I've met the Animal Welfare Approved folks at many of the conferences I travel to and they seem like a great organization offering a standard and certification program to farmers. They sent me the information below so you can familiarize yourself with their work:
Are you concerned about the welfare of animals that become part of the food chain? Animal Welfare Approved is the only third-party welfare certification that actually guarantees animals were raised outdoors. This USDA recognized certification and food label is dedicated to family farmers practicing high-welfare husbandry, outdoors on pasture or range. Animal Welfare Approved maintains a fee-free program, which has two important outcomes: one, there is no incentive to pass noncompliant farms; and two, the certification is available to any farm meeting AWA’s rigorous standards, regardless of size or scale.
Animal Welfare Approved’s standards are the most rigorous and progressive animal care requirements in the nation, as recognized by the World Society for the Protection of Animals for two years running. These standards have been developed in collaboration with scientists, veterinarians, researchers and farmers and incorporate best practice and recent research. Annual audits by experts in the field cover birth to slaughter. Species include beef cattle and calves, dairy cattle and calves, pigs, poultry (chicken, turkey and duck), sheep, dairy sheep, goat, dairy goats and bison and calves. The basic premise of all the standards is that animals must be able to behave naturally and be in a state of physical and psychological well-being.
Given only to family farms, the Animal Welfare Approved label verifies that participating farms are putting each individual animal’s comfort and well-being first. The program is based on the simple understanding that our own best interests are intrinsically linked to animals and the environment. Farmers benefit from having a third-party affirmation of their practices and consumers benefit by knowing that the label means what it says. The many health benefits of meat, dairy and eggs from animals raised outdoors are well-documented. As more and more people seek out these products - for ethical, health, and environmental reasons, Animal Welfare Approved is emerging as the most dependable guarantee that an animal was raised humanely outdoors.
Additionally, Animal Welfare Approved offers a level of farmer support that sets it apart from other certifications. Grant opportunities, technical and marketing assistance and networking are offered to all member farmers at no cost. AWA also actively works to develop relationships with retailers, restaurants and cooperatives in an effort to expand the availability of high-welfare products in the marketplace. This comprehensive support helps farmers to stay abreast of the latest techniques in high-welfare farming, and also to thrive as businesses and to share these techniques with other farms. AWA’s philosophy is to be supportive and encouraging, revitalizing a culture of independent family farms in which a humane ethic can be passed on to future generations.
For more information, visit www.AnimalWelfareApproved.org.