Photo credit: Whole FoodsTwo weeks ago Whole Foods announced the new 5-Step Animal Rating System, a labeling system that will be popping up in meat departments nation-wide come May 2011. The rating system is a part of the Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit organization that audits farms and rates their animal welfare practices. Whole Foods will be offering color-coded labels to guide consumers through the 5-Step certified beef, pork, and chicken products. Certification indicates that the animals are raised on a vegetarian diet with no antibiotics or added growth hormones (also required by federal regulations).
5-Step Animal Welfare Rating System
Image credit: Whole FoodsA.C. Gallo, the president and COO of Whole Foods Markets comments, "We are proud to adopt this new rating system that helps shoppers make even more informed buying decisions while offering them peace of mind that the animals from our producers are raised with care."
The Transparency Trend
Food labeling is all the rage. You might recall the hubbub about Smart Choices labels and Fruit Loops last year, and more recently the American Beverage Association announced their new "Clear on Calories" program. The labeling initiative will display total calories on individual beverages and vending machines.
To address the labeling trend, the Institute of Medicine released Phase 1 of their front-of-pack nutrition labeling report in October 2010, concluding that labeling should focus on calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and easily understood serving sizes. Phase 2 of the report is currently under discussion.
photo credit: Eat Drink BetterAs companies slap more food labels onto packages and store shelves, I am tempted to applaud the push for "nutrition transparency" and "informed consumer purchase." However I also wonder at what point too much information burdens rather than enlightens the consumer. It will take more than color-coded labels to change consumer purchasing behavior and dietary patterns. I believe proper guidance is needed to accompany these labels.
The transparency trend is exciting, but let's keep our eyes out for emerging research on food labeling and its affect on consumer purchasing.
Do you like the Whole Foods 5-Step initiative?
Your thoughts on food labeling?
Have a sweet Valentine's Day!