What it means
The claim suggests that animals used to produce the meat, poultry, dairy, or eggs were treated humanely from birth to slaughter, on farms that provide decent living conditions that meet the animals’ needs (e.g., cows are allowed to graze and not confined to a feedlot).
However, the government agencies that oversee labeling of meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs do not set a common standard for the “humanely raised” claim, and they do not require an on-farm inspection to verify the claim.
Each company can determine its own definition of what it means to be “humanely raised,” and definitions vary.
The bottom line: should you look for this labeling claim?
Look for the seal of one of the certification programs with strong standards, listed below. Humane treatment and living conditions that meet the animals’ needs are important, but you cannot trust a “humanely raised” claim on a label because there is no common standard, and the claim is not required to be verified.
Look for these seals, for programs with strong standards for animal welfare and on-farm inspection:
Animal welfare standards for these seals are not as strong:
Don't rely on these seals and claims:
What this claim means
Meat and poultry: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (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 common standard to ensure that the claim is consistent and meaningful. Since the USDA allows each company to define the claim, the meaning can vary within the industry.
Dairy and eggs: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that the labeling of dairy and eggs is truthful and not misleading. But for many labeling claims, including “humanely raised,” the FDA has no common standard to ensure that the claim is consistent and meaningful, and each company is allowed to define their claim. The meaning can vary within the industry.
Why it matters
When animals are treated humanely, can move freely, and can engage in their natural, species-specific behaviors, it benefits the animals. There are other benefits, as well.
Can you trust the claim? Is it verified?
No. Third-party verification of the “humanely raised” claim with on-farm inspection is not required.
Meat and poultry: A vast majority of consumers expect that the “humanely raised” claim on meat and poultry means that the farm was inspected to verify this claim, but on-farm inspection is not required. The USDA’s inspection starts at the slaughterhouse, and inspectors verify whether establishments maintain USDA label approval on file. Label approval is required for a “humanely raised” claim. However, to obtain approval, companies are only required to supply supporting documentation, which may include testimonials and affidavits signed by the producers of the animals referencing the animal-raising claims. No third-party verification or on-farm inspection is required.
Dairy and eggs: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require on-farm inspection or verification for producers making claims such as “humanely raised.”