gotten attention from top restaurants and major news outlets. A Greener World assists certified farmers with graphics, promotional materials, and more.
View all the posts from the training, here: https://www.weaverstreetmarket.coop/learning-pork-supply/