This week, Perdue Farms, one of America’s largest multinational chicken producers, agreed to remove labels indicating “humanely raised” from it’s Harvestland chicken products after two class action lawsuits were filed alleging that the company was misleading consumers. Some large grocers, such as the Kroger chain of supermarkets, are following suit.
As we become increasingly conscious about the food that we put in our bodies—including where it comes from and how it is raised—large corporations have paid attention. It’s impossible to visit the grocery store without being barraged by claims that products are natural, organic, local, or humane. But what does all this marketing really mean, and how can we ensure that that the products we buy really meet the high standards that we demand for our families and ourselves?
There are too many issues surrounding labeling and certification to go into in one short article, but suffice it to say that confusion and lack of clarity have opened the doors for exploitation by some companies that are more interested in profit than ethics.
In the case of Perdue, their claims of “Humanely Raised” were based on guidelines developed by the National Chicken Council, a trade industry group to which they are active contributors. According to Temple Grandin, one of our personal heroes and the nation’s foremost authority on humane animal handling and slaughter, “The National Chicken Council Animal Welfare audit has a scoring system that is so lax that it allows plants or farms with really bad practices to pass.”
For us, it’s personal.
At Kettle Range Meat Co., we recognize that labeling and certification are important tools when they are carefully scrutinized and applied honestly. However, we also know that there is no real substitute for having a close personal relationship with the farmers who raise our animals. We also work closely with the small, community slaughter facilities that we use in order to ensure that they are committed to the highest standards of humane treatment. After all, would you trust your kids with a babysitter simply because the words “I don’t beat children” were written on her business card?
In an increasingly industrialized system where food is shipped across international borders and processed in anonymous factories owned by multinational corporations, the best way to ensure that the meat that you are buying was raised as healthfully and humanely as possible is by purchasing from local farmers and businesses who live in your community and share your values.
At Kettle Range, it’s not a label that guides everything we do, it’s a philosophy.
Perdue forced to remove “humanely raised” labels from chicken. Salon, October 13, 2014. http://www.salon.com/2014/10/13/perdue_forced_to_remove_humanely_raised_labels_from_chicken/
Humanely Raised? Challenging Perdue’s Claims. The Humane Society, November 29, 2010 (http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2010/11/perdue_labels_112910.html).
Kroger removing “humanely raised”on chicken labels in settlement following Perdue deal. The Oregonian, October 15, 2014. http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2014/10/kroger_removing_humanely_raise.html