Monday, June 20, 2011

New Food Label

I ran across this food label at Whole Foods in San Antonio. 

 (sorry, couldn't rotate the image for some reason)

1)      Does this rating cover the animal’s entire life?  The last week?  Adulthood?
2)      Who verifies this information?  Is this a self-rating, honor-system based rating classification?  I see huge incentives to lie.
3)      Did anyone bother to ask the cow about the rating? (sorry, couldn’t resist!)
4)      Would an animal lover be eating steak anyway?
5)      In what ways are these labels supposed to influence my behavior?  Should I not buy ratings less than (or greater than, in this case) of 1?  What if I’m in a hurry, and the best I can do on short notice is a rating of 3.  Am I a bad person?
6)      Would the store carry anything other than a rating of 1?  While I didn’t look too hard, I did not find a product carrying a rating greater than 1. 

If this new rating system is voluntary, I have little objections.  Whole Foods caters to yuppies (besides me), the environmentally sensitive crowd, and (obviously) animal lovers.  I support any voluntary food labeling by the private sector.  However, my fear is that some busybody government official will latch onto the idea and force it onto the grocery industry via regulation.  This action would drive meat prices higher, reduce the supply of beef, and hurt consumers. 


  1. I think I would rather see the label from the companies that inject animals with steroids and practice crowding. Maybe that would be a selling point for those who value companies that maximize profits at any cost?

  2. Well, we do see what you suggest, in a round about way. Some producers of milk advertise that their products are steroid and antibiotic free (implying that other milk isn't).

    Crowding? You mean like riding on a airplane crowded, because I experience that regularly!

  3. I'm not sure if I am using the correct term, but crowding as I would refer to it is industrialized chicken farming. It's pretty inhumane and not very sanitary. Here's a quick Wiki overview.

  4. I think people find value in knowing the raw material of their dinner was treated humanely. The more people demand to see this type of information, the more producers of poultry/meat/what-have-you will find value in providing it.

    But, on the other hand, it is more costly to produce, so producers will only provide such things if people have a higher subjective valuation of the goods. In this case, humanely-produced chickens.

    I am one of those who greatly respects our animal resources and desires for them to be treated as any of God's creatures. I do eat meat, but I square this up by realizing that if we didn't, there'd be no reason for cows and I'm not in favor of deliberate extinction of a species.

    The worst thing, at this point, would be for the government to impose information restrictions, like they did for tobacco. The best thing is to have these humane, or organic, or non-steroid producers in the market and advertising the way they do. That gives consumers the choice and if, over time, consumers decide they want to pay more for humane beef, that's marvelous. If not, then that is their choice.

  5. It’s my opinion that animals were created for the pleasure and benefit of man, and I’m against assigning human traits to them. It is impossible for man to know the preferences of cows, chickens, or any other animal. We can observe animals and attempt to draw conclusions but this is pure speculation at best. Animals act according to natural instincts, and to human training when domesticated.

    There are groups who wish to assign rights to animals (PETA comes to mind) and this is dangerous. Animals are property and do not possess the same inalienable rights as humans. Any attempt to humanize animals deprives mankind of his right to use his property as he wishes. Do not take this statement as a license to abuse animals. This is wrong. However, do not also assume that our preferences extend into the animal kingdom because they don’t.

    From Brad (couldn't sign in for some reason)

  6. I agree with you that animals can't have rights. We, as stewards of the world and its bounty, have duties to care for our resources.

    My preferences are highly aligned with my dog's, I must say. I like cookies, he likes cookies. I like eating, he likes eating. I like sleeping, he likes sleeping. You get the idea.

  7. You shouldn't feed your dog cookies. Those are bad for him and a form of abuse! Don't you know we are suffering from a dog obesity pandemic. :)

  8. Doggie cookies! He's a bulldog - you don't tell bulldogs "no."

  9. I completely agree with Prof on this one. We are stewards of the world and of course no one would in their right mind would assign a pet constitutional rights made for the human race.

    All animals should at least be given the right to live per the law of nature. If not that they provide us humans the opportunity to grow, love, and care for one of God's beautiful gifts.

    I will add that having pets for most of my life I have been trained by my pets nearly as often as I have them. Pets often love unconditionally which is something humans fail at often. What you give is often what you get. Just because some fail at building these relationships does not mean they do not exist. Perhaps saying or believing otherwise is easier on ones own ego.

  10. Eddie's got some deep metaphysical thoughts on this one in his last paragraph, that go beyond natural rights and liberty issues. And these are important to think about.

    Above all, Eddie (I think) is saying we can discover deeper levels of our own humanity through our interaction with animals. As one who has always been around animals, I fully agree with this.

    Is the lesson here to be more like your dog (minus the slobbering and humping) in relationships with other humans? What would that look like? More compassion, more enthusiasm, more interest in the other person? That sounds pretty good, but maybe difficult.

  11. In many ways you nailed my intent. I am a live and let live kind of guy. I believe there are thousands of animal species that get along just fine without any human support. There is no question that there is a wide diversity of what is considered "natural" in their/our environment. For example, some species will select and live with only one partner and/or quite possibly remain as a family unit. In some cases one sex will fulfill a specific family role. In many if not most cases they only hunt or kill other species (ie. not murdering their own). Animals show some signs of greed...although nowhere to the same level as we do. They have survival instincts as do we.

    On survival instincts...I'm always amazed at the deeply religious who believe that heaven will reunite them with their Lord, their loved ones and give them eternal paradise but then will still succumb to their natural instincts of delaying their own death. If they are so convinced by heaven's awesomeness then why not smoke, lay out in the sun all day long, drink, etc. Why delay paradise? Do you really not believe what you say you do or do you have the same instinct for self-preservation as other animals?

    Yes I digress. I suppose in some way this is all tied to my frustration with those who seem to believe that being Pro-Life is ONLY protecting the unborn. I am pro-life, but I extend this definition to putting my fellow humans in harms way from completely unecessary and voluntary wars like Iraq and shooting wolves from helicopters that are not messing with you, your property, nor will they be dinner. ALL life is precious to me. We should be more like the Indians and take only what we need and no more.