With Thanksgiving around the corner, many conscientious consumers hope to partake in a “humane” feast. But are labels like “sustainably farmed” or “humanely raised,” as approved by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), truly accurate? A new report from the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) says otherwise.

The AWI analyzed 23 claims from 19 products submitted between 2014-2018, obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests. The report showed numerous instances of the USDA giving producers labels without receiving adequate evidence to back up the claims.

These claims surrounded animal welfare and environmental concerns for meat and poultry products and included “socially raised,” “humanely raised,” “ethically raised,” and “sustainably farmed.” The report found that producers with approved claims submitted brief and unclear information about their procedures including one from turkey producer, Empire Kosher, whose submitted affidavit comprised just two sentences justifying their “humanely raised” claim. In all cases, there was no oversight to determine whether or not these claims are accurate.

“The system is easily manipulated by producers who want to make higher-welfare claims on their packages and charge a premium without improving the treatment of animals raised under their care,” said Erin Sutherland, an attorney for the AWI’s farm animal program, in a press release. “Because of the USDA’s lack of oversight, consumers are often thwarted in their attempts to use labels to guide their food-buying decisions.”

In light of these findings, please consider enjoying a plant-based Thanksgiving feast this year if you are not already planning on doing so. With so many delicious vegan options at grocery stores and restaurants, along with plenty of fabulous plant-based recipes online, it is easier than ever to have a compassionate and satisfying meal for the holiday.

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