As a vote nears on California’s controversial Proposition 2, which would mandate larger cages for some farm animals and ban battery cages for hens, the Christian Science Monitor takes a critical look at the different humane labels on grocery shelves.
In short, they’re a mess. The story’s tied to a new report by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), which categorized the relative worth of different humane claims and then surveyed the number of humanely labeled products available at the top 25 supermarket companies in the United States. Whole Foods ranks first, with nearly double the product selection of second-place Wegman’s. Trader Joe’s scores a lower-than-expected ninth and Wal-Mart falls to the penultimate spot.
It’s a smart survey: It doesn’t give points for saying “no hormones” on poultry or pork products since, well, using hormones on either would be illegal.
The most significant humane labels—Certified Humane, American Humane Certified, Animal Welfare Approved—are all accredited by the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS); in the near future, it looks likely that all humane labels may be federally regulated. An official with the WSPA “anticipates future collaboration with AMS on the part of the three humane labeling groups, hoping that national standards can be set, and a single label be overseen by AMS, as has been done with the National Organic Program.” Whether consumers would trust a humane label that’s exclusively overseen by the USDA is another story.