Did you know that most full-grown chickens have less than one square foot of space to live in-- less than the size of an iPad? Pretty crazy to think about. Maybe the last thing on your mind is the size of the living quarters of a chicken, but let me tell you, it should be one of the first. Factory-like industrial farms subject billions of animals raised each year for meat, milk and eggs to painful practices and confine them in ways that stifle their basic needs and urges. Most of the meat, eggs and dairy started out living in these inhumane, unhealthy factory-like facilities.
We always, if given the opportunity, buy organic, free-range, grass fed, etc... But, don’t be fooled by labels. There are some very misleading food labels out there. Fancy claims and words on labels run amuck in the supermarkets. Words like Organic, humanely raised, natural, cage free, free range, hormone free, antibiotic free and vegetarian fed, are put on all sorts of labels, but that doesn’t mean that they come from humane and truly good places.
Animals are not the only ones suffering because of these unnatural, inhumane conditions. Human health, the environment and farmers are being hurt by the intensive farming systems employed on factory farms.
Farms that are not properly maintained can be breeding grounds for Salmonella, E. coli and other pathogens that can be passed to humans through meat, dairy and eggs, as well as through person-to-person contact.
To combat unsanitary conditions, animals are fed large doses of antibiotics—but bacteria is constantly adapting and evolving. Misuse, overuse and dependence on antibiotics in our food system creates the potential for dangerous, drug-resistant strains of bacteria to develop and spread among people and animals.
I mean honestly – does that give you the confidence to look down at your plate and think – meh – they say it’s okay, so it must be? I didn’t think so either. Here are some tips to help you ensure your family is getting healthy food that was raised in a humane way:
- Eat Seasonally - Eating foods in season means that you’re able to buy from a more local economy and avoid having your food ship from other countries. This means fresher foods picked at peak ripeness too!
- Shop Locally - CSA’s and local farmers’ markets help support local, often smaller scale, farmers and ranchers who are producing outside of the traditional factory-farm system. If you aren’t sure where to start, visit your local farmers’ market and start asking some question - this guide will get you started.
- Conquer Labeling Confusion - Marketers create confusion with their flashy labels and clever catch-phrases. But unfortunately, sometimes they care more about finances than transparency. Words like “natural” or “humane” often don’t have any oversight to actually tell you as a consumer anything concrete. However, some phrases and labels do have regulations associated with their use, and that’s what you can start to look for as a savvy shopper. Here’s a guide to labeling to get you started.
- Be Careful to Minimize Waste - One of the ways we can treat the animals used for food respectfully and humanely is by making the most of the food we purchase. Purchase only what you know you’ll use and serve the right sized portions to avoid wasting what your family buys.
- Look for Certifications That Mean Something - Unlike marketing gimmicks there are certain certifications and awards that have true meaning. For example, the USDA Organic label shows that the produce grown (or fed to the animal) didn’t use banned pesticides. Others include Animal Welfare Approved or Certified Humane
See The Good Groceries Guide for more information about how our shopping habits impact the lives of those around us - animals included.
Find more resources for savvy shoppers at the ASCPA Shop With Your Heart website!
And don’t forget to enter to win some fun items from the ASPCA!