About Labels, Claims and Certification Programs

About Labels, Claims and Certification Programs

Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights

Many meat and poultry packages carry claims about the production practices that were used to raise livestock and poultry.  Some products carry a special certification seal.  This information can be confusing.

It's important to remember that all products in the marketplace are subject to federal inspection or, in a small percentage of the meat supply, to an equivalent state inspection program.   Inspected products meet both food safety requirements and humane slaughter requirements as well.

In addition, claims can be made if their accuracy can be documented  to USDA's Labeling Division.  Common claims include:

Free Range or Free Roaming -- Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.
No Hormones (pork or poultry):  Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry.. Therefore, the claim "no hormones added" cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones."
No Hormones (beef and lamb):  The term "no hormones administered" or "no added hormones" may be approved for use on the label of beef or lamb products if sufficient documentation is provided to the Agency by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals.
No Antibiotics (red meat and poultry): The terms "no antibiotics added" or "raised without the use of antibiotics" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.


Certification Programs

The Federal Humane Slaughter Act applies only to meat packing plants. Some organizations have created certification programs that use private auditors to evaluate on-farm care in addition to care and handling at the plant. Companies that are certified through these programs may apply a special seal to their products in addition to the USDA inspection seal.

American Humane Certified/Humane Heartland
Animal Welfare Approved
Certified Humane
Global Animal Partnership

Additional Resource:

Standards for the Humane Care & Handling of Livestock:  An Overview of Four Certification Programs, Ruth Woiwode, Ph.D., Animal Care & Handling Conference, 2012


University Animal Welfare Experts

Many large land-grant universities have animal and poultry science departments where students may pursue bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in animal science. Key sub-specialties within those departments can include animal behavior, animal well-being, animal nutrition and animal physiology. Listed below are some of the leading experts in the field.

Dr. Candace Croney, Purdue University
Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University
Dr. Anna Johnson, Iowa State University
Dr. John McGlone, Texas Tech University
Dr. Suzanne Millman, Iowa State University
Dr. Ed Pajor, University of Calgary
Dr. Joe Regenstein, Cornell University
Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson, University of Illinois
Dr. Janice Swanson, Michigan State University
Dr. Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton, University of Arkansas
Dr. Dan Thompson, Kansas State University
Dr. Kurt Vogel, University of Wisconsin River Falls