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What is a greenwashed label and how does it affect your buying habits?

posted on

June 30, 2023


Greenwashing is the act or practice of making a product appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is. 

I would like to reveal to you how the food industry deceptively markets to us and how they “greenwash” their products. This happens with many products and in many industries, but today I am going to focus on eggs, chicken, and beef. 

The egg industry uses terms like; cage-free, free-ranged, organic, and even pasture-raised. I will further expound on each label for you.

CAGE-FREE EGGS- This label sounds much better than your standard eggs, but in reality, they are very similar to caged hens. Though they are not in cages, they still have less than one square foot to move around, the same diet, and never go outside. In addition all the "bad stuff" is heavily used. [Side note: When the "cage-free" label became trendy in the egg industry, the meat industry capitalized on the term and applied the label to meat chickens as well, even though it was never the practice to raise meat chickens in a cage in the first place]. 

FREE-RANGED- This is one of the most deceptive labels. "Free ranged" makes you think of happy chickens out on the grass in the fresh air and sunshine - WRONG AGAIN. The chickens do have access to a little door that goes to a small space outside, but it doesn't even have to be on ground or grass and can be concrete as far as they are concerned. To qualify for the “free-ranged” term, the area only needs to be 10 ft by 10 ft. This "outdoor space" is seldom used because most of the time this door is not open to them until the last 2 weeks of life. By this time they are accustomed to being indoors and feel safer inside. As with the standard conventional chickens, chemicals and antibiotics are regularly used.

ORGANIC- Don't fall for it, as so many of us do!! Organic does NOT equal higher nutritional value. "Organic" is a label that is continually lobbied for by big food businesses, which over time has become more lax about regulations. Nowadays only 95% of the ingredients in an organic product are organic, which means up to 5% of that product can be loaded with chemicals. I would argue that a pasture-raised chicken fed non-GMO grain has much higher nutritional value than a cage-free hen fed organic grain. One has access to the outdoors, bugs, and grass, while the other, though fed a higher quality grain, is crammed inside with less than one square foot per bird. 


PASTURE-RAISED EGGS- Traditionally "pasture-raised" refers to chickens that are always on fresh grass (except as chicks when they need heat lamps). The only way to ensure fresh pasture, is to have a chicken system that is mobile and moved regularly. Unfortunately, stores have been selling eggs that are falsely claiming to be pasture raised. Often their "pasture-raised" chickens are in a stationary building that opens its doors to a large pen outside. Since the structure is stationary the chickens are in the same fenced area every day, which eventually turns to the ground to barren dirt. Additionally, the companies claiming to sell pasture raised eggs have begun to dye their egg yolks darker using plant extracts, giving the deceptive impression of higher nutrition. 


Now lets take a look at the beef industry. There is no shortage of deception when it comes to beef. The industry uses claims like “Grass-fed, Product of the USA, and all-natural” to get you to buy their beef. 

GRASS-FED- For a cow to be considered grass fed it only has to eat grass at some point in its lifetime . All cattle have eaten grass at some point in its life. All cows are born out on pasture but after several months they are weaned and brought to feedlots to be fattened on grain. 

Consumers became aware of this and demanded further regulation around the term. This is where we get the label 100% grass fed. But this, like with all other regulations around labels, has its loopholes. Yes, the USDA says they can’t feed grain, but they are allowed to feed “grain byproducts” like soybean and peanut shells, distillers grains, and some others.


PRODUCT OF THE USA- The only requirement for this is that the meat is packaged in the U.S. In practice, the big corporations buy large quantities of beef from other countries. We don't know how they are raised but the fact that it's cheaper to ship it halfway around the world, begs the question as to its quality. They arrive here and are repackaged to fit the labeling requirements and are sent out to be bought by patriotic citizens.


ALL-NATURAL- All-Natural means that the meat was not fundamentally altered. This still allows for a cow, jacked up on growth hormones and antibiotics, to stand knee deep in its own manure, fenced in from even the thought of a blade of grass, while it munches on chicken manure, GMO grains, and gummy bears. 

In some feedlot operations, cows have been fed candy (wrapper and all), gummy bears, grapes, chicken manure, and chicken feathers (which contain arsenic because they feed arsenic to chickens as a painkiller), sawdust, limestone (because it’s a cheaper source of calcium), crab guts, and even other dead cows. 


In summary, the current food system has taken animals out of their natural environment, which is essential for their survival, and placed them in concentrated animal feeding operations also known as CAFOs. They cut corners and use chemicals, antibiotics, vaccines, caffeine, painkillers, and much more to keep the animals alive. These practices are unhealthy and unnatural for the animals and are detrimental to OUR long-term health. Unfortunately, they mask the truth in deceptive marketing, and greenwashed labels so we continue to buy their harmful products.

At Triple R Pastures, we don't focus on slapping catchy labels on our products. Instead, we pride ourselves on being "customer certified." By this, we mean we focus on being more open and transparent with our customers. We love having people come to the farm and see how we raise their meat firsthand instead of trusting fancy, expensive, green-washed labels. Labels can be deceptive, and we want our customers to be confident that they are really buying the nutritionally-dense, humanly raised products that we sell.  

If you would like to learn more about how we raise our animals, check out our farming principles.

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