February 2016 Issue

What the Animal Welfare Labels Mean

People are increasingly interested in supporting more humane farm animal conditions. Animal welfare labels can point you in the right direction.

If you find yourself drawn to purchasing meat, dairy, and egg products bearing labels that indicate higher animal welfare conditions, you’re not alone. Data shows that Americans care about animals, including farm animals. A survey conducted by Consumer Reports found 80 percent of those polled wanted good living conditions for animals raised for food. Today there is an increasing awareness of the conditions in which farm animals are raised: They typically are kept confined in industrial farms—huge warehouse-like facilities where animals are crammed together so intensely, they are often unable to turn around or spread their limbs. This confinement and the resulting unsanitary conditions are of course bad for the animals’ welfare, but also can lead to an increased risk of foodborne illness, according to research. Further, factory farmed animals are often fed non-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to increase growth and prevent stressed animals from spreading disease; this contributes to antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria that can harm humans, warns the American Medical Association.

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