Are Food Labels a Scam?

Are Food Labels a Scam?

this episode has been brought to you by our super generous supporters on patreon if you like many Americans these days are shopping for eggs meat or dairy and you want to ensure that a the animals that produce that food are treated humanely for be that there was no irresponsible use of antibiotics hormones steroids or some other chemical that will make you sick then you’ve probably had to navigate a sea of food labels and dubious claims in order to make informed purchasing decisions the goal being of course to support farms that look more like this and less like this many meat and dairy producers have heard this demand and have responded by garnishing food packages with an array of official sounding labels and picturesque imagery in an effort to put the well-meaning consumers mind at ease I mean come on look how happy this cow is it’s even raised with love unregistered trademark patent pending void where prohibited words like organic free-range and humane seem to be everywhere these days and they definitely sound good but can we actually trust any of these labels or is it all just a marketing scam the barrage of labels in jargon that we see every day can overload the brain and make it difficult for the well-meaning shopper to make a decision take this package of chicken for example at a glance there’s a lot of positive looking words here I mean it’s humanely treated raised cage-free no antibiotics it’s even inspected for wholesomeness not to mention you got your lovely green pasture and blue sky but how are we supposed to interpret all of these claims can we be confident that this chicken lived a comfortable cruelty-free life well let’s break it down the very first claim that is made right off the bat is all-natural but what is natural actually mean here on slightly closer inspection you’ll notice an asterisk and the fine print which defines natural as minimally processed with no artificial ingredients which call me crazy is kind of what I would expect from raw chicken okay quick side note the US Department of Agriculture or USDA has oversight over food produced in the US and has a list of things that can or cannot be said on food packaging some phrases are completely unregulated but certain words are only allowed as long as sufficient documentation is provided or basic qualifications are met the word natural as defined by the USDA refers to how meat is processed after the slaughter and has nothing to do with how the animal is raised so I will give this chicken one mark in the meaningless info column moving on down we come to a nice group of positive looking labels the first being no added antibiotics which does address a big problem in the meat industry the problem though is that there’s no Universal definition for what no antibiotics or raised without antibiotics means still no edit antibiotics is probably better than the alternative so I’ll give this one mark in the meaningful info column so far tie score but let’s take a look at this next claim no added hormones while it’s true that a lot of animals are given synthetic hormones to stimulate their growth if you look at the fine print you’ll note that federal regulations prohibits the use of hormones in poultry this is in fact the law and applies to all chickens turkeys and pigs so this label is absolutely meaningless it would have had some significance if it were on beat because a lot of cows and sheep are still given synthetic hormones but not chicken next up no animal by-products I assume this is in reference to the practice of feeding livestock the scraps and remains of other livestock I’ll give them a point although I kind of feel like this piece of information should be covered by the all vegetarian diet claim humanely treated this is of course what everyone wants to see but the USDA does not clearly define humane and there’s no third-party verification so this claim could mean literally anything it could mean no antibiotics or it could just mean that they have access to food either way humanely treated doesn’t give us any information and this is a claim that you should probably be skeptical of raised cage-free this is another one of those claims that sounds good but here’s the thing with maybe a couple of exceptions meat chickens are never raised in cages it’s not practical here’s what a typical confined chicken operation looks like see no cages just a lot of chickens in a big room the exception is when this phrase is printed on egg cartons because some egg-laying birds are confined to cages but not meat birds the last claim in this group is fed all vegetarian diet this seems reasonable but there’s a problem chickens are omnivores a chicken that is legitimately raised in a pasture will eat a lot of worms and insects in addition to grass or grain well it’s good that the chickens aren’t forced to cannibalize themselves an all-vegetarian diet is not necessarily a plus hatched raised and harvested in the USA I kind of feel like this should be a given but I’ll give them a point anyways and finally inspected for wholesomeness by the US Department of Agriculture this sounds significant but as you may have guessed it’s not because virtually all meat produced in the US is subject to inspection by the USDA so the total score for this particular item is three meaningful claims versus six meaningless claims although really what we most likely have here is chicken which was raised in a typical factory farm that stopped using antibiotics aside from that one claim there really isn’t a lot of useful information here in addition to what’s printed on this particular package there are a few other labels that you’re probably going to see a lot of like free-range and organic when you find the USDA Organic label on food packaging you can be sure that the food adheres to a long list of clearly defined standards that are routinely verified the problem though is that while the organic label insures that the animals were fed organic feed and not given antibiotics or hormones it has very little bearing on the animal’s quality of life according – organic standards animals must have some access to outdoors but the USDA does not define the amount or duration so if this is something that’s important to you don’t confuse organic with humane another common phrase is free-range which comes up all the time and maybe the most deceptive of all while it’s tempting to imagine the life of a free-range bird as looking something like this the USDA’s definition of free-range only states that birds must have continuous access to the outdoors access could just mean that there’s a small door at the far end of a giant warehouse that a bird would have to navigate to if it wants to go outside a bird that spends its entire life indoors either because it’s not aware of this access or because it has limited mobility could still technically be considered free-range now this isn’t to say that all meat that is March free-range as a ploy to deceive you but with little oversight and a vague definition I’d say it’s best not to assume anything when you see this phrase if you want to be a little more confident that the animal was raised primarily outdoors instead of free-range look for pasture door pasture raised although this is another one of those claims that’s loosely regulated so there’s still no guarantee now at this point you may be saying to yourself well shoot is there nothing that I can trust is this all just a marketing ploy are those labels there just to pacify my sense of moral obligation in order to keep the flow of money to the large food producers unobstructed while animals continue to suffer well not exactly there is a bit of good news if you really want to buy meat eggs or dairy from animals that were raised well the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends buying products with one of these three labels certified humane global animal partnership or animal welfare approves all three have a clearly defined set of standards that are independently verified and prohibit caged confinement hormones sub-therapeutic antibiotics and represent a clear improvement over typical large-scale farm operations there’s also a few significant differences between each of these so if you’re curious I would suggest reading a bit more about them links in the description so I hope that helped set some light on some of these mysterious food labels and if you’re still confused don’t feel bad this stuff is confusing which i think might be the point some labels are legitimate but there’s also a lot of misinformation out there at this point it seems like most of the responsibility is placed on the consumer to do the work and actually figure out what this stuff means while food companies with a few exceptions can pretty much say whatever they want if you really want to know where your food is coming from and how the animals are actually being treated I would suggest getting to know your local farmers and buy directly from them go to a farmers market or find a local butcher that’s done their homework and has a good relationship with the farms that they get their meat from it’s a good place to start good luck so are there any other mysterious food labels or claims that I didn’t mention I did my best to address what I thought were the most important and prominent labels but I didn’t have time to talk about everything so if you think I missed something let me know in the comments I’m also curious about other countries like do Europeans have confusing food labels like we do in America let me know and who knows I might do a follow-up video someday we’ll see thanks for watching if you like this video please click like and subscribe and if you really want to help us out consider going over to our patreon page and becoming a supporter right now our show is 100% funded by patreon supporters like these awesome people listed down here so if you want to join up with them that would be amazing we couldn’t do it without you guys

88 thoughts on “Are Food Labels a Scam?

  1. First, my mom has a strong sensitivity to MSG in foods, and the rules for MSG are terrible. MSG is literally "monosodium glutamate", which is a glutamate they take from seaweed (I believe). If they take the glutamate from another source, such as yeast or soy, it'll be called "autolyzed yeast extract" or "autolyzed soy protein". These are listed in the ingredients, and will still make my mom sick. Even worse, products can have labels like "NO MSG!" or "NO MSG ADDED!", yet still have glutamates from other sources that do exactly the same thing. It's so unregulated, that they can even hide MSG in the ingredients lists as "Natural Flavor", as it is a naturally occuring substance, though they have added more to make it taste more savory. There is more information about it online.

    Second, I currently live in Japan, and Japanese food labels are atrocious! They do not have any of the requirements that American nutrition labels have. One thing that really bothers me is trying to find out how many calories are in a product. First, you have to find out how much is in the product you bought. It is not clearly labeled on the front of the package, nor is it clear on the back. Sometimes it's not listed at all (though you can usually go online and find the size). After you know the size, then you check the label. Calorie content is often based upon an arbitrary number, or based on 100g. That means, if the label says "100g = 34 calories", you now have to do the math to figure out how much is in the entire package. So, let's say it's a package with 253g in it. And, the label says "68g = 312 calories". Just get out your calculator and you'll know the entire package has 1161 calories in it. Easy, right? No.

    Much of Japan is what America was 20 years ago; CDs are still a thing here, as you can still buy and rent them from all over, DVD rental places are everywhere, magazines are still extremely popular, and technology is not embraced too much. Everyone thinks of Japan as having such amazing technology, with robots and blazing fast internet. And, though they do have extremely fast internet, the robots and the other quirky things people think embody Japan, are just novelties that don't really exist in most of Japan. So, labels here are stuck in the past, much like everything else in this country. Don't get me wrong; Japan is an amazing country, with lots to love about it. It's just that labels, along with a lot of other things, need to be updated and regulated much better here.

  2. Great video! I'm a young human who recently had to start buying my own food and just a few days ago I had the dilemma of trying to figure out which chicken would be most okay to buy. now i know what to look for! 🙂 thanks for making this!!

  3. As much as I find food label to be a scam…
    The "Inspected for Wholesomeness by USDA" seal is required by the USDA
    and not in the same vein "organic/humane/cagefree/etc" that can be controlled by corporate marketing.
    I would have not categorized the "Wholesomeness" seal as meaningful or meaningless,
    given that the mandatory inspection is not common knowledge.
    (I would love for this to be common knowledge though)

  4. Just go vegan, people. Your uncle's farm doesn't exist, the only way a farm can be profitable is if it becomes a massive industrial operation. Basically Cowschwitz

  5. this didn't "feel" like an ep of the good stuff, i think i might have just been the lack of interviews? and the whole thing being narrated by an off screen voice until the end, was still a good video, but just didn't capture the feeling of the good stuff for me personally

  6. Very informative.Keep up the good work!

    I thought it would have been important to add a couple of things though, just so consumers aren't deceived into thinking that the "good" labels at the end guarantee everything. Some things are inherent to the meat and dairy industry.
    Meaning that no matter how well the animals are treated during their lifetime, they will share the same death experience as the others, since they will be sent to the same place to be killed. Which is a very stressful environment, with disregard to the animal's wellbeing, left to bleed out to death, with the only "reassuring" factor is that they supposedly have to be stunned before being split open – which sometimes works, but isn't that effective. And that's something that we tend to forget, when we're subjected to such beautiful packaging imagery, and reassuring labels.
    Same goes for the eggs produced by "family" farms. If you are going to consume eggs, of course it's best to choose the most humane label you can find. But I think we ought to remember that taking a hen's egg is a source of physical and emotional stress for her. And in any case, the hens themselves had to be purchased from a place where the male chicks are thrown alive into a grinder because they are useless to the industry.
    I'm not necessarily saying that everyone should stop consuming animal products right away, because I understand that we've been raised to prepare our meals this way, and even I still consume them, but I think we should at least open up our eyes to what that entails.

  7. Europe has a lot of different countries with different laws and regulations but I think Finland does a fairly good job, at least compared with the US.

  8. I would say that meat gotten by hunting (which there is quite a lot of in South Africa) is the most humane choice, although expensive. The animal lived in relatively wild conditions, ate organic hormone free food, completely free range and the killing of the animal is the quickest if done correctly (bullet through the head). Heck, hunting is even necessary to avoid overgrazing due to lack of natural predators.

    Some people say the challenge of hunting and stalking the buck makes it more moral in a way. It also supports local and smaller scale industry.
    One problem is that it's quite an expensive option, even a luxury (except if you're a buck poacher)

    The springbok is probably the best example because there are so many of them here and they taste delicious.

  9. Food labels in Europe can be very confusing as well but I usually give them the benefit of the doubt; I'd rather buy something that has at least a chance of being organic than something that is clearly not

  10. In Australia we also have A LOT of label confusion – but thankfully we also have Choice magazine and their YouTube/ABC TV program The Checkout which tries it's best to provide consumer info that's not bias.

  11. The food labels are just as confusing here in Australia. I'd like to see some info on good certifications to look out for here if you end up making that follow up video, thanks.

  12. It might be worth mentioning the environmental impact of each way of raising livestock- better for animals isn't always better

  13. Food labels are not confusing and fairly highly regulated in NZ. This video was surprising to me, I had no idea how silly USA packaging is.

  14. I think my favorite label is when vegetables are advertised as cholesterol free. I literally face-palmed when I saw that.

  15. absolutely loved this video! wooo! * claps *
    idk where to begin since i liked so many of the details put into this, but to name a few .. great choice of topic, it's awesome that you helped point out ways to stay clear of misinformation, i loved how you even left the subject open for further discussion and development .. and i could go on but i don't want to make my comment too long
    just awesome guys, you did a really great job with this one!

  16. To the vegans in the comments: even a large minority of people going vegan won't change the horrors of factory farming.
    You know what will? Changing factory farming.

  17. The "Certified Free Trade" label should be in your follow-up. It's another one that's pretty much a scam, but for entirely different reasons.

  18. While I respect veganism and agree that going vegan would make this all go away… just saying "go vegan" won't make the problem disappear, because the average person is NOT vegan and saying that to someone's face will not make most people change their lifestyle. It'll just polarize their opinions and lead to the "oh god vegans are so annoying" mindset rather than trying to make a change for the better. I think this video instead is a really good way of making baby steps towards reducing our meat consumption. Make the average consumer AWARE of the labels, the treatment, the exaggerated labels, and make them think critically. Change like this doesn't happen overnight!

  19. How can animal agriculture be humane?
    If the animal in question is being treated well and enjoys its life, killing it would be inhumane.
    If an animal is suffering it may be humane to kill it but in that case you've failed at the first step, it wasn't humane to let it suffer while it was alive.
    Either way it's cruel and that's not something that can be solved by going to your 'local' farm. Local has no more meaning than all the other scam labels: if you live next to a factory farm that's your local farm.
    Still, it's great you're addressing this issue at all when it's so frequently ignored in order to appease one's conscience.

  20. that was a great episode 🙂
    concrete, practical information that helps you make better choices

    Regarding the situation in Europe: We also have our fair share of bs advertising claims. Afaik the term organic (or rather "Bio"/"biologisch") is not one of the buzzwords you can just through around, at least here in Austria. It's well defined and requires very rigorous certification.

  21. …Did you just do a video on animal cruelty… and end it in a room with paintings of bull-fighting on the walls?!?

  22. I have no problems with vegans at all. I have a problem with people who think they holier than thou because you are vegan. You want to know why? Because both sides of the argument you can poke major holes into it and it eventually disintegrates down into ad hominem and straw man fallacies. Because you cannot on any logical basis tell me that you diet isn't harming other living organisms as well. I know meat harms organisms its a proven fact but I can lay the same claim out for Veganism too. Since Im in a Jovial mood let me explain why.

    The food you eat to be sustainable in any form has to have fertilizer. Be it chemical or natural etc. All these things have one thing in common and its its just now showing to have a significant impact on the environment and the animals that live in it. That little thing is called Nitrates. It gets into the groundwater and into the streams and lakes. It eventually gets into Ocean and harms marine life and the environment.

    That's my problem with some vegans. They pretend their shit don't stink when it reality it does just as much as a meat eaters stinks.

  23. Jamese Mitchell said it right, if you care that much about the life of the animal just go vegan. WTF is HUMANE? if you are being raised to be killed…..

  24. I don't think any store or market here in NZ holds more than 15 brands of meat or eggs. Eggs are clearly labeled "cage", "barn" or "free-range" and the SPCA here has its own tick of approval for both eggs and meat. On meat it's normally just a statement of "free range" or nothing at all. I'm admittedly not sure how reliable a free-range claim by itself is but we certainly don't have as many labels and claims as American products seem to, possibly because factory farming is not nearly as much of a thing here and our beef and lamb industry is practically all grass fed and kept outdoors.
    In recent years battery farming of hens has been admonished in the public eye and it's looking to get "phased out" in the next 8 years. More recently pig crate farming has come under fire, so the hope is there will be regulation and positive change there soon.

  25. We get our eggs and chicken from farms. 🙂 I'm in Malaysia and yes, we have loads of unverified labels too!

  26. In Denmark it is easy to navigate through the meat, as the government has a label that everyone knows is organic, and it is somewhat strictly regulated.

  27. Something that I love of this era is the fact that I have to make a food industry homework every time I want to eat something decent

  28. As a nutrition profession in the field for over a decade, I LOVE this video. Thank you so much for putting this out!

  29. nice video, what's up with these hungry vegens lol. animals are no other use in this world but to be slaughtered and eaten. we humans have brains they don't so we might as well suite our selves eat all animals in this world. vegens lol are u kidding me. it's true it's done for profit they spray all veggies and animals with toxins so watch out how much toxic you intake. I am from Europe and there is good numbers of cities with 100% grass fed animals and 100% vegetables natural. you buy directly from farmers on their farm fresh milk from cow boobs, fresh meat you pay 100$ they slaughtered the sheep or cow they peel skin cut meat and pack it for you everything right there at his farm. but yeah not all cities does this but good number of them.

  30. I believe that you were erroneous in giving a point for no ADDED antibiotics. Stating "no antibiotics" means NO antibiotics. What's with the extra word? It would be more costly to ADD a word to their label. Hmmmmm…Do they mean that they don't add antibiotics to the meat AFTER they're FED antibiotics? Sounds as though they're trying to get off on a technicality. Antibiotic free sounds much better…I wonder why they don't say that?

  31. In Portugal, it is either really hard to find and/or really expensive. When it comes to meat, my (medically prescribed) diet is mainly based on low fat meats. I never found organic chicken meat at any of my city's supermarkets. And free range is almost absent. Unfortunately, we still live in a culture of more is better instead of seeking to it perhaps a bit less but of superior quality. I rather have a 150g piece of organic meat than 500g of industrially produced meat. But that's me!

  32. "Forced to eat each other"

    You don't have to force chickens to go cannibalize each other. Chickens are voracious and WILL kill each other and then eat the corpse, even well-treated ones with plenty of access to tasty food. In fact, the beak-trimming that's standard practice for a lot of farms (and called cruel by a lot of ignorant animal rights enthusiasts) is to try to prevent these bastards from pecking the sick an weak to death so THEY CAN EAT THEM. A weakness of any kind is a death sentence in the chicken world because they are bloodthirsty little dinosaurs and they know it!

  33. Vegans your fruits and vegetables are also filled with chemicals . They have pesticides herbicides and they can also be gmo

  34. I'm in the UK. Free Range eggs have a statement that says that the birds have access to the outdoors during the day. So what is the situation with these birds at night ? I think you gave me the answer by saying that there's an open door in an overcrowded barn which many of the hens are probably not aware of. Maybe at night, they shut that door.

  35. tbh this video didn't really say much except "are they scams? Well some are and some aren't!" without actually explaining much. The ASPCA has a good detailed outline of every label you'll see:

  36. also, BS to everyone saying that buying humane does more than going vegan. If every meat-eater decided to only support humane pasture-raised farms–well, that's not possible, because there is literally not enough space in the world to provide for it. Pasture-raised animals take up far more land than intensified animal farming–that's why intensified industrial farms exist in the first place. Creating pasture lands for ranches is the leading cause in deforestation especially in the Amazon and cattle ranching especially is cited as one of the greatest threats to many endangered species. Industrial farms exist because they're the only things that can feed our demand. If you want to support your friendly humane ranches, eating less meat is literally the ONLY way they can exist.

  37. i know people that work for butler's. in those places chickens are certainly kept in cages. when they get out they call them floorbirds. the chickens are, i understand, for catfood

  38. Great video to watch and how do we really know organic food really is organic? More peaple should do wild forgiving for food because it's all free and far better than Organic. I've tried wild blueberries and they are far far better than the organic ones. I don't trust organic foods these days as I think it's a big marketing con to make more money!


  40. thanks for the subtitle, now my question is because the products certified by the USDA have 2 logos one that is white with green and another white with black perhaps this second name is false?

  41. The Good Stuff
    You are right, and ASPCA recommending Certified Humane, Global Animal, and Animal Welfare is Not Good Enough. We Cannot Trust Them and their regulatory 33 degree Freakmason Cult Clubs CONtrol.

  42. If you work for the FDA and you want a job when you leave, you'd better do what Big Food and Big Pharma want while you are there.

  43. No Animal By Products means that is not in whatever you're purchasing, i.e. your food. They save that disgusting crap to make low end dog and cat food with.

  44. I find it so laughable that people actually still go around saying they eat organic as much as possible. Okay, look up the rules and then you will see just how stupid you sound. These same people buy bottled water with no clue how long the water in the plastic has set in a hot factory leaching the toxins into your fake bottled water . I camp and there is no where in the USA that you would ever drink water without filtering it. Do i eat organic? NO. Do I use bottled water? NO. I use my SMART PHONE to seek out information rather than sound stupid by stating that you eat organic and can’t drink water if it isn’t from a bottle. Yet your so called organic meat has been drinking tap water. And the potatoes you eat how do you think they grow ? With bottled water or tap? And that watermelon you love is that bottled water inside? Wake up people because the marketing people have you hooked and the profits keeps rolling in because of your ignorance.

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