USDA Sued Over Animal Welfare Labels

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has filed suit against USDA for failing to require third-party audits of food label claims such as “humane” and “sustainable.” ( Wyatt Bechtel )

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing to require third-party audits of food label claims such as “humane” and “sustainable.”

“The USDA’s current policy surrounding the approval of animal raising claims on meat and poultry packages utterly fails consumers,” said Dena Jones, director of AWI’s farm animal program. The Administrative Procedure Act requires federal agencies to respond to petitions for rulemaking within a reasonable time.

The lawsuit accuses USDA of an unreasonable delay in responding to AWI’s 2014 petition for rulemaking, which asked the agency to require independent certification of animal raising claims including “animal compassionate” and “raised with care.”

AMI says the use of claims such as “humane” and “sustainable,” as well as others like “animal compassionate” and “raised with care,” has increased as consumers have become more concerned with the well-being of food animals and the livestock industry’s impact on the environment.

AWI said it hopes the lawsuit will force USDA to address its label approval process, and that if USDA requires third-party certification for animal welfare and sustainability claims, more producers will participate in these programs and more animals will be raised under higher, more transparent care standards.

“For consumers concerned about farm animal welfare and environmental sustainability, third-party certification will provide much needed cues for making food choices that are consistent with personal values,” said Jones.

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