Weigh in: Animal Welfare Standards - Helpful or hokum


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A few weeks ago, I noticed a new "animal welfare" ratings system at my local beloved Whole Paycheck, and at first glance it seemed great. Basically, there's a five level scale, starting at 1 (no crates, no cages) through 5+ (animal-centered, entire life on same farm). For detailed elaboration:


I saw the pork and beef I was buying were rated a number 4 - which they have labelled "pasture centered". So that's nice, I can picture happy pigs and cows frolicking in a field during their lives and feel good about that.

But what does it really mean about the quality of the meat? Does "pasture-centered" mean they are eating grass - it sounds that way, but I don't want to pay extra if it's just smart marketing. I'd love to hear the opinions of my fellow clean eaters!

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It is the real deal as far as I've been able to determine. This is most evident in poultry - there are a lot of 2s for poultry but unless they find a semi-local supplier for pastured birds, that's as good as it gets. They have recently made a lot of effort to find local chicken farms so many stores have whole birds that are rated 5. No parts, because pastured poultry is usually too small and the labor makes the price too high for most consumers.

Is there a hint of greenwashing around the edges? Maybe. But it's the most trustworthy tool for gauging animal welfare I've seen in any store. Is talking to the farmer directly better? Yeah, and s/he gets more of the money if you can buy from him/her at the farm or at a farmer's market. But that's not always an option. This is a step in the right direction.

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