CONSUMER ALERT: Don’t Be Fooled by Butterball’s ‘Humane’ Label

Published by Michelle Kretzer.

Did Butterball know that more than 80 percent of Americans feel that it’s important that the animals they eat are “humanely” raised? Or that 58 percent of consumers would pay an additional 10 percent or more for meat, poultry, eggs, or dairy products labeled “humanely raised”?

Perhaps so. Something led Butterball to put an “American Humane Certified” label on its packaging. The trader of tormented turkeys hasn’t offered any details as to how its treatment of animals may have changed—it simply overhauled its label. And as reported in today’s Washington Post, PETA isn’t about to let consumers be duped.

The standards for “humane” turkey farms are nearly indistinguishable from standard industry practice. And the way the animals are bred and slaughtered falls well short of a reasonable consumer’s expectations for “humane” treatment. Many “humane” labels allow turkeys to be kept indoors at all times in cramped conditions, breathing in high levels of ammonia, and to have their toes amputated and the ends of their beaks cut off without pain relief. The label is often allowed in spite of deliberate abuse of turkeys, such as kicking or throwing them.

Often, the label’s only real significance is that meat producers can charge a higher price. 

Such is the case with Butterball’s certifying organization: the American Humane Association (AHA). This is the same organization that’s responsible for putting the “No Animals Were Harmed” certification at the end of films … even when animals have died during a production, as was the case with 27 animals who died during the making of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It’s the same organization that was sued by one of its own employees who alleged that the AHA willfully allowed animals to be abused and attempted to cover it up.

Now the AHA, through its American Humane Certified program, also referred to as Humane Heartland, is awarding meat producers such as Butterball with “American Humane Certified” labels and helping the companies trick consumers about the abuse the animals are allowed to endure. Much like with movies, the AHA’s meat certification doesn’t mean much. PETA has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and asked the agency to investigate and commence enforcement action against the AHA and Butterball because these apparently misleading claims are likely influencing consumers’ purchasing decisions.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: There’s no such thing as “humane meat.” And PETA is working hard to keep companies from lying about it.

Are you one of the many people who feel tricked by “humane meat” labels? PETA would like to hear how you believe you were misled. Please e-mail us your story.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind