Millennial’s have been breaking down walls and demanding more of businesses of every type for years. That demand for better includes the demand for better food, more humane, and more healthy foods. We are a generation that loves to be local, think local, shop local. We want and expect to see responsibility and action from business owners – and that includes factories of every kind. By doing that – we have greater control over the food that we put in our bodies.
A stroll through the farmers market is more popular now than it has ever been, and our generation is embracing that. The appreciation of knowing where our food is coming from and even eating it right where it was harvested is taking over the shopping and eating behaviors of millennial’s. The farm-to-table concept has been around a while, it isn’t something new, really. But it is becoming a much greater priority as millennial’s head out to shop for their groceries and sit down to dinner.
Over the last few decades, corporatized, industrialized agriculture has largely replaced America’s independent small farms—with catastrophic consequences for animals. While there is no strict definition, industrialized “factory farms” are characterized by extreme confinement of large numbers of animals with practices designed to maximize efficiency and profit, and little regard for animals’ well-being, sentience or natural behaviors. Factory farms often use animals bred to produce unnatural amounts of eggs, milk or meat, causing painful disorders and lameness.
Now – millennial’s are also a generation that love their organic and natural products. Which is another reason we are steadfast to hit the farmers market before ever stepping foot into a typical grocery store. And, if we do have to hit up the local chain grocer, we are staying away from the inner isles that are products packed with ingredients no one can read or understand. We check labels religiously and if it doesn’t look or sound right – you can bet we will be putting it back on the shelf.
Even still, don’t let yourself be fooled. There are some shady foods and labels out there, so make sure you are doing your research. Words like Organic, humanely raised, natural, cage free, free range, hormone free, antibiotic free and vegetarian fed, are thrown around all over the place. But , often times they do not mean much.
Packages of meat, eggs and dairy often bear terms that appear to indicate meaningful animal welfare standards, but only a fraction of them do.
This confusion prevents conscientious consumers from voting with their wallets for better treatment of farm animals.
Some of the most commonly misunderstood “labels”
- Natural: Does not impact animal welfare in any way.
- Free-Range: No legal definition for use on eggs, pork, beef or dairy.
- Humanely Raised/Humanely Handled: Undefined and subjective terms without codified standards.
- Hormone-Free/No Hormones Added: Hormones are not approved by law for use on pigs or poultry, so the term is meaningless on those products.
- Cage-Free: On eggs, this label indicates that hens were not raised in battery cages. However, it is an empty claim on poultry meat as meat birds are very rarely raised in cages, and are instead crowded into large, open sheds.
It’s important to understand the true meanings of food labels so you can make informed decisions and help animals by buying products that match your values. Learn more in this comprehensive guide from the ASPCA Meat, Eggs and Dairy Label Guide.
Human health, the environment and farmers are being hurt by the intensive farming systems employed on factory farms. So it isn’t really a stretch to understand why so many people are moving toward a more plant-based diet.
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. It truly makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about this. I have often even considered eating meat all together. I am not sure my husband would be on board – but at least I can make sure that I am armed with enough knowledge to get him meat, eggs and dairy that come from humane and healthy conditions.
Here are more resources to help you get started:
- Shop with Your Heart Brand List – Plant-based and welfare-certified brands available at supermarkets across the country.
- Meat, Eggs and Dairy Label Guide – Download or print this handy guide to make the most informed decisions every time you shop.
- Certified Farms by State – Locate a nearby farm that’s certified by Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), Certified Humane (CH), or Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Steps 2 and above.
- How to Shop at the Farmer’s Market – Check out this video and list of questions to ask farmers so you can make the most humane choices at your local farmers market.
- Welfare Conscious Dining – Learn about REAL Certified, which integrates comprehensive farm animal welfare standards into its restaurant and foodservice certification program.
- Good Grocery Resources – Farm animal cruelty, foodborne illness, worker abuse and pollution are interconnected problems, but you can help make our food supply healthier for people, animals and the planet.
As consumers, we have the power to change how food companies treat farm animals. Take the first step today: Take the pledge to #ShopWithYourHeart at the ASCPA Shop With Your Heart website!
And don’t forget to enter to win some fun items from the ASPCA to show off your dedication for humane and healthy food choices!