By Piper Hoffman
Do you want to know whether the meat, dairy, or eggs you are buying came from animals who were treated humanely? You won’t find the answers on the packaging. Recent revelations about the conditions Perdue’s chickens suffer illustrate the problem: their “labels carry a seal of approval from the Department of Agriculture asserting that the bird was ‘raised cage free,’ and sometimes ‘humanely raised,’” Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times. (“Abusing Chickens We Eat,” December 3, 2014.) Those descriptions are misleading at best.
Coop members, however, can get reliable, detailed information that shoppers at conventional grocery stores don’t have. The Animal Welfare Committee publishes Guides for members about a number of product categories that detail the treatment of animals by the Coop’s vendors. With a Guide in hand it is easy to choose the most humane option the Coop offers and to avoid the others. The Buyers’ Guide to Coop Chicken is the latest example.
The Buyers’ Guide to Coop Chicken explains that the “cage free” label is no guarantee that birds had comfortable living quarters. Broiler chickens (i.e., chickens raised for meat, not to lay eggs) are kept on the floors of barns, but though they are not in cages, they are packed in tight: each one gets only two-thirds of a square foot, which is about the size of an 8.5” by 11” sheet of paper.
Coop members who use the Animal Welfare Committee’s new Buyers’ Guide to Coop Chicken will know exactly how much space each bird sold at the Coop had to live in. The Guide also describes why that matters: “crowding can result in fighting, scratches, and sores from the birds being forced to walk over each other as they try to access food, and a multitude of problems and injuries.”
The Buyers’ Guide to Coop Chicken also compares the Coop’s chicken vendors on several other variables, including debeaking, toe-trimming, and method of slaughter.
Right now the following guides about the following product categories are available to Coop members:
Paper copies of each Guide are available near the relevant products. All the Guides are also online at the Animal Welfare Committee’s blog (psfcanimals.blogspot.com) under the “AWC Guides” tab. The Committee is also on Facebook (Park Slope Food Coop Animal Welfare Committee) and Twitter (@psfcanimals).This article appeared in the Feb 18th, 2016 edition of the Linewaiter's Gazette.