Label Meat Accurately to Incentivize Sustainable Farming


Target: Ruaraidh Petre, Executive Director of Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef

Goal: Provide more details on meat labels to incentivize sustainable cattle farming

Labels on meat products can be misleading to meat purchasers. A recent report published on sustainable farming implies that more accurate labeling that specifies how animals were raised and the producers’ farming methods could incentivize meat producers to utilize more sustainable farming methods. The issue examined in the report is that although consumers have the option to buy “grass-fed” or “organic” labeled meat in stores, these labels do not actually give an indication as to how the animals were raised. The labels also do not indicate whether or not the meat producers utilized environmentally friendly production methods. Experts in the matter believe that labeling meats with clear, accurate labels that include more information would aid in the initiative for sustainable farming.

Robin White, a post-doctoral scholar with the National Animal Nutrition Program, recently wrote an article in the journal Food Policy on this issue. White expressed the necessity of less ambiguous and more practical meat labels: “We need logical, clear labels that resonate with consumers while incentivizing the adoption of management practices that improve environmental impact.”

Advocates for accurate labeling on meat products contend that in addition to the treatment of cattle in meat production, the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural land use need to also be taken into account. Researchers maintain that meat producers have many viable options for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and for decreasing water usage, but may need to charge a little extra to consumers to compensate for the additional financial costs.

White points to the sustainable beef advocate group, Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, as the main candidate for creating and managing the more informative and accurate labels in discussion. Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef has as its mission “to advance continuous improvement in sustainability of the global beef value chain through leadership, science and multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration.” This group includes some big name companies, such as McDonalds, and may have a considerable impact on the meat industry if it started avidly promoting these labels among its members.

With the United States being one of the top consumers of cattle meat, the need for more sustainable farming is especially pertinent in this country. By signing the petition below, you are advocating the push for correct and more informative meat labeling which would incentivize sustainable cattle farming methods and better treatment for the farm-raised cattle. Sustainable farming is vital for preserving the available natural resources, such as agricultural farmland, and for making a smaller footprint on our earth.


Dear Ruaraidh Petre,

Meat production is a major aspect of the United States economy, with meat purchasers consuming around 25 billion pounds of meat annually. The meat industry owns much of the vast farmlands in the U.S., which inevitably leads to meat producers contributing to much of the environmental degradation arising from inefficient land-use and greenhouse gas emissions. The current “grass-fed” and “organic” labels that are on many meat producers’ products do not indicate anything as to what farming practices the meat producers utilize. This can be very misleading to consumers advocating for sustainable farming and better treatment for cattle.

Please look into including these factors in the labeling of meat products to accurately indicate the way the animals were raised and the farming practices that the meat producers utilized. Doing so would make a great positive change on the meat industry, by incentivizing the meat producers to adopt more sustainable farming methods.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Beef Cattle Factory Farm via Flickr

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