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USDA Helps Industrial Farms Claim Humane and Con Consumers, Says AWI

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Factory Farming & Food Safety page and our USDA Watch page.

WASHINGTON -- The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) today requested a USDA Inspector General audit of the USDA Process Verified Program, which certifies some products as "humanely raised" when in fact they come from animals suffering on conventional, industrial farming operations.

AWI's request for an audit of the Process Verified Program is based on Humanewashed, its investigative report on the Process Verified labeling scheme. The report exposes the use by conventional producers of the Process Verified label to imply that the USDA has certified their use of "humane" animal raising practices, even though there is no federal definition of the term "humane." In fact, companies decide independently what to call "humane," and the USDA merely verifies that the company follows its own arbitrary standards. Under such a scheme, a company need not make any actual concessions to animal welfare, yet still receive the USDA "Process Verified" seal for welfare claims and sell this to consumers.

The report focuses on claims made by Perdue Farms and Sparboe Farms, poultry companies whose animal care standards maximize productivity and sacrifice the birds' ability to express their natural behaviors as a result of intensive indoor confinement. Americans were shocked last fall when an investigation of Sparboe uncovered the company's deplorable animal welfare practices. Certain large retailers stopped purchasing Sparboe eggs following the investigation, and the FDA cited the company for thirteen serious violations of food safety laws. AWI has learned that these violations were found during FDA audits of Sparboe facilities that occurred within days of PVP audits in which USDA auditors recorded no problems.