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The Best Way to Deal With All the New Labels for Animal Products

In Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore, in the business section of today’s New York Times, Andrew Martin (no relation) reports that Whole Foods Market will soon be carrying labels that read: "animal compassionate," which means that animals will be raised in a manner more humane than the factory farm allows.

Let’s deconstruct:

  • "Sensitive Carnivore" is inaccurate. The more accurate term is "Conscientious Omnivore." After all, we aren’t carnivores. Yeah, yeah, I call my husband "the Republican Carnivore," but that’s for dramatic effect, to emphasize our differences. Plus, his transformation is finally in gear, and he just might be a vegetarian (I’ve given up on the vegan thing for him) by the end of the year. Don’t tell him, though, as I want his transition to be organic (heh, heh).
  • I know this is obvious, but if all these damn carnivores are so sensitive, and will pay more for someone to NOT dock the tails of pigs, NOT castrate sheep, AND ONLY OCCASIONALLY use an electric prod on cattle, how am I supposed to believe in that sensitivity when they’re paying someone to slaughter the animal, anyway. How humane is slaugher?
  • I’ve written about labels before, most recently in my rant, Eggs, the Perfect Food . . . for Sadists, but a couple of things should be repeated.
    • "Certified Humane" is a scam. Many major mutilations and cruelty conducted at Perdue and Tyson are allowable under Certified Humane, such as tail docking, use of electric prods, castration in the first week of life (without anesthesia, as far as I know, because if they required anesthesia, they’d be sure to say so).
    • Ditto for "Free Farmed." Sorry, folks.
    • "Organic" refers to the food the animal was fed, and not to the method of raising that animal.
    • The "Animal Welfare Institute" label will be in stores next month, and it will be the best one, it seems: no castration, no cattle prods, no tail docking. Now that sounds humane.
  • Yes, the Animal Welfare Institute label will represent progress, assuming there is accurate oversight and reporting, and penalties for those who don’t comply. However, I want to see some kind of certification for-and get ready for an oxymoron, here-humane slaughter. (Cruelty-free slaughter sounds too ridiculous to me, and I’m open to suggestions.)

The Times gives readers the opportunity to share their thoughts. The question is: Does the new labeling represent a substantive shift in the food industry’s treatment, or is it a marketing gimmick?

I’ve gotta deconstruct that one before I proceed:

  • The question, the way it’s phrased, really says: Do you believe the labeling?
  • Is that really the question?
  • I think the question should be: Would you pay more for meat that was raised humanely? Isn’t that what they really want to know? How many "sensitive carnivores" are out there?
  • Ah, but the title of the article says, "Meat Labels HOPE TO LURE the Sensitive Carnivore," and the article is in the BUSINESS section. So the original question is correct: Have you bought into the marketing ploy?

What’s genius about labeling, is that anyone can do it, as the United Egg Producers Certified-label proves. And to answer the Times’ question: yes, it represents a shift. My evidence? Farming practices are changing (not all of them, and certainly not the biggies). And yes, it’s a marketing gimmick BY OTHERS IN THE INDUSTRY WHO WANT A PIECE OF THE HUMANE PIE, but aren’t going to alter their actual practices to get it (like the free-farm, certified humane, and cage-free people).

Now, given the above, what do you thing the best way is to deal with all the new labels for animal products and not get sucked into paying extra for, well, nothing? Here’s a hint: it sounds like, "Don’t buy animal products."

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