Animal Law Review


Zak Franklin

First Page



Modern industrial animal agriculture and consumer purchasing patterns do not match consumers' moral preferences regarding animal welfare. Cur­rent production methods infiict a great deal of harm on animals despite widespread consumer preference for meat, dairy, and eggs that come from humanely treated animals. Judging by the premium pricing and market shares of food products with moral or special labels (e.g., 'cage-free,' 'free range,' and 'organic'), many consumers are willing to pay more for less harmful products, but they are unable to determine which products match this preference. The labels placed on animal products, and the insufficient government oversight of these labels, are significant factors in consumer ig­norance because producers are allowed to use misleading labels and thwart consumers from aligning their preferences with their purchases. Producers are allowed to label their goods as friendly to animals or the environment without taking action to conform to those claims. Meanwhile, producers who do invest resources into more humane or environmentally-conscious produc­tion methods are competing with companies that do not make similar ex­penditures. Those companies can sell their products at a lower price without sacrificing profits, which prices-out producers who do invest resources. This Article proposes a new labeling regime in which animal products feature labels that adequately inform consumers of agricultural practices so that consumers can match their purchases with their moral preferences. In this proposed scheme, animal products would contain a label that concisely and objectively informs consumers what practices went into the making of that item. Such a scheme would enable consumers who wish to pay more for hu­mane or environmentally-friendly products to do so, while rewarding those companies who actually do engage in better production methods. While the legal literature discussing food labeling and animal welfare is growing, most of the literature proposes legal definitions of terms like 'humane,' ex­pansion of consumer protection law, or labeling systems in which third-par­ties provide grading or ranking systems for producers of animal products. This Article rejects those proposals as inadequate to sufficiently inform con­sumers and instead suggests providing consumers with a list of select prac­tices producers engage in.



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