RESEARCHED: FOOD LABEL CATEGORIES
One day, I was intrigued by all the egg options at the grocery store. Why are there so many? Aren't all eggs the same? I decided to do what I thought would be a quick search on google, and now here I am. I had no idea food labels were so misleading...
Tips to take home...or to the grocery store:
Do not fully trust what any label is claiming on first glance.
Wording is key on labels. Example: Cage-free, free-range, free-roaming, grass-fed, humane, humanely-raised have no legal definition in the US. So these claims mean literally nothing.
Hormone-free label for poultry and pork is just a scam. It is illegal to give poultry and pigs hormones.
In doing this research, I found that there are a lot of labels that mean nothing and are just a scam to get you to pay more for their product. Here is a reference list to differentiate between the labels that may by worth the extra $ and those that aren't.
Labels To Look For
Hormone free, rBGH, rBST
Certified Animal Welfare
Certified Humane (pasture-raised eggs)
Global Animal Partnership
Labels to Watch Out For
All Natural, Natural
Ethically Raised, Responsibly Raised, Thoughtfully Raised
Humanely Raised, Humanely Handled
Food Inspection & Certification Agencies
FSIS (food safety and inspection service): Responsible for ensuring that meat, poultry, Siluriformes, and eggs are safe and are properly labeled and packaged. Learn more about our inspection services and process.
AMS (agricultural marketing service): Administers programs that create domestic and international marketing opportunities for U.S. producers of food, fiber, and specialty crops. AMS also provides the agriculture industry with valuable services to ensure the quality and availability of wholesome food for consumers across the country and around the world.
AWI (animal welfare institute): Mission is to alleviate suffering of nonhuman animals.
AGA (american grassfed association): Maintains a credible, transparent national standard for animals humanely raised on pasture.
USDA (united states department of agriculture): Support the country’s agricultural economy and ensure that the products coming from our agricultural pipeline are safe and nutritious. The USDA oversees meat, poultry, and egg products.
FDA (food and drug administration): Responsible for monitoring 80% or more of the food supply including animal feed, drugs, dietary supplements, dairy, seafood, produce, packaged foods, bottled water, and whole eggs.
What is it
The term “organic” refers to the process of how certain foods are produced. Organic foods have been grown or farmed without the use of artificial chemicals, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms. The most commonly purchased organic foods are fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Recently there are also many processed organic products available, such as sodas, cookies and breakfast cereals. In order to be labelled organic, a food product must:
be free of artificial food additives. This includes artificial sweeteners, preservatives, coloring, flavoring and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
use natural fertilizers like manure to improve plant growth.
in animals, not receive any antibiotics or hormones.
What to look for & How to buy
Something to remember: organic junk food is still junk food. Don't be fooled by the label. A product that is labeled "organic" doesn't always mean it is healthy. However, since regulations generally ban the use of artificial food additives in these foods, buying organic is a good way to avoid a lot of the chemicals that are often added to conventional foods.
The USDA has set up an organic certification program that requires any farmer or food producer selling organic food to meet strict government standards. If you decide to choose organic, it’s important to look for the USDA organic seal. Also, watch for these statements on food labels, so you can identify food that is truly organically grown:
100% Organic: This product is made entirely from organic ingredients.
Organic: At least 95% of the ingredients in this product are organic.
Made with Organic: At least 70% of the ingredients are organic.
If a product contains less than 70% organic ingredients, it cannot be labeled organic or use the USDA seal.
You may see organic labels on fish or other seafood, but there is no U.S. government standard for “organic” seafood certification. Another way to mislead consumers into paying a higher price.
Higher levels of antioxidants (up to 69%) and other micronutrients such as vitamin C, zinc and iron.
Lower levels of nitrates
High nitrate levels are linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer and methemoglobinemia, a disease in infants that affects the body’s ability to carry oxygen.
Nitrate levels are 30% lower in organic crops.
Many people believe that the harmful effects of nitrates have been overstated. The benefits of eating vegetables far outweigh any negative effects.
Higher omega-3 fatty acids: Organic milk and dairy products may contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and slightly higher amounts of iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids.
A review of 67 studies found that organic meat contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and slightly lower levels of saturated fats than conventional meat.
Reduce exposure to chemicals: Evidence suggests that consuming these foods may reduce your exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
One study found that levels of cadmium, an extremely toxic metal, were 48% lower in organic produce. In addition, pesticide residues were four times more likely to be found in non-organic crops.
Lower risk of allergies and eczema
Less selenium and iodine: Organic milk may contain less selenium and iodine than non-organic milk, two minerals that are essential for health.
Inconclusive: While several studies find organic foods to contain more nutrients, many others have found insufficient evidence to recommend organic over inorganic.
An observational study comparing the nutrient intakes of nearly 4,000 adults consuming either organic or conventional vegetables found conflicting results.
A review of 55 studies found no differences in the nutrient content of organic versus regular crops, with the exception of lower nitrate levels in organic produce.
Another review of 233 studies found a lack of strong evidence to conclude that organic foods are more nutritious than regular foods.
This is because the nutrient content of food depends on many factors, such as soil quality, weather conditions and when the crops are harvested. The composition of dairy products and meat can be affected by differences in animal genetics and animal breed, what the animals eat, the time of year and type of farm.
What is it
A gluten-free diet involves excluding foods that contain the protein gluten, including wheat, rye and barley. Most studies on gluten-free diets have been done on people with celiac disease, but there is another condition called gluten sensitivity that also causes problems with gluten. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body mistakenly harms itself. Celiac disease affects up to 1% of the population and can damage the intestines.
What is gluten
Gluten is a family of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. Its name comes from the Latin word for “glue,” as it gives flour a sticky consistency when mixed with water. This glue-like property helps gluten create a sticky network that gives bread the ability to rise when baked. It also gives bread a chewy and satisfying texture.
Naturally gluten free foods.
Meats and fish. All meats and fish, except battered or coated meats.
Eggs. All types of eggs are naturally gluten-free.
Dairy. Plain dairy products, such as plain milk, plain yogurt and cheeses. However, flavored dairy products may have added ingredients that contain gluten, so you will need to read the food labels.
Fruits and vegetables. All fruits and vegetables are naturally free of gluten.
Grains. Quinoa, rice, buckwheat, tapioca, sorghum, corn, millet, amaranth, arrowroot, teff and oats (if labeled gluten-free).
Starches and flours. Potatoes, potato flour, corn, corn flour, chickpea flour, soy flour, almond meal/flour, coconut flour and tapioca flour.
Nuts and seeds. All nuts and seeds.
Spreads and oils. All vegetable oils and butter.
Herbs and spices. All herbs and spices.
Beverages. Most beverages, except for beer (unless labeled as gluten-free).
Any food that has gluten. The main sources are:
Wheat-based foods like wheat bran, wheat flour, spelt, durum, kamut and semolina
Examples of foods with gluten:
Bread. All wheat-based bread.
Pasta. All wheat-based pasta.
Cereals. Unless labeled gluten-free.
Baked goods. Cakes, cookies, muffins, pizza, bread crumbs and pastries.
Snack foods. Candy, muesli bars, crackers, pre-packaged convenience foods, roasted nuts, flavored chips and popcorn, pretzels.
Sauces. Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, marinades, salad dressings.
Beverages. Beer, flavored alcoholic beverages.
Other foods. Couscous, broth (unless labeled gluten-free).
Relieve digestive symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea or constipation, gas, fatigue and many other symptoms caused from celiac or a gluten sensitivity.
Reduces chronic inflammation in those with Celiac disease.
Boost energy: Those with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity often feel tired or sluggish often caused by nutrient deficiencies.
In a study including 1,031 people with celiac disease, 66% of them complained of fatigue. After following a gluten-free diet, only 22% of people still experienced fatigue.
Weight loss is common when switching to a gluten free diet since you eliminate junk foods and empty calories. These foods are often replaced with fruit, veggies and lean proteins.
Constipation is a common side effect on a gluten-free diet. This diet eliminates popular sources of fiber like bread, bran, and other wheat-based products. Furthermore, gluten-free substitutes are low in fiber.
Cost: Research shows that gluten-free foods are roughly two and a half times more expensive than their regular counterparts. This is because gluten-free foods cost manufacturers more money to make since foods must pass stricter testing and avoid becoming contaminated.
Can make socializing difficult: While many restaurants have gluten-free options, there is still a risk of food being contaminated with traces of gluten.
Sadly, studies have found that roughly 21% of people with celiac disease avoid social events so that they can stick to their gluten-free diet.
GMO & NON-GMO
What is it
Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are organisms into which a gene from another organism is inserted to alter their genetic code and confer a specific trait, such as resistance to a pest or herbicide. Genetic modification has important non-agricultural applications as well; for example, genetically modified (GM) bacteria are used to produce insulin for medical use. In agriculture GM crops are tools that can improve or simplify pest management, or enhance product quality. However, when pest management strategies are overused and are not complimented with supporting tools, pests develop resistance to the tool – this is happening with some genetically modified crops. In some cases, this has led to yield losses, and the use of more or different pesticides.
Foods that contain GMOs are not required to be labeled (except in Vermont) but there is a voluntary program (the non-GMO project) through which products can be labeled non-GMO.
The label comparison between non-GMO and organic is interesting...
Organic vs Non-GMO
Organic products use ingredients that aren’t treated with synthetic pesticides or chemicals and cannot use genetically-modified seeds.
Non-GMO products don’t use genetically-modified ingredients, but do not always contain all organic ingredients. Some consumers who are focused on purchasing non-GMO products mistakenly believe that they’re buying an organically-grown product when, in fact, some of the ingredients may have been treated with chemicals.
In order to obtain the Non-GMO label, a product has to be certified as containing ingredients with less than 1% genetic modification. That certification must come from one of the four independent technical administrators that the Non-GMO Project has authorized to certify products. The auditors will review all of the ingredients and inputs that go into a product to find any that could contain a modified gene. Ingredients that are at risk to have been modified are DNA tested.
Once obtained, product verification must be renewed each year.
But can you label your product as non-GMO without going through the Non-GMO Project? The short answer is yes. You can add an unverified, non-GMO statement to your packaging, provided you have documentation from each ingredient supplier that the ingredients are non-GMO.
What foods are GMO
The Non-GMO Project lists several common plants that are often GMOs, especially when produced on an industrial level. Common plant examples are:
Yellow Summer Squash/Zucchini
Animal products (and the animals themselves) can often be GMOs. Examples include:
Hides & Skin
Micro-organisms (enzymes, cultures, etc.)
GMO crops usually produce higher yields
GMO crops are easier to manage
GMO crops use less space and resources
Unknown risks of GMOs due to the fact that so few studies have been conducted on their risks to human health and how GMOs affect the environment.
Herbicide tolerance of GMOs: More than 80% of all genetically modified crops grown worldwide have been engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, the use of toxic herbicides, such as Roundup®, has increased fifteenfold since GMOs were first introduced. In March 2015, the World Health Organization determined that the herbicide glyphosate (the key ingredient in Roundup®) is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Superweeds and superbugs: Genetically modified crops also are responsible for the emergence of “superweeds” and “superbugs,” which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons such as 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange).
Are GMOs safe
Non-GMO diet practitioners say no, because humans are meant to consume natural substances, not Frankenstein creations that we can’t process properly. This manipulation, they fear, could lead to increased instances of cancer or other ailments.
Scientists say go full-steam ahead and continue creating GMOs that grow better, produce more and deliver the nutrients we need most. Anti-GMO factions say shoppers deserve warnings about what they eat and that most GMOs aren’t worth the risk.
ALL-NATURAL, OR NATURAL
What is it?
The FDA has no guidelines for use of the term “natural” and only lightly enforces the term “all-natural.” Meanwhile, the USDA defines “natural” as “a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color” that “is only minimally processed,” meaning it’s “processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product.” That means animals raised with hormones and antibiotics can still fall under the “natural” category, as can Cheetos, lemon-flavored Oreos, and Skippy peanut butter. The Hormel Natural Choice packaging is within the legal bounds outlined by the USDA — it defines “natural” as “minimally processed” with “no artificial ingredients.”
In a lawsuit against Hormel, it was claimed their 'natural' label on meat products mislead consumers into thinking they did not contain antibiotics or hormones when, in fact, they do. Although the ruling sided with Hormel, the lawsuit did reveal that the company’s Hormel Natural Choice label uses the same hormone- and antibiotic-treated animals used to produce other conventional Hormel meat products like Spam.
There’s plenty of outside evidence that big food companies profit off consumer confusion.
Consumer Reports found that 73 percent of respondents sought out products with the “natural” label.
A separate survey from Technomic found that one in five consumers are willing to pay more for “natural” and “organic” labeled products — in essence, paying more money for a vaguely defined word.
In conclusion: most companies use this label to lead consumers to believe their product is healthy and contains nothing artificial, when in most cases it does.
HORMONE-FREE, (rBST OR rGBH FREE)
What is it?
The labels “raised without added hormones,” “no hormones administered” or “no synthetic hormones” all mean that the animal received no synthetic hormones. Hormone-free labels do not disclose what the animals were fed or if they had access to pasture. Federal law prohibits the use of hormones on hogs and poultry. Any hormone-free label on pork and poultry products is intended to mislead shoppers into thinking that the product is worthy of a higher price.
In the United States, food producers have been using growth-enhancing hormones in cattle for decades. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) holds that the growth hormones currently being used by the cattle industry are well-tested and safe.
The growth hormones given to dairy cows and beef cattle are different:
Dairy Cows: recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a synthetic version of a hormone cows produce naturally to increase milk production. (It’s also sometimes called rBST, for recombinant bovine somatotropin.)
About 20% of US dairy cows receive this
Cows treated with rBGH produce 10-15% more milk
In beef cattle, producers administer a variety of steroid hormones — including natural and synthetic versions of estrogen and testosterone — to make animals grow faster, convert their food into muscle more efficiently and make their meat leaner.
Pros of using hormones
Promote either higher milk production or bigger, faster-maturing animals for meat.
Research has showed rBGH to be inactive and unharmful in humans
Cons of using hormones
Claims of rBGH indirectly harming humans, by speeding the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and increasing the levels of a protein that’s been associated with cancer.
rBGH is linked with causing mastitis in cows, which in turn increases the use of antibiotics to treat.
rBGH may boost levels of a protein found in cow's milk called IGF-1— and some research has linked this specific protein (though not milk consumption, importantly) to cancer growth.
Conversely, one 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association that sampled store-bought milk in 48 states found no significant differences in the amounts of hormones or IGF-1 in organic, no-added-hormone or conventional products. We produce this same protein and would have to drink 100 quarts of milk a day to equal the amount in our saliva.
Advocates fear that residues of added hormones (steroids in beef cattle) in meat could disrupt normal hormone function in humans, especially developing children, potentially increasing the risk of problems such as reproductive abnormalities.
Animal Welfare Related Labels
GRASS-FED (dairy, beef, bison, lamb, goat):
This common term has no legal definition in the US, but as of December 2019, "100% grass-fed" claims are only permitted for animals with continuous access to pasture their entire lives and must never be confined to a feedlot. The FSIS (food safety and inspection service) considers “grass fed” to be a diet claim, and does not require that producers address other aspects of animal raising, such as confinement or the use of antibiotics and hormones. The standard had required a lifetime diet of 100 percent grass and forage and had prohibited grains. Pasture access during most of the growing season was required, but confinement and the administration of hormones and antibiotics were not prohibited. After withdrawing the “grass fed” standard, the AMS launched a “certified grass fed” program for small producers. For meaningful assurance, look for products certified by the AGA.
Grass VS Grain
In the United States, most cows start living similar lives. Calves are born in the early spring, drink milk from their mothers, and are then allowed to roam free and eat grass or other edible plants they find in their environment. This continues for about 7–9 months. Then, grass-fed cows will eat (mostly) grass, while grain-fed cows eat (mostly) an unnatural diet based on corn and soy during the latter part of their lives. Grass-fed doesn't necessarily mean the cows are grazing outdoors. Grain-fed cows are mostly kept in large feedlots are called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). There, the cows are kept in confined stalls, often with limited space.
What a cow eats can significantly affect the nutrient composition of its beef. This is particularly evident when it comes to fatty acid composition.
Grass-fed beef usually contains less total fat than grain-fed beef, which means that gram for gram, grass-fed beef contains fewer calories.
Grass-fed beef contains much less monounsaturated fat than grain-fed beef.
Grass- and grain-fed beef contain very similar amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.
Grass-fed contains up to 5 times as much omega-3.
Grass-fed beef contains about twice as much CLA as grain-fed beef.
Grass-fed is much higher in vitamin A and vitamin E.
CERTIFIED 100% GRASS-FED:
A third-party certification program administered by the American Grassfed Association. The program's standards require continuous access to pasture and a diet of 100 percent forage. Confinement to feedlots and the use of hormones and antibiotics are prohibited. However, pain relief is not required for physical alterations such as the docking of tails and removal of horns. Also, no standards exist for the treatment of animals during transport or at slaughter. see grass vs grain comparison above
AMERICAN HUMANE CERTIFIED:
A third-party animal welfare certification program administered by the American Humane Association. Similar to other programs, this certification is based on audited compliance with comprehensive standards. American Humane Certified covers the largest number of farm animals of any third-party animal welfare certification program in the United States. However, the animal welfare standards are weaker than those of other programs, just slightly above conventional industry animal care standards. Moreover, American Humane does not require compliance with 100 percent of its standards, and it only audits a sample of farm locations where animals are being raised for a particular producer or processor.
AMERICAN HUMANE CERTIFIED (pasture-raised eggs):
The space standard for the label is 2.5 acres per 1,000 birds. Unfortunately, American Humane does not require compliance with 100 percent of its standards, and only a sample of producer/processor farm locations are audited. Some, but not all, cages and crates are banned. It does allow enriched cages for laying hens and feedlots for beef cattle. Indoor enrichments are not required for chickens raised for meat.
CAGE FREE (eggs):
According to the USDA, this claim indicates the eggs came from hens who were "never confined to a cage and have had unlimited access to food, water, and the freedom to roam," but usually only within the confines of a barn. In fact, some cage free hens may not have much more space than caged birds. (“Cage free" is typically not used on eggs from hens who have access to range or pasture.)
CAGE FREE (chicken, turkey):
The label is meaningless when used on chicken or turkey products since, in the United States, birds raised for meat are not typically caged prior to transport to slaughter.
CERTIFIED ANIMAL WELFARE APPROVED:
The only USDA-approved third-party animal welfare food certification label that supports and promotes family farmers who raise their animals with the highest welfare standards, outdoors, on pasture or range. Standards cover the treatment of breeding animals, animals during transport, and animals at slaughter. No cages are permitted. Access to pasture and indoor enrichment is required, so animals raised under this standard have the capacity to exhibit essential natural behaviors that improve their quality of life.
CERTIFIED HUMANE (pasture-raised eggs):
A third-party animal welfare certification program offering an additional certification to designate free-range and pasture-raised hens. The free-range designation requires daily access to an uncovered outdoor area providing a minimum of 2 square feet per bird. This does not meet AWI’s standard for free-range eggs. However, Certified Humane’s standard for “pasture raised” is 2.5 acres per 1,000 birds, which meets AWI’s standard for pasture-raised eggs.
CERTIFIED HUMANE (products other than pasture-raised eggs):
A third-party animal welfare certification program. Access to the outdoors is not required for meat birds, egg-laying hens, and pigs; however, minimum space allowances and environmental enrichment must be provided. Beak trimming of hens and turkeys and tail docking of pigs are allowed under certain circumstances. Standards include the treatment of breeding animals, animals during transport, and animals at slaughter.
ETHICALLY RAISED, RESPONSIBLY RAISED, THOUGHTFULLY RAISED:
These claims are subjective and misleading. In addition, no third-party certification programs exist for these claims. Since these claims are not defined by the USDA, the producer is required to include on the label an explanation of what is meant by the claim. These claims should be considered a marketing tactic with little or no relevance to animal welfare.
FOOD ALLIANCE CERTIFIED:
A non-profit sustainable agriculture certification program that supports "safe and fair working conditions, humane treatment of animals, and careful stewardship of ecosystems." Standards provide for access to natural light, fresh air, and adequate space, but access to the outdoors is not required for all animals. Pain relief is not required for most physical alterations, including beak trimming and tail docking. The program's audit criteria allow a farm to become approved based on an average score for some areas instead of requiring that every standard be met. Standards do not include the treatment of animals at slaughter.
FREE RANGE (eggs):
Allotted less than 2 square feet per hen, these animals have more space than their caged and cage-free peers, but they don’t get outdoors as much as you may think. Some seldom get to see the light of day and many eat a corn- or soy-based feed.
These ladies are given at least 108 square feet each and consume some feed and lots of grass, bugs, worms and anything else they can find in the dirt. They tend to be let out of the barns early in the morning and called back in before nightfall. Pastured-raised hens also produce healthier eggs, according to a 2003 study out of Pennsylvania State University. In it, researchers found that one pasture-raised egg contains twice as much omega-3 fat, three times more vitamin D, four times more vitamin E and seven times more beta-carotene than eggs from hens raised on traditional feed.
FREE RANGE, RANGE GROWN (chicken, turkey, goose, duck):
The USDA allows the use of this claims on poultry products if the producer submits animal care protocols and/or affidavits describing the conditions under which the birds are raised. Some USDA documents define “free range” for poultry as having "continuous, free access to the outdoors for a significant portion of their lives (defined sometimes as “over 51 percent” and sometimes as “a majority” of the birds’ lives). The 2016 USDA labeling guideline on animal-raising claims states that the claim must be defined on the label. As with the “free range” claim in eggs, the USDA definition does not specify how often or how long birds must be given outdoor access, what amount of space is acceptable, or whether vegetation must be present. Because birds may be housed indoors for inclement weather and other reasons, and given that chickens raised for meat are slaughtered at just 42 days, it is possible that some free range chickens never step outside.
FREE ROAMING, PASTURE FED, PASTURE GROWN, MEADOW RAISED (beef, bison, lamb, goat, pork):
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service approves these claims on products from mammals (while the claims “free range” and “pasture raised” are approved on products from birds). Some USDA documents apply the same definition for these terms as “free range”: continuous, free access to the outdoors for a significant portion of their lives. However, the 2016 USDA labeling guideline for animal-raising claims defines these terms as “continuous free access to the outdoors for a minimum of 120 days per year. The USDA has stated that "feedlot-raised livestock or any livestock that were confined and fed for any portion of their lives are not amenable to the meaning of these terms."
GLOBAL ANIMAL PARTNERSHIP:
A rating program as opposed to a certification program with only one set of standards. Producers are certified on a six-tier scale, from Step 1 to Step 5+. Standards for Step 1 are only marginally better than those of the conventional industry; therefore Step 1 products are not recommended. For poultry and pigs, continuous indoor confinement (with enrichment) is allowed at Step 2. Very limited access to the outdoors and minimal vegetation is provided at Step 3. Feedlots are allowed for cattle at Step 2. Beak trimming is allowed in turkeys, but is prohibited in hens and meat chickens. Tail docking of pigs is also prohibited. Feedlots are prohibited and access to pasture is required for all animals at Step 4 and higher. All physical alterations are prohibited at Step 5. Standards include the treatment of animals during transport and at slaughter. All of a producer/processor’s farm locations (rather than merely a representative sample) are routinely audited for compliance with standards.
"Halal" may be used on the labels of meat and poultry products prepared according to Islamic law and under Islamic authority. The U.S. Humane Methods of Slaughter Act exempts animals killed for religious purposes from the requirement that they be rendered insensible to pain ("stunned") before shackling, hoisting and cutting. Consequently, Halal products may come from animals who have been slaughtered without being pre-stunned. Most animal welfare advocates consider slaughter without prior stunning to be inhumane.
HUMANELY RAISED, HUMANELY HANDLED:
The USDA does not have a set of independent standards for certifying products as “humanely raised.” The department will merely verify that the producer has met its own standards, and as such the claim may simply represent a marketing tactic with little relevance to animal welfare. Because these claims have not been defined by the USDA, they should be considered meaningless and/or misleading unless verified by a third-party certification.
"Kosher" may be used on the labels of meat and poultry products prepared under rabbinical supervision. Kosher products are typically produced from animals who have been killed without being rendered insensible to pain ("stunned") before shackling, hoisting and cutting, which is allowed under an exception to the US Humane Methods of Slaughter Act for ritual or religious slaughter. Most animal welfare advocates consider slaughter without prior stunning to be inhumane.
OMEGA 3 ENRICHED (eggs):
This is a diet claim that has no relevance to animal welfare. The claim indicates that Omega-3 fatty acids were fed—in the form of flaxseed, algae, or fish oil—to the hens who produced the eggs.
USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, goat, pork):
USDA Certified Organic standards are defined by regulations of the National Organic Program. The standards are general and apply to all animals. They don't address many animal care issues such as weaning, physical alterations, minimum space requirements, handling, transport, or slaughter. The standards require some access to the outdoors for all animals, access to pasture for ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats), fresh air and sunlight, and freedom of movement. However, the USDA has allowed screened porches to qualify as outdoor access for birds. Physical alterations such as the removal of horns and docking of tails are allowed without pain relief. Compliance with the standards is verified by a USDA-accredited organic certifying agency, but an audit by the USDA Office of Inspector General revealed that consistency among certifiers is a problem. Consequently, the level of animal welfare varies widely among producers.
The local food movement refers to buying food that is grown close to where you live. This movement is connected to a broader philosophy of environmental sustainability and supporting the local economy. Still, even "local" can have a variety of nuances depending upon whom you ask, as there’s not a definitive distance used by everyone.
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