There’s no doubt that eating less meat, dairy, and eggs is better for your health, the animals, and the planet. But when opting for animal protein in your diet, what is the better choice when it comes to animal welfare? Below are five tips to help guide you choose higher welfare animal products.
By 2050, livestock production will be twice what it was in 2000. Right now, more than 70 billion animals are farmed for food each year – two-thirds in conditions where they can’t move freely or live naturally.
1. It’s all in a label.
Labels can be confusing. Aside from that, how do you know what it claims is even true? (We’ll get to that!) First, if claims about animal welfare are absent on the packaging, you can assume the animal product came from an animal raised in conventional production. This means the animals have likely been raised in overcrowded sheds or tiny cages, with little room to move around. Farmers raising animals to a higher standard and companies selling those products are proud of the fact and will promote it.
Image: Pigs in group housing with deep beds in a higher welfare indoor farm in the UK.
2. How can I trust what the label says is true?
Looks for a trusted standard or certification. Our Humane Shopping Guide can help with this – it provides details about how animals are raised according to commonly used labels and standards for the most common species and animal products.
Some labels allude to idyllic conditions for animals but are meaningless. Terms like, “farm fresh” or “natural” do not refer to any specific condition or standard. Other labels to watch for on meat packaging are “free from” or “antibiotic free.” The “free from" label refers only to what the animals are fed or aren't fed (no antibiotics or hormones). “Grass-fed” labels can also be misleading since all beef cows, even those in conventional production, start their lives out on pasture though they end up in feedlots—a type of animal farming operation used in intensive farming where animals are crowded into a space that is designed to fatten them up as quickly as possible. While local food is good since it supports the local economy and avoids the carbon emissions of long-distance transport, “local” on its own does not mean animals are raised in higher welfare conditions. The majority of farms in Canada, including family farms, use industrial systems. Unless otherwise stated, conventional production is the norm.
Image: Mother pigs on industrial farms are kept in individual cages and are unable to move, turn around or socialize during their pregnancy.
4. Does organic mean higher welfare?
Yes. In Canada, the organic standard includes provisions for animal welfare, including space requirements and giving animals outdoor access.
5. Where can I find higher welfare meat and other animal products?
Most grocery store chains carry some higher welfare animal products from standards such as “Certified Humane,” or local producers (like “Beretta” or “Linton Pasture Pork”). All major grocery stores sell some organic animal products. Higher welfare products are also available at smaller “health food” store chains, local butcher shops, or Whole Foods which has its own certification standards (Global Animal Partnership) for animal products.
Image: Valerie Kuypers / World Animal Protection. This high welfare farm in the Netherlands has natural ventilation, enough space for the chicks and chickens to roam around, a motherboard for young chicks, under which they are heated, good feed, and slow growing breeds.
By 2050, livestock production will be twice what it was in 2000. Right now, more than 70 billion animals are farmed for food each year – two-thirds in conditions where they can’t move freely or live naturally. We campaign for progress at every stage – from farming to transportation to slaughter. And we know change is possible.