WASHINGTON — After reviewing more than 44,000 public comments collected in 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture last month issued a voluntary standard for a new “naturally raised” meat marketing claim. The new claim can be used on any meat products that have been raised without growth promotants, artificial hormones or antibiotics — except for ionophores used for parasite control — and have never been fed animal by-products.
However, several consumer advocacy groups, including Consumers Union and Food and Water Watch, have said the new rule is too weak, arguing that it fails to address emerging issues such as cloning and genetic engineering, as well as other, more long-standing concerns such as humane treatment, access to grazing pasture and exposure to pesticides.
“This regulation will allow an animal that has come from a cloned or genetically engineered stock, was physically altered, raised in confinement without ever seeing the light of day or green of pasture, in poor hygiene conditions with a diet laced in pesticides to be labeled as ‘naturally raised,’” said Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and policy analyst at Consumers Union, the consumer advocacy group and nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.
Consumers Union said its own telephone poll in November 2008 indicated that the majority of U.S. consumers want the new claim to reflect more stringent standards.