Promoting Animal Welfare: The Animal Welfare Approved Program

Animal Welfare Approved products,humanely-raised animals,free range,cage free,grass fed,pastured raised,USDA organic
Look for this Symbol on Aminal Welfare Approved Products

If you’re into the environment and want to make sure the dairy products, poultry, and meat you consume are raised humanely in a healthy atmosphere, a new accreditation known as the Animal Welfare Approved program provided by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has recently been established for livestock raised by pasture-based farmers. The program “unite[s] conscientious consumers with farmers who raise their animals with compassion.” Their seal is different from the seal given by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in that their program “take[s] into account all aspects of an animal’s life, from appropriate genetics and [natural behavior] to assurances of comfort and freedom from intensive confinement.”

Animal Welfare Approved products have set standards for beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and sheep. They believe in “Five Freedoms”: Freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, and disease; freedom to behave normally; and, freedom from fear and distress. This means animals are provided fresh water, healthy diets, shade, shelter, proper pasture rotations, ability to socialize, humane and appropriate health care and treatment, appropriate “personal” space, and avoidance of distress or mental suffering. Moreover, according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), the Animal Welfare Approved program is considered one of the best options, and its “program currently has the most stringent animal welfare standards.”

From birth to death the animal’s welfare is considered and appropriate and humane standards established. In fact, in order for a farmer to acquire the Animal Welfare Approved seal, they must meet rigid standards and adhere to regular and ongoing inspections. Participants are exclusively independent, family farmers, and cooperatives of family farmers. A few of the farms that participate are Jude Becker of the Becker Lane Organic Farm in Iowa (and featured on Oprah), Mike Jones of Louisburg, North Carolina, who owns the MAE Farm Meats, and Kim and Dick Cates from Wisconsin who owns the Cates Family Farm (and is just a hop, skip, and a 47-mile jump from my sister Pam). Because of these farms and AWI’s rigid standards, you also benefit. 

When you eat Animal Welfare Approved products you are not ingesting antibiotics or growth hormones, and rather than just blindly medicate animals, prevention programs are put in place to promote good health and limit the need for treatment. Alternative treatments, such as homeopathic, herbal, or non-antiobiotic treatments are also preferred. Additionally, cloned or genetically engineered stock are prohibited, and feeds given to animals are highly nutritious and are free of animal by-products. Animal Welfare Approved products are a step beyond “free range,” “cage free,” “grass fed,” “pastured raised,” or  “USDA organic,” because Animal Welfare Approved products take the overall welfare of the animal into consideration, and that benefits the environment and you!

If you are interested in including these foods in your diet, look for the Animal Welfare Approved seal as shown. Their seal will assure you that the products you purchase and consume have been treated humanely and have been raised in an healthy environment where the animal’s pain was reduced and the needs of the animal were put ahead of economics. Animal Welfare Approved products are available through numerous retailers (and the list is growing daily). Besides Whole Foods, there are other retailers. To find a retailer near you, click here. Simply enter your state, and a list will appear.

To get involved in spreading the word and encouraging more Animal Welfare Approved products, AIW suggests when you visit your local “Trader Joes, Safeway, Giant, Wegmans, or Harris Teeter [you] ask for Animal Welfare Approved products.” They believe change can happen but that it starts with you. To learn more, visit Animal Welfare Approved, check out their blog, or call them at 1-703-836-4300.

The WSPA is also asking for your help. They have a petition requesting Trader Joe’s to offer more humane products, click here if you wish to participate. Additionally, if animals matter to you, the WSPA is attempting to acquire 10,000,000 signatures to help achieve recognition and protection of animals around the world. My signature on their petition was 1,786,729. That means they still need 8,213,271 signatures to achieve their goal. Will you be among the 10,000,000? Visit Animals Matter to Me and sign their petition.

1 Comment

  1. Geri,

    Thank you for your thoughtful (and extremely thorough!) article on our program. You are without a doubt among the folks who “get it.”
    Please let us know if there is ever a way we can help to promote honest labeling and high-welfare farming.

    Sincerely,
    Andrew Gunther
    Program Director
    Animal Welfare Approved

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