Does Certified Humane® Have “Free Range” Requirements?

We’ve recently been receiving inquiries about whether or not there is a “free range” requirement for animals in the Certified Humane® program.  We think it’s important to explain what our standards are and the reasoning behind them.

The purpose of this program is to improve the lives of farm animals being raised for food.  Our standards require that all ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats) be outdoors on pasture. 

Most poultry are raised in barns because of weather.  Chickens raised for meat (broiler chickens) live between 6 and 8 weeks of age.  They can’t go out until they have full feathers, which is around 4 weeks of age.  If the farm is in the Northern part of the US or in Canada, at best, the weather would allow for animals to go out for 3 or 4 months, and maybe one or two flocks would get to go out for two weeks, assuming it is not raining or very windy.   For laying hens, they live longer, but you have the same issues of weather. 

Those programs that require “outdoor access” always have the caveat “weather permitting.”  None of those programs requiring “outdoor access” have any standards for poultry for the time when they are not accessing the outdoors.   So when these laying hens and chickens are in their barns for 9-10 months of the year, there are no space requirements, clean air requirements, dust-bathing requirements and none of the needs of the birds are being met.  We thought that it was more important for the birds to have their needs met all year long. We do have strict requirements for free range and pasture based poultry in our standards and there are many Certified Humane® poultry farmers that met these strict standards on our program.

When we wrote our standards, it was important to us to make sure that the needs of the birds were met, whether they were indoors or outdoors.  The purpose of this program is to improve the lives of farm animals being raised for food.  We wrote our standards to meet the needs of laying hens, which are, clean air (we require less than 10 parts per million (ppm) of ammonia in barns.  This means if you can smell it, it is too much). Hens need to perch because that is what they do and it is also a way for them to get away from other hens that annoy them (more aggressive hens).  Hens like to dust-bathe.  Dust-bathing is important to them because it protects their feathers and is a natural thing for them to do.  The hens need space.  

Therefore, our standards include sections for both barn raised and free-range birds. For barn raised birds, they must have adequate space, for example 1.5 sq. ft/bird (which is defined), they must have dust-bathing material, perches, nest boxes, and high air quality so that there is not even a whiff of ammonia.  All of these standards are written with specific numbers and measures and are inspected.   For “free range” producers on our program, there are range requirements, space requirements, range rotation, management, predator protection, etc. 

Pigs can be raised indoors as well as outdoors as long as they meet our minimum space requirements, which allow them to express natural behaviors and to move around freely. Gestating sows are not allowed to be kept in narrow gestation stalls in which they cannot move or turn around. Farrowing pigs are not allowed in farrowing pins, where they cannot move freely either. The air must be clear of ammonia and the pigs must have a clean, dry resting area.

One of the complications of raising pigs outdoors is environmental. A natural behavior of pigs is to root and when they do that, they tear up the fields. Unless a farmer has enough land to rotate pastures, they will put nose rings on the pigs to keep them from rooting up the fields.

The nose rings cause pain every time a pig tries to root, which is what pigs do. It is their natural behavior.  It would be as if we had an artificial device on our faces that caused us pain every time we tried to smile.  When pigs are raised outdoors, they root in the fields.  Rooting is normal behavior for pigs.  In order to raise pigs outdoors, there needs to be adequate space, pasture management plans and rotationally moving the pigs from pasture to pasture at different times of the year.  If there Is not enough pasture, or good pasture management, or rotational grazing methods are not used, the farmer has bare areas instead of vegetation.  Farmers put nose rings on pigs to prevent them from rooting and therefore they don’t have to manage the ground, the vegetation or the pigs.  We have space requirements and do not allow nose rings.  Nose rings do nothing to benefit the pig.  

Cows, both dairy and beef, goats and sheep have an outdoor pasture requirement because they are ruminant animals and must be able to eat grasses and roughage in order to digest their foods.  These animals digest mechanically as opposed to chemically which is how people digest food.

For specifics on each species, read our standards.  They are on our website at: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=standards

It is not easy for farmers to meet these standards.  We wrote the standards to meet the real needs of the animals, not perceived needs.  They are actually the highest animal welfare standards for animals in food production.   These standards make a real difference and improve the lives of the farm animals on our program.  

Support a Humane Thanksgiving: End Turkey Suffering and Have a Tasty Meal All at the Same Time

Each year, over 10 billion animals raised for food in the U.S. endure inhumane treatment. Most are confined such that they can’t behave naturally. Sadly, turkeys are not immune to this cruelty.

The biggest barrier is that most turkey producers don’t want to meet the space requirements in our standards, which allow turkeys the room that they need. Producers believe that shoppers are not concerned with the manner in which their food is raised. Let’s prove them wrong.

Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), the leading non-profit certification organization improving the lives of farm animals in food production, wants to encourage shoppers to only buy genuinely Certified Humane® animal products.

The goal of the program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices. When you see the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label on a product you can be assured that the food products have come from facilities that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal treatment.

The Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label assures consumers:
• That the producer meets our standards and applies them to animals from birth.
• Animals have ample space, shelter and gentle handling to limit stress.
• Ample fresh water and a healthy diet of quality feed, without added antibiotics or hormones.
• Cages, crates and tie stalls are among the forbidden practices, and animals must be free to do what comes naturally. For example, chickens are able to flap their wings and dust bathe, and pigs have the space to move around and root.

This year, ensure your Thanksgiving turkey is Certified Humane®.

A Certified Humane® turkey is one that can flap its wings and move around freely, can perch above the ground at night, eat nutritious food that doesn’t contain antibiotics, and express natural behaviors.

Currently, there are only a handful of producers of turkeys that meet HFAC’s standards.

The power is with you, the shopper to help us get more turkeys Certified Humane®.

You can buy your turkey directly from these Certified Humane® producers, visit the Where to Buy page on the HFAC website, or use our handy app for iPhone/iPad and Android.

Take Action

Please help us make sure that by Thanksgiving next year, 8,000,000 turkeys are raised under our Humane Farm Animal Care Standards. You can show your support and end needless turkey suffering, simply by sharing your favorite holiday recipes on Facebook.

Enter your recipe by November 30th, 2013 in one of the following categories:

• Favorite Turkey Recipes
• Alternative Meat & Seafood Mains
• Delectable Side Dishes
• Delicious Desserts
• Holiday Appetizers

Finalists are announced on December 1st, 2013 and voting begins. Vote throughout the month of December for your favorite recipes. Winners receive incredible gift baskets filled with all sorts of Humane goodies – autographed titles from authors like Jamie Oliver, Michael Pollan, and Andrew Kimbrell, Certified Humane® products, aprons, jewelry and MORE! The grand prize winner will also receive a heritage breed turkey from Ayrshire Farm, valued at $200!

By voting and sharing this contest with your friends and family, you will be taking action to end animal suffering. Together, our collective voices will raise critical awareness of the plight of nearly 10 billion abused and neglected farm animals in this country.
Endorsed by more than 65 humane organizations, the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® program is nationally recognized as the “Gold Standard” for certifying animal welfare.

Join our Certified Humane® Holiday Recipe Contest to make a world of difference in the quality of life of turkeys around the country, and at your Thanksgiving table. Enter our contest here: http://bit.ly/1as5mca.

Stop the USDA from Implementing their Poultry Slaughter Plan

We’ve received a lot of questions concerning the USDA’s plan that affects poultry slaughter negatively- for animals and for human health.

Since the USDA planned to implement their controversial plan, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand requested a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the USDA’s plan. The plan was based on flawed data from a pilot program used in a very small number of poultry plants. This controversial plan can be detrimental to public health as well as have severe detrimental consequences to the welfare of chickens and turkeys.  

Poultry is not covered by the Humane Slaughter Act. However, food safety regulations require USDA inspectors be at poultry slaughter plants to inspect and identify contaminated poultry and diseased carcasses. The proposed USDA plan would cut the number of USDA inspectors who are there to examine the birds for diseases by 40%, replacing them with poultry company or processing plant employees, who will not be required to have any training. These untrained poultry processing plant employees will be inspecting chickens and turkeys for diseases such as:  septicemia, toxemia, cancer, and others to prevent them from entering the food chain.  Since the poultry plant employees work for the poultry plant itself, there may be a conflict of interest for the poultry employees to allow more birds to be processed.

In addition, this plan allows the increase of the line speeds. The line speeds must be slow enough for the inspectors to visually examine the birds. This proposal would increase the line speeds dramatically to about 3 birds per second.  That does not bode well for even a trained USDA poultry inspector to examine the birds, let alone for the ability of an untrained poultry company employee to determine the disease status of the birds as they whizz by. 

And the birds?  Pain and suffering for poultry starts with hanging and shackling the birds on the line. The HFAC standards require chickens be hung in shackles by both legs, with each leg placed on a separate shackle, and an appropriate line speed is required in order to do this carefully. Most industrial poultry plants shackle only one of the bird’s legs, causing the bird pain and distress, in order to process more birds in less time.  In addition, the slower line speeds assure the birds are stunned and slaughtered, so that there are NEVER any live birds going into the scalder.  

Industrial poultry slaughter plants can’t meet the HFAC standards because of their line speeds. Our poultry slaughter standards require slow line speeds; there are no live birds going alive into the scalder (a slower line speed means that employees have adequate time to ensure that this does not happen). Any plant that sent live birds into the scalder would never pass our inspection.  For more information, you can read our chicken and turkey standards, which include the slaughter standards here: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=standards.

Here is what you can do to change the situation:

1. Contact the Secretary of Agriculture, The Honorable Tom Vilsack. Tell him that you are opposed to this new ruling and would like him to review the GAO’s report and start the process over. Tell him why you think it is important to have slower line speeds and qualified inspectors. You can write to him at the following address:

The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Room 200A, Whittenberg Building
Washington, DC 20250

2. Write your Congressman and both Senators and tell them you want them to do whatever they need to do to make sure this program is not implemented.  Most legislators allow you to contact them by email on their websites.

You can find out who your representatives are at:  http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

You can find out who your Senators are at: http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/senators/f_two_sections_with_teasers/states.htm

3. You, as the consumer, have the power to vote with your pocketbook and make a difference in the way that animals are treated, from birth through slaughter, by purchasing Certified Humane® products and rewarding farmers and companies who treat animals the right way.

For more information on where to find Certified Humane® products, visit HFAC’s “Where to Buy” page at: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=where-to-buy  or download the Certified Humane App. To download the App, go to the App Store for iPhone or Google Play for Android, search for “Certified Humane”, then download and open. You can also access the mobile where to buy page by going to:  www.certifiedhumane.org from your smart phone. 

The best way to get more supermarkets to sell products that are Certified Humane® is to go to our “Take Action” page on our website: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=take-action.

If your store does not stock foods that are Certified Humane®, download a “Product Request” form to give to your local store manager. We also have a “Turkey Request” form to download (if you are unable to download, please send your mailing address to info@certifiedhumane.org requesting the forms and Humane Farm Animal Care will mail them to you).

If your store does carry Certified Humane® products, let them know you shop there because they stock these products. Download a Certified Humane Comment Card and bring it to the customer service desk or drop it in their customer comment box.  Grocers need to hear that they have business because they carry Certified Humane® products, and that you as a consumer may bring them more business because of these products.

Encourage your favorite food brands to become certified and to use Certified Humane Raised and Handled® ingredients in their products. You can contact them by using the website addresses on the packages of products that you purchase.

If you’d like to do something to help animals, Humane Farm Animal Care will mail you a packet containing brochures and grocer request forms for you to distribute to friends and family. If you are interested, please send your mailing address to info@certifiedhumane.org.

When supermarkets hear from their customers that they want to buy products that are Certified Humane® they will request their suppliers become certified, which then makes those farms and ranches make the changes they need that benefit the animals to be on our program, and for those farm and ranches to send their poultry to be slaughtered in accordance to HFAC poultry slaughter standards. This is the power that you as a consumer have to help farm animals.

4. Tell all your friends about this situation and ask them to do number items 1, 2 and 3 along with you. Share this blog post with everyone you know.  

By working together, we can change the way that animals in food production are treated.

Thanks for your support,

Adele

Certified Humane® Recommended on the Dr. Oz Show

Certified Humane® was recently recommended on the Dr. Oz show. Dr. Oz discussed the latest studies on antibiotic resistance in meat along with his guests, Heather White, Executive Director of the Environmental Working Group and Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability for Consumer Reports.

The study’s findings are staggering. Ms. White, explained, “If you are buying meat at the supermarket you are likely exposing yourself and your family to superbugs”.

Dr. Rangan concludes that consumers should avoid antibiotic resistance by purchasing meat products raised without unnecessary antibiotics, like Certified Humane® products. The Certified Humane® label prohibits the use of preventative antibiotics, only allowing them for sick animals.

Watch the video on our YouTube channel and Subscribe to the Certified Humane Youtube channel to see the latest videos from HFAC! Please share this link with your friends and family: protect your loved ones from antibiotic resistance.

We often ask our supporters to request that their supermarkets carry Certified Humane® products.  We know this may seem like a small action, but one person’s efforts can truly make a difference. We’re sharing an email that we received recently in hopes that more people will see the change that one person can make, and decide to do something about it themselves.

Dear Adele and all:

 I was THRILLED yesterday, when I found a new brand of cage-free eggs on the shelves at my local Giant Food store (North Point Village, Reston). The brand is “Nellie’s”.  I was pleasantly surprised at how competitively priced they were.  (I *think* they were less expensive than Giant’s store brand.)  So this was the whole package for me — cage-free, competitively priced — and THEN seeing the Certified Humane® seal on them.  I was thrilled!  I’ve never seen any Certified Humane® items at Giant Food before.

When I got home, I called Giant’s corporate offices in Landover, MD, to tell them how thrilled I was to see the Certified Humane® seal in their store.  And to encourage Giant to stock MORE items with the Certified Human®e seal.  The lady I spoke with didn’t know about the Certified Humane® seal, so I explained.  I told her other stores, such as Whole Foods, Safeway, Harris Teeter, DO stock products with the Certified Humane® seal — and that if Giant Food would stock products with the CH seal, I could do all my shopping in one store:  Giant Food.  I explained that, until now, I’ve had to go to these other stores for meat, poultry, dairy bearing the CH® seal …. I also told her that I normally spend a substantial amount of money each week in grocery stores (which is true), hoping I was adding incentive by saying that.

The lady I spoke with sounded truly interested and enthusiastic — and said she was going to pass the information along IMMEDIATELY, that she was typing it up as we spoke, because it sounds like something Giant should be doing.

I can only hope….

~ Robyn Berry

Reston, VA

We hope that Ms. Berry’s experience will encourage others to contact supermarkets as well. If you would like to do your part to fight cruelty in the raising and handling of farm animals, visit our “Take Action” page on our website, found at the following link: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=take-action

Our “Take Action” page has forms available for download which you can give to your grocer, requesting them to carry additional Certified Humane® products or to thank them for already stocking them. We also suggest that you try contact food companies directly to ask them to become Certified Humane®, or to contact your supermarket’s corporate headquarters, as Robyn did.

It is so important that supermarkets hear from you, because they are the largest purchasers from suppliers. If more supermarkets are demanding more Certified Humane® products, more farms will have to change their practices in order to meet the demand, and more animals will be raised and handled humanely.

If you would like to volunteer to help spread the news about Certified Humane®, please send an email to info@certifiedhumane.org, including your mailing address, and Humane Farm Animal Care will send you information and request forms to share with your friends and neighbors.

HFAC Celebrates Ten Years of Improving the Lives of Farm Animals

In the late 1990’s and early part of this new century, as I worked in Congress and lobbied Congress on animal issues, it was clear that farm animal welfare was a huge issue and not being addressed by anyone.  There were some organizations that promoted not eating animals at all, and some that were supporting legislation to change practices of farm animal housing.  There were also commodity groups who were not interested in changing anything.  Having worked in the Congress, and researched the history of animal welfare legislation, it was clear to me that if I wanted to see change in the way farm animals were raised in the US it would have to be through a market solution and not a legislative solution.  It took almost 100 years to get the national “Humane Slaughter Act” passed. I wanted to see change in my lifetime.

My background was public policy and legislation.  I wanted to do something for farm animals and didn’t have any idea of what to do.  The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in England, which was the first humane society in the world, had a program that I had heard about for farm animals and I wanted to see what that was about.  I went to England and met with the Freedom Foods people and the Farm Animals division of the RSPCA to learn about their program.  The RSPCA had written standards for farm animals and had created a separate organization, Freedom Foods to find farmers who would meet those standards, then label the product “Freedom Foods” and sell the product at retailers in the UK.  At that time Tesco, a major supermarket in the UK was the primary retailer that sold Freedom Foods products.   When I looked at that program I realized that if I wanted to change an industry, I couldn’t do it by competing, it had to be a program where everyone in that industry could participate.  I came home and decided to start a certification and labeling program to do just that.

The process began with the first animal scientists, Dr. Carolyn Stull, Dr. Janice Swanson, Dr. Joy Mench and the late Dr. Julie Morrow Tesch and the help of the RSPCA farm animals division, Dr. Martin Potter, Dr. Julia Wrathall and John Avizienious, and the staff at Freedom Foods.  It was a long learning process.

On February 20, 2003, Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) was incorporated in the District of Columbia by our attorney, Beth Kingsley, with Dr. Joanne Irving’s name as the first director, and HFAC was officially founded!  Today is our tenth anniversary.  We started with a staff of two, my daughter, Holly Bridges and I.  We involved all the family in helping: my son Brian Douglass, my other daughter, Meredith Berger and a large group of friends and colleagues without whom this program would not exist.  We sought advice from Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Barry Carpenter, James Riva, and Tammy Ballard of USDA who guided us to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, and Lynn Coody, who helped us ensure that our program met international standards.  Andrew Kimbrell and Michael Selmi, who made sure everything was legal.  Patti Higgenbotham and Theresa Hutchison, who made sure our accounting was accurate.  The late Linda Konstan who helped with our personnel policies, Maureen K. Robinson who offered guidance on how to move the organization forward.  Gini Barrett, Margaret Moran, Mary Geraghty, Jack and Ann Sparks, Jane Quilter, who helped with outreach and PR.   Sandy Lerner and Lynn Marachario, early believers and supporters, and the incredible Caryn Ginsburg, whose marketing research, planning, and implementation of marketing outreach enabled us to recruit producers and engage consumers in order to get the spectacular results we have gotten over the years.   Victoria Foulides, Paula Barrett and Gita McCutcheon, who have helped us with fundraising, outreach and public relations.

A special thanks to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and the other early supporters of the Certified Humane® program.

The original four companies that were certified and launched with us were Echo Farm Puddings, Touchstone Farms, Ayrshire Farm, and duBreton Natural Pork, and are still with us today.  During that year, Prather Ranch Beef, Meyer Natural Angus Beef and Pete and Gerry’s eggs came on to the program.  They are all still certified and part of the program.  At the end of 2003, there were 143,000 animals raised under our standards.

At the end of 2012, there were 76.8 million farm animals raised under our standards and 94 companies certified.

My goal was to have 1% of the farm animals raised for food, raised under our standards in 10 years.  We have fallen short by 23.2 million farm animals. I would like to reach this goal by 2014.   We need your help to reach this goal; please keep promoting the program, and keep asking your supermarkets for products that are Certified Humane® so we can meet this goal and keep moving forward.

Thanks for all your support,
Adele

Finally, the milk producers are following our lead

One of the most egregious welfare issues in dairy production is the practice of tail docking. The practice of tail docking started in New Zealand in the 1980’s and soon spread to North America. The reason it gained in popularity was farmers claimed it improved their ease of milking the cows, their ability to keep cows clean and their ability to keep the cow’s udder’s healthy.  This made managing dairy cows easier for the farmers.

Unfortunately, no one thought of the impact on the cows.  Cows use their tails for many purposes, including swatting flies, and to communicate with other cows.  When a cow’s tail is docked, it is painful.  There is no welfare benefit to the cow for undergoing this painful procedure, and when her tail is docked she can’t swat flies and she can’t use it to communicate with her herd mates.

Tail docking has never been allowed for dairy cattle in the Certified Humane® program.  The decision to prohibit tail docking was made by our scientific committee, led by Dr. Carolyn Stull.  Dr. Stull was one of four animal scientists that helped write the original HFAC Animal Care Standards, and is the Chair of our Scientific Committee.  Dr. Stull has conducted numerous research projects assessing the issues around tail docking, and her results have shown that tail docking is a painful procedure, and that the theoretical benefits of tail docking do not actually exist.  Thanks to Dr. Stull’s work, it is now known that there is no benefit to the farmer to dock their cows’ tails, and it is an unnecessary and painful procedure.

Unfortunately, tail docking has been a widespread practice in the US commercial dairy industry.  The dairy industry trade association, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), has never prohibited tail docking. However, on July 23, 2012 the NMPF Board of Directors approved a resolution to oppose tail docking of dairy cows in their industry guidelines, the Dairy FARM program.  Their decision also aligns their FARM program with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP).  The Board voted to approve the following language:

“NMPF’s National Dairy FARM Animal Care Program opposes the routine tail docking of dairy animals, except in the case of traumatic injury to an animal. This practice is recommended to be phased out by 2022. Switch trimming is recommended as a preferred alternative. Acknowledging existing animal cruelty laws, NMPF opposes efforts to prescribe specific on-farm animal care practices through federal, state, or local legislative or regulatory action.”

Dr. Stull has been instrumental in getting the industry group to change their position.  We congratulate Dr. Stull on this achievement.

While we commend the NMPF on opposing tail docking in dairy cows, we feel that ten years is far too long to wait for implementing this policy.    When a farmer wants to become Certified Humane® and has practiced tail docking in the past, they must immediately cease all tail docking on their cows, or we will not certify them.  We have not found that any dairy farm which immediately ceased tail docking has had problems. We would urge the NMPF to change the phase out period to two years instead of ten years.