<span style=”font-size:x-small;”><span style=”color:#996633;”><em>Submitted by Annapurna </em></span></span>
Since watching “Food, Inc,” and getting more into the food awareness movement — after all, this is a democracy and right now, there is only perceived choice in the supermarket. We as consumers do not have choice, so if you care to, you can even forget about the ethics but demand choice and true information.
How is this related to a woman’s blog? Because we are what we eat. Women’s reproductive and menstrual cycles, in short, our bodies much more than men’s are regulated by hormones. When what we eat sends vast amounts of hormones and other harmful things into our systems that disrupt our cycles and bodies, we suffer the most from simple obesity to premature puberty (starting at 9 years old in many cases now) to breast cancer. Like healthcare, food and nutrition is paramount to our rights.
Currently, the FDA has approved 6 hormones for use in food production in the US for sheep and cattle/dairy cows but not poultry or hogs though regulation is not monitored. These include: estradiol, progesterone (natural female hormones), testosterone (natural male hormone), zeranol, trenbolone acetate, and melengestrol acetate (all synthetic growth hormones).
In order for a label to claim “grass fed,” the USDA requires that the animal must have eaten only grass, and forage (and its mother’s milk) and have had continuous access to pasture during the growing season. There are stricter standards for a label from the American Grassfed Association, which means the animal was also raised humanely and w/o hormones or antibiotics
Free-range claims (different from cage-free) are regulated by the USDA strictly for poultry (not eggs). Producers have to prove only that animals had “outside” access; there are no rules about the amount of time spent outdoors. Animals can engage in natural behavior, like nesting but beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted.
No third party auditing for either of these as there is for “organic” (animals fed a vegetarian diet and allowed outside but the amount, duration, and quality of outdoor access is undefined.)
Full list of an explanation of terms available here.
The majority of egg labels have little relevance to animal welfare or, if they do, they have no official standards or any mechanism to enforce them.
As I wrote this, it was so disheartening to know that there has to be labels showing if “natural behavior” is allowed; if animals are allowed outdoors and without cages; if their beaks weren’t cut off or if they were starved — and none of the labels had all of these criteria; most aren’t even monitored. The only poultry guaranteed all of the above — proper treatment, nutrition, natural behaviors, and no mistreatment — are labelled “Animal Welfare Approved,” but these are not sold in the supermarket.
So, where to find them? Good blogs about responsible consumerism on these various blogs on motherearthnews.