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Almost 25 percent more foods labeled as humane, says survey

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 10-Jul-2009

The availability of humanely produced food products in US supermarkets has risen by nearly a quarter since last year, according to a survey from The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

WSPA surveyed the availability of products that show at least one of the following seals on their label: free range, cage free, grass fed, pasture raised, USDA organic, American humane certified, animal welfare approved or certified humane.

Of the 19 supermarket chains surveyed in both this year and last year, all but two had increased their offerings of foods labeled to indicate humane production over the past year – averaging 23 percent more products. WSPA claims that the reason is that retailers are paying attention to increased consumer demand for humanely produced foods.

US programs director for WSPA Dena Jones said: “The survey results indicate that people are becoming more sensitive to the cruel and unsustainable methods used to raise farm animals and are seeking humane alternatives when they shop, regardless of cost. Consumer demand influences what stores offer and it is encouraging to see grocers responding by increasing humane food options even in a recession.”

Confusion

However, WSPA claimed that consumers are confused by the array of different labeling systems in use, and groups them into three categories – good, better and best – based on how many aspects of animal welfare they cover, and whether they are independently verified by a third party.

The organization also warned consumers about the use of labels that claim ‘no antibiotics used’ or ‘no hormones administered’, and said: “The government does not conduct testing to verify these claims… ‘No antibiotics used’ suggests animals were not raised on a factory farm, but by itself does not indicate high animal welfare.”

In addition it pointed out that ‘natural’ “has no relevance to animal welfare” and ‘naturally raised’ is subject to a voluntary definition that “does not require freedom of movement and access to fresh air and sunlight for the animal.”

This is the second year that WSPA has conducted the survey, which focused on 200 stores in 34 states. This year, Whole Foods came out on top of the list, while Save-A-Lot was in last place, with no humanely labeled foods found in any of its stores.

WSPA has set up an online searchable database where consumers can compare the top 25 US grocery store for availability of humanely produced foods.

The database is available at www.eathumane.org .

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