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Greenwashing Food Labels

It seems absurd that with the clearly outlined importance of the United States Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, American shoppers still face the issue of "greenwashing" food labels. For those unfamiliar with the term, greenwashing is a bait-and-switch tactic that engages deceptive labeling practices to promote products as humane, healthy, and environmentally friendly. The liberal use of the terms, "pledge," "wholesome," "premium," and "all natural" on labels are ambiguous and designed to lead consumers into a false sense of security about making informed purchases.

One of the most notable contributors to deceptive greenwashing practices is Tyson Foods. Because of rising consumer awareness, Tyson has opted to construct a "well-being" panel, charged with labeling meats produced under abhorrent factory farm conditions as more humane, even though the practices remain the same. The goal behind the deceptive labeling practice is to ride the coattails of informed consumerism, without actually modifying its animal welfare practices. This produces profitable results, on both ends of the spectrum. Responsible consumers elect to purchase meat that is free of genetic modification (GMO-free), antibiotic-free, and humanely treated, or free-range. By greenwashing labels, Tyson is able to secure profit from consumers it would otherwise lose from not meeting these guidelines. Since there are no real penalties associated with marketing deception, the other upside to fraudulent advertising is that it has the potential to desensitize consumers to the importance of truth in labeling. This desensitization goes a long way towards crippling organic, free-range farmers that actually bring quality products to consumers. The hope here is that consumers will become so frustrated that they will stop caring about the labeling issue altogether, which allows Tyson to continue on, business as usual.

While Tyson is certainly not the only corporation to engage greenwashing procedures, the company receives much of the attention for the practice, and for good reason. Tyson is the number one producer of chicken in the United States, and is the second largest producer of pork and beef products. Therefore, consumers applying pressure for Tyson to change their factory farming ways would have a substantial impact on the animal agriculture business and force a humane animal welfare standard in the country. When Tyson started labeling their meat as "all natural," investigations revealed that their practices are far from it. The animals are confined, pumped full of antibiotics, and fed Monsanto's GMO corn, which is so extensively modified that it is listed as a pesticide product in America.

Chickens are social animals. However, Tyson chickens are stacked on top of each other in boiler houses and denied this natural state of existence. This living condition causes so much mental duress that their beaks need to be clipped off to prevent them from harming themselves and others. These unhappy animals are then destroyed and their meat is pumped full of a salt-water solution to up the poundage of the product for greater profit. This is what Americans sit down and consume as a "healthy and nutritious" meal. By the logic of the United States Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, greenwashing practices should be abolished and illegal, as there is sufficient evidence to prove that excessive salt and exposure to GMOs causes substantial health risks.

For those interested, send letters to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to hold Tyson accountable and Mandate Honest Labeling Practices.

This is Deb Duxbury, for Animal Life, reminding you to please spay or neuter your pet.

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