Farm Sanctuary spoke up, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is listening. In 2007, we formally petitioned the USDA to consider the treatment and living conditions of farm animals when creating rules allowing producers to label food made from their flesh as “natural.” As we explained in our petition to the agency, the term “natural” should reflect what consumers understand to be “natural” conditions, and a nationwide survey reveals that 73 percent of consumers think it is inappropriate to label as “natural” meat from animals who are constantly kept indoors, confined in crowded cages, and forced to stand all day, every day on metal and concrete floors.

It took two years for the USDA to respond, but the agency has now officially acknowledged the petition and is requesting public comments on the issue of whether “natural” labeling standards should encompass the conditions under which animals are raised. But the USDA is only accepting these comments until November 13, so please take action today.

Using the link below, please take a moment now to submit comments to the USDA expressing your concern about this important issue. We have included some sample comments below, but remember to personalize them with your own words to make a stronger impact.

After you submit your comments, please send this link to all your friends, co-workers and family members, urging them to submit comments too. If we are to hold producers accountable for their marketing claims, it’s essential that the USDA hear from as many people who are concerned about this issue as possible. Don’t let the USDA condone animal cruelty in this way. Speak up today, and ask everyone you know to do the same!

Click here to submit your comments, using the sample comments below as a model. NOTE: The online form provided by the USDA has several information fields (text boxes) that you can fill in. However, the only required fields are “First Name,” “Last Name,” and the comment field iteslf. If you are unable to submit comments using the form, the Web page includes a link for “Alternate Ways to Comment” near the top of the page.

Sample Comments

I am writing to request that you explicitly address the treatment and living conditions of animals who are raised for food when determining whether producers can label a meat or poultry product as “natural.”

Although the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has traditionally viewed the claim “natural” as relating only to finished products regardless of how those products were made, this is inconsistent with the view held by the vast majority of consumers, who believe that labeling a meat or poultry product with the term “natural” indicates something significant about how the animals these products came from were raised. The results of a nationwide survey showing that 73 percent of consumers think it is inappropriate to label products from animals who are constantly kept indoors, confined in crowded cages, and forced to stand on metal and concrete floors as “natural” provide concrete evidence of this popular public attitude. Because of this widely-held view, failure to address the issues of animal treatment and living conditions is likely to result in unnecessary consumer confusion and deception that contradict the laws governing the USDA’s actions.

Accordingly, the agency should prohibit use of the term “natural” on any products derived from animals who were raised in conditions that prevented the expression of behaviors innate to the species, forced to consume diets inconsistent with the animals’ natural biological functions, given sub-therapeutic antibiotics, or given hormones to promote growth.

In addition, rather than relying on different standards (which only compound consumer confusion), FSIS should work with the Agricultural Marketing Service to develop a singular labeling claim – “natural” or “naturally raised” – that attends to the issues discussed above.

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