It’s that time of year again! You’ve just finished your Thanksgiving meal, you’re exhausted, and you can’t even imagine eating another meal, yet you know that in a few short weeks you’ll be doing it all over again for December holidays. Well, we’d like to give you some things to consider next week while you’re picking out chicken thighs for your grandma’s soup recipe or selecting the perfect steaks for the family members who are craving something different than turkey again. Many of the meats you might consider will have many claims on their packaging to help you make a more informed decision.
Over the last decade, utilization of terms like “raised with care,” “farm fresh,” or “natural” have increased on meat packaging; because of this, consumers have begun questioning what these claims mean. Many customers know little about where their food comes from. What kind of care did that animal actually receive? Where did the animal sleep, how tightly packed were they and what did their diet consist of? What steps were taken to ensure proper handling and transporting of that food?
That’s where we come in. Where Food Comes From offers third-party verification services to hundreds of claims, programs, and markets. This includes claims that you are probably familiar with like Organic Certification, the Non-GMO Project, and Gluten Free as well as programs that you may not be familiar with like Safe Quality Food Initiatives and other process verified programs. So, what is the real difference between verified and unverified claims by food producers?
First, let’s take a look at a two of the most common claims that we see on our meat packaging today.
Humanely Raised– There are no defined legal definition for this nor are there agreed specific standards on what the term “humane” should actually represent.
No Hormones or Hormone Free– It’s important to note that every chicken processing plant could utilize this claim regardless of other conditions because USDA bans the use of hormones in all chicken production. It is also important to note that this doesn’t necessarily provide you the entire story about the chickens living conditions and/or health because it is not an animal welfare focused claim.
The terms food companies use, like the ones mentioned above, can seem a little misleading and are the statements alone are not validated by transparent third-party verification steps. However, you shouldn’t let that discourage you from seeking out information about food claims that can be verified. Educating yourself is the first step to making more informed food choices for you and your family.
A few labels that are focused around animal welfare that are third-party verified include American Humane, Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 5-Step Animal Welfare Review and Validus Animal Welfare Review.
Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Review – this program defines animal welfare as 3 overlapping components – health and productivity, natural living and emotional well-being. By defining animal welfare, it helped them identify and improve farming and ranching systems and practices. The program is tiered in a 5-Step system.
American Humane Certified – this program provides third-party, independent audits to help verify that certified producers’ care and handling of farm animals meet the science-based animal welfare standards of American Humane Association. The program provides ongoing outreach to farmers in the implementation of the best humane practices for animals.
Validus Animal Welfare Review – this program is awarded to farms that follow strict guidelines concerning the ways and conditions in which animals are raised for meat, dairy and swine. The farms that receive this certification undergo a detailed assessment and audit of their on-farm practices. To see specifically what gets evaluated on farm, you can view the standard online.
So, when you go to the grocery store next week, take an extra second or two to check out the claims on packages. Look for claims that are verified. If you find yourself questioning a claim you can head on over to our site to check out some of the other verification and certification programs we offer our services for.