The Ramblings of Annie Abalam

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We need an urban dictionary for the USDA

on February 4, 2012

The USDA has come up with so many fancy labels for things that, more often than not, people do not know what these labels mean, if they mean anything at all.  With all of these labels put on our food, the only way people will ever gain an understanding of what they imply is through research.  Unless consumers take the time to learn about these labels, they’ll never know what they may or may not support through their purchases.

This week, I read Lexicon of Sustainability: Cage free vs. pasture raised, the title drawing me in.  The post provides quick, understandable definitions of the three phrases commonly used in farming, namely egg farming: cage free, free range, and pasture raised (or “pastured”).  When I saw that Benny’s served cage free eggs a few years ago, my gut reaction was to shred the paper that put false hope in unsuspecting students’ minds, but I exercised some self-control and the sign was not harmed.  As the post says, cage free hens are merely not kept in cages.  This does not mean that they have enough room, or sanitary conditions, to live comfortably.  Most of the general public does not know that cage free hens are easily just as miserable as those kept in battery cages.  The concept of pasture raised is used by farmers that aim to differentiate themselves from industrial farmers, but the post says that this is not regulated, so I am a tad wary of this label.

Still, I find it upsetting that people can get sucked into labels so easily.  The labels are deceptively easy to understand.  I think that the words they use in these labels are supposed to paint pictures in consumers’ eyes that are a stark contrast to the reality, and it is not fair – especially to the chickens.

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