To be or not to be… humane!

You walk down the refrigerated aisle of the grocery store. Hundreds of containers of eggs, milk, chicken, and cheese greet you. “100% FREE RANGE”, they read, with a picture of rolling hills and red barns, and some happy cartoon chickens to go along with it. “PASTURE-RAISED WITHOUT ANTIBIOTICS (see back for more details)”. But for those who do read the back for more details, and do visit the wild goose chase of websites it sends you on, you will eventually find that they have either pronounced themselves worthy of these vague labels, or gotten from an organization. Obviously, if they have given it to themselves, there is no guarantee, so many companies turn to organizations for this certification.

Although in recent years many brands have adopted this new and effective way of advertising — “ethical” guarantees relating to the treatment of animals — many investigations have shown that this supposedly moral way of producing has many flaws.

These products are undoubtedly better than normal factory farm standards, but most of the guidelines are definitely looser than they should be. For example, in order to get one certain type of stamp, the chickens must have at least two square feet outdoor space. Imagine living your whole life in two square feet! But that particular stamp was better than most: the standard industry definition for free-range or pasture-raised can mean that the birds can have “access only through a ‘pop-hole’, with no full-body access to the outdoors and no minimum space requirement”, according to Certified Humane, a company which doles out “free-range” and “pasture-raised” stamps to many meat producers.

The more you read of the work behind the scenes of the free-range label, the more it becomes clear just how little this actually means in terms of the ethical raising of animals.