PETA asks USDA to end ‘humane’ meat labeling

Animal rights group claims FSIS can’t verify claims made by companies on how animals are raised.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

July 1, 2022

2 Min Read
Poultry chicken breasts meat case USDA-13065218273_e251695c06_k.jpg

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals submitted a petition with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to begin the rulemaking process to eliminate its label-approval program for any labels relating to claims about the conditions in which animals were raised.

The FSIS, which does not regulate the on-farm treatment of animals raised for meat, bases its approval of claims such as “humanely raised” or “raised in a stress-free environment” on the companies’ own submissions, with no audit or supporting evidence required. PETA claims as a result, companies can submit claims that are completely false or grossly misleading and still get the FSIS’ stamp of approval—and the financial motivation to do so is high.

“By approving labels without confirming, or even the ability to confirm, the information supporting the claims on them, FSIS is allowing companies to make variable, unverifiable, and false claims, thereby also violating its statutory responsibility to ensure labels on meat products are not false or misleading,” says PETA in its petition.

In December 2019, FSIS released a set of guidelines detailing the documentation required to substantiate animal raising claims for label submissions. The guidelines require companies to submit the following documentation for FSIS approval of labels bearing animal raising claims:

1. A detailed written description explaining the controls used for ensuring that the raising claim is valid from birth to harvest or the period of raising being referenced by the claim;

2. A signed and dated document describing how the animals are raised which may include feed formulations (e.g., vegetarian fed, raised without antibiotics, grass fed), to support that the specific claim made is truthful and not misleading;

3. A written description of the product tracing and segregation mechanism from time of slaughter or further processing through packaging and wholesale or retail distribution;

4. A written description for the identification, control, and segregation of nonconforming animals/product; and

5. If a third-party certifies a claim, a current copy of the certificate from the certifying organization.

Studies reveal that 67% of consumers are more likely to purchase items labeled as “humanely raised” and that shoppers are willing to spend as much as 30% more on products from companies claiming to treat animals “humanely,” PETA explains.

 “By signing off on meaningless ‘humane’ labels, the FSIS is giving companies carte blanche to charge more for products that are just as cruel as their ‘conventional’ counterparts,” says PETA Foundation General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman. “The only ‘humane’ meal is a vegan one, and PETA is calling on the FSIS to stop giving the government’s stamp of approval to companies that tell well-intentioned consumers otherwise.”


About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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