In the world of fitness and nutrition, product claims are seemingly endless. Many customers assume that these claims have to be backed up or substantiated by a body with some oversight in order to go to market.
Surprising to many, this is not the case and claims marketing a nutritional supplement go unchecked and without oversight leaving customers at risk and in the dark on the true origin of what they have ingested with the intention of better health. Third-party verification and certification are critical – the industry is filled with hollow claims. Let’s take a look at some widely made “claims”.
The "Natural" Claim -
One of the biggest offenders is the term “natural”. It’s almost comical how little that word means “Natural” has nothing to do with where animals are raised, how they are treated or even what they’re fed.
Consumer Reports Confirm based on surveys that overwhelming majority of consumers believe that the claim "natural" on a food package should mean that the product contains no artificial ingredients, that it was produced without pesticides or genetically modified (or engineered) organisms (GMOs), and that farm animals weren't given drugs, such as antibiotics. However, the claim means none of these things. On meat and poultry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines "natural" as minimally processed and containing no added artificial ingredients. For other foods, the term has no clear meaning and is not regulated by a government agency.
The cage-free claim -
On eggs does mean that the hens who laid them did not spend their entire lives in inhumane wire cages, and that is a good thing. But it doesn’t mean they had any access to the outdoors, or even adequate space or enrichment in that indoor environment. To further complicate things, the term “cage-free” on a package of chicken or turkey meat adds no value because meat birds are never raised in cages.
The Grass-fed "Claim -
Cows naturally consume grass as part of their diet, but over the past several decades, the industry in order to meet production demand has shifted to feeding cows mostly grain (e.g. corn), which has proven time & time again to carry with it severe negative health impacts. The USDA does not have an official definition for “grass-fed” claims. Pasture access during the animal’s life is required, but producers are allowed to define the specifics themselves, resulting in huge variations, many of which are substandard to say the least. Feedlots are allowed in final months, as are antibiotics and hormones. Only “100% grass-fed” animals must be fed an entirely grass-based diet. For products from animals raised on pasture for their entire lives, look for Animal Welfare Approved or Global Animal Partnership.
The "Free-Range" or "Free Roaming" Claim -
Most farm animals are housed entirely indoors. The USDA requires producers using “free-range” or “free-roaming” claims to demonstrate that animals have “access to the outdoors,” but size, quality and length of access to that outdoor space is unregulated, so conditions vary greatly and again can be considered substandard to say the least. For products from animals raised outdoors with adequate space, look for Animal Welfare Approved Certification or the Global Animal Partnership.
What about the term “Grass-fed” specifically on Whey Protein Powders?
Chances are, you may have purchased protein powder that in some way, shape, or form, marketed claims to be “Grassfed” sourced. A few reasons for this claim to be made so easily and to be abused so often include
- The perception of the term "Grass-fed" and it's association with a premium cost.
- Neither the Federal Drug Administration nor the Federal Trade Commission have the ability, resource, or capacity to regulate supplement claims before they go to market. The "Grassfed" claim in particular compared to extend of falsely marketed claims out there, would be considered a very low priority warranting any type of spending allocated for enforcement.
What can you do when looking for a Truly Grassfed Whey protein to separate the fact from the fiction?
We believe the number to be about 95%. Meaning 95% of marketed "grass-fed" whey protein products come from CAFOs with zero shame and zero substance to back such a claim.
We encourage absolute skepticism before purchasing any supplement marketing as "grass-fed" whey protein to ensure you are not unknowingly supporting a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). Other than a select few Organic farms, a very large percentage of dairy cows in the U.S. have very limited or no access to pasture. Instead, they are housed indoors, and more than a third of them live in stalls that restrict the animals' movement. Physical alterations are often performed on dairy farms under the guise of some benefit to the animal, however we assure you, this is of no benefit to any animal. Currently, roughly half of dairy farms in the U.S. practice tail docking and about 90% of those operations practice dehorning; both procedures are usually done without anesthesia or pain medication.