The “humanely raised” label is not verified and on its own, is not meaningful. There are no consistent standards to ensure that the label means what it implies to consumers; for example, allowing cows to graze on pasture is not required for a “humanely raised” claim. Each company can determine its own definition of what it means to be “humanely raised,” and definitions vary.
Is the label verified?
Is the meaning of the label consistent?
Are the label standards publicly available?
Is information about the organization publicly available?
Is the organization free from conflict of interest?
Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?
This label can be found on: Meat and poultry.
ORGANIZATION: The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for ensuring that the labeling on meat and poultry products is truthful and not misleading, allows each company to write its own definition and standards for a “humanely raised” labeling claim. Therefore, there is no organization behind the label.
LABEL STANDARDS: There are no standards. The USDA provides guidance on “humanely raised” labeling on meat and poultry, but there is no formal rule.
How meaningful is this label?
The “humanely raised” labeling claim is not meaningful, unless it is accompanied by a verified and meaningful label such as Animal Welfare Approved.
The USDA is responsible for ensuring that the labeling of meat and poultry products is truthful and not misleading. But for many labeling claims, including “humanely raised,” the USDA has no regulations or guidelines to ensure that the labeling claim is consistent and meaningful, and allows each company to define the claim. There are different meanings within the industry, which can vary.
When consumers in a 2016 Consumer Reports survey were told that the USDA often allows companies to set their own standards on meat, the clear majority (94%) of consumers said all companies should meet the same standards for labels on meat (rather than set their own standards).
When companies set their own standards for labeling claims such as “humanely raised,” they do not necessarily meet consumer expectations. According to our 2016 consumer survey, a majority of consumers believe the “humanely raised” claim should mean that the animals had adequate living space (86%), the animals were slaughtered humanely (80%), the animals were raised in houses with clean air (78%), the animals went outdoors (78%), or the animals were raised without cages (66%). However, when we asked the USDA whether companies have to meet any of these standards to make a “humanely raised” claim on its meat and poultry products, a USDA spokesperson responded that the USDA “has not defined these claims in regulations or policy guidelines.”