When most of us read the label “free-range,” we believe it means that animals can roam freely.

Unfortunately, in reality, most farms that use the “free-range” label house animals in stressful environments that are similar to factory farms. USDA regulations do not specify the amount, duration, or quality of outdoor access provided to “free-range” animals. This means that a warehouse with thousands of “free-range” hens could have a single door leading to a small, enclosed outdoor area that hens would have to struggle to access.

Producers and food retailers have many incentives to make conditions sound better than they are, because consumers—who are opposed to factory farms—are willing to pay higher prices for what they consider to be “humane” alternatives. This deception helps to perpetuate factory farming, and undermines consumers’ ability to make informed food choices.

You have an opportunity to help. The USDA is accepting comments until Tuesday, February 25, from the public on whether these “free-range” claims are misleading.

Please take action and enter a quick comment! Tell the USDA that food labels should be accurate and honest, not deceptive. You can write your own comment—of any length—and submit it here.

To get you started, here is a sample comment you can submit:

I am grateful that the USDA is seeking public input on the “free-range” label claim, because consumers are being misled by labels that misrepresent conditions and suggest that animals are being treated better than they are. This is a significant and growing problem, and it is critically important that the public be provided with accurate information in order to make informed food choices. Labels claiming that animals are treated humanely should require meaningful standards and transparency in order to prevent consumers from being taken advantage of as is currently the case.

Don’t let factory farmers and producers off the hook! Please take a minute today to hold them accountable for their deceptive tactics.

P.S. Read the comment submitted by Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary President and Co-founder, on January 28, 2020.

Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur