By Larraine Roulston:
In my small northern Ontario town, one of our two large supermarkets recently began stocking the Certified Humane chicken brand Blue Goose, and occasionally offering Certified Humane steaks. Certified Humane, Global Animal Partnership and Animal Welfare Approved are certifications recommended by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) as reasonable assurances of care for farm animals.
Despite the increased interest in (and sales of) animal welfare certified products, Technomic’sgrocery industry report, “Understanding Retailers’ Animal Welfare Priorities,” indicates that key decision makers at grocery stores may still be confused about what makes an animal welfare label meaningful or relevant. For example, 95% of grocery store decision makers thought “cage-free” was a strong assurance for chicken meat – yet these chickens are never raised in cages. The cage-free claim has relevanceonly for laying hens raised for table egg production. Confusion can impact retailers’ decisions about how to stock their shelves. And this confusion can trickle down to shoppers who see shelves stocked with various claims and assume this means choice.
On a global scale, society is becoming increasingly aware of how animals are raised for food and are demanding more ethical standards. Retailersalso are taking notice. Of the U.S. retailers surveyed, 70% of those stocking meat, egg and dairy products with humane claims stated sales of those products have been increasing, and 30% stated intent to stock more to meet demand.
“It is a good sign that retailers are beginning to meet consumers’ demand for higher welfare,” said Daisy Freund, Director of the ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Campaign. “However, this survey reveals that there is much work to be done in terms of clearing up confusion in the marketplace. Retailers have the opportunity and responsibility to stock their shelves with the kind of truthfully labelled products that concerned consumers want to feed their families.”
Companies large and small are committing to improve sourcing in their supply chains with cage-free conditions for laying hens, eliminating gestation crates commonly used in pork production, and switching to healthier breeds of chickens reared for meat. While many of these commitments have long phase-in dates, it is important to realize that many farmers are using more humane and responsible practices today. These products should be available to offer shoppers the choices they seek and expect from large retail stores, especially in communities without access to local farms they can visit and buy from directly.
People are familiar with looking for Fair Trade certifications on coffee and chocolate and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) designation on paper as well as examining recyclability logos on plastics. When choosing meat, eggs and dairy products, exercise similar caution to locate legitimate label assurances of animal treatment, not humane-washed claims.
If unable to locate an animal product that meets your values, chat with the manager, fill out a supermarket request card, or opt for any of the several high protein, plant-based alternatives. When planning your menus, shop with your heart!