Advocates Demand Meaningful Definition for “Free Range” Birds

February 28, 2020


This past week, animal advocates had the rare opportunity to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to ensure that animal welfare and rearing claims on food products are more meaningful. Over 1,700 ASPCA supporters submitted public comments to FSIS in response to its updated labeling guidelines, urging the agency to require higher animal welfare for chickens and turkeys in order for companies to use the “free range” label.

The ASPCA’s public comment urged FSIS to strengthen the “free range” definition to ensure that chicken and turkey products bearing that label come from animals who had sufficient space and the ability to exhibit natural behaviors, among other requirements. Our comment also urged the agency to strengthen its requirements for the documentation producers must submit to support their animal welfare claims.

Consumers are increasingly demanding products made from animals raised with higher welfare standards. A 2018 poll commissioned by the ASPCA [PDF] revealed that 71% of American consumers pay attention to animal-raising labels on meat, egg and dairy products, and a whopping 75% would switch to products with labels that ensure farm animals have better welfare.

Unfortunately, weaknesses in FSIS’s guidelines for food labels make it difficult for consumers to make sense of claims on food packages, much less identify and purchase higher welfare products. Currently, FSIS allows producers to make claims related to animal raising that are poorly defined, leading to consumer confusion and harm to farmers who are actually raising animals to higher welfare standards.

Our recent action is just one piece of the ASPCA’s broader Shop With Your Heart campaign, which helps consumers identify food products coming from farms using meaningful animal welfare standards.

Thank you to the over 1,700 advocates who took action and demanded that FSIS guarantee higher welfare standards for chicken and turkey products labeled “free range.” To stay updated on this and other opportunities to help animals, be sure to join our Advocacy Brigade.