Ethical Meat and Unethical Hype -- A Look at 'All Natural', 'Grass-Fed' and Other Half-Truths
March 07, 2009
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Marketing departments like to invent terms that sound good but mean anything -- non-enforceable claims don’t result in lawsuits. Here’s an overview of what labels on the meat you buy actually mean:
All Natural: This means meat that is minimally processed with no artificial or synthetic products. It is not regulated, however, so anyone can put it on their package. It is a claim with no clout.
Cool (Country of Origin Labeling): A USDA regulated label stating where meat was raised, slaughtered, and processed.
Grass Fed: A USDA regulated label meaning, very narrowly, that that animals ate grass. According to the USDA definition, “grass-fed” animals can also be fed grain, and can be raised on grass in confinement, as long as they have access to pasture -- although "access" can be, and often is, nothing more than a facility with a door to a small outdoor area.
Free Range: This means only that the animal has some access to the outdoors. There is no regulation for use of this term, except in the case of chickens raised for consumption. “Pasture-raised” is a more meaningful term.
Organic: This label is USDA and third-party certified. It means that livestock wasn’t treated with hormones or antibiotics and was fed a pesticide-free diet.
Vegetarian Fed: This refers only to an animal’s diet and does not guarantee the animal was pastured or raised humanely.
Air Chilled: This refers to the treatment of living animals. Producers and retailers may also make claims about how the animal is handled between slaughter and purchase. Meat may be wet or dry-aged, frozen, and packaged in various ways.
Humanely Raised/Certified Humane: Many ranches now choose to undergo an audit by third parties such as Animal Welfare Association and Humane Farmed to highlight their extra care. This type of label states that no practices such as overcrowding, castrating, early weaning, or denying animals access to pasture used.
Biodynamic: This pre-organic standard treats the whole ranching operation as an interrelated whole. While some meats are technically organic, a biodynamic farm assures the meat also came from a healthy, self-sustaining system.
Local: Producers who take part in this affidavit program state in writing that the animals were raised within 20 miles. This label is not certified or confirmed by a third party.
What Are GMOs?
From April 19th through April 25th we launch GMO Awareness Week. We set aside an entire week dedicated to providing you with information on GMOs and labeling initiatives.
GMOs are a product of genetic engineering, meaning their genetic makeup has been altered to induce a variety of “unique” traits to crops, such as making them drought-resistant or giving them “more nutrients.” GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is “safe and beneficial,” and that it advances the agricultural industry. They also say that GMOs help ensure the global food supply and sustainability. But is there any truth to these claims? I believe not. For years, I've stated the belief that GMOs pose one of the greatest threats to life on the planet. Genetic engineering is NOT the safe and beneficial technology that it is touted to be.
Help Support GMO Labeling
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—Monsanto’s Evil Twin—is pulling out all the stops to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food. For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. For example, Monsanto has made many claims that glyphosate in Roundup is harmless to animals and humans. However, recently the World Health Organization (WHO) had their research team test glyphosate and have labeled it a probable carcinogen.
Public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We're fighting back. That's why I was the first to push for GMO labeling. I donated a significant sum to the first ballot initiative in California in 2012, which inspired others to donate to the campaign as well. We technically "lost the vote, but we are winning the war, as these labeling initiatives have raised a considerable amount of public awareness.
The insanity has gone far enough, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. More than 80 percent of our support comes from individual consumers like you, who understand that real change comes from the grassroots.
Thankfully, we have organizations like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to fight back against these junk food manufacturers, pesticide producers, and corporate giants.
Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More
Together, Let's Help OCA Get The Funding They Deserve
Let’s Help OCA get the funding it deserves. I have found very few organizations who are as effective and efficient as OCA. It’s a public interest organization dedicated to promoting health justice and sustainability. A central focus of the OCA is building a healthy, equitable, and sustainable system of food production and consumption. That's why I'm proud to announce I will be matching donations up to $250,000 this week.
Please make a donation to help OCA fight for GMO labeling.