ASPCA Animal Watch : A New Label for Humanely Raised Meat

Adele Douglass is the executive director of Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), a Virginia-based nonprofit organization that administers the “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” program.

What does “Certified Humane” signify, and why should consumers care?

The label is meant to reassure shoppers in the supermarket. Research tells us that consumers are concerned about the safety of the food supply and with the way farm animals are raised and slaughtered-and of course we now know that there’s a close relationship between these two phenomena. The Certified Humane label is issued to farmers, ranchers and egg producers who adhere to a rigorous set of animal care standards. Taken together, the standards provide animals with enough space, freedom of movement and company of their own kind to limit stress, and a quality diet that promotes full health and vigor, free of antibiotics and growth hormones. On the processing end, the standards are higher than those of the federal Humane Slaughter Act. So the label is good for consumers and good for animals.

Who sets the animal care standards? And who guarantees that they’re being met?

HFAC conducts on-farm inspections to make sure that the standards are met. The standards were developed by HFAC’s scientific committee, which is made up of renowned animal scientists, behaviorists and veterinarians. Dr. Steve Zawistowski, the ASPCA’s senior vice president for Animal Sciences, for instance, is on the committee, as is Dr. Michael Appleby, vice president for farm animals and sustainable agriculture for the Humane Society of the United States. Dr. Temple Grandin, perhaps the most influential person in the world when it comes to humane slaughterhouse design, is on the committee as well.

Where does HFAC obtain its funding?

HFAC is supported by a coalition of humane organizations. In addition to the ASPCA and HSUS, which are providing major financial support, regional and local groups are also members. The coalition’s combined outreach is to millions of constituents who want to see improvements in farm-animal welfare.

Which producers have been approved to carry the Certified Humane label?

In the program right now are Echo Farms Dairy in New Hampshire, Touchstone Farms Sheep and Lamb in Virginia, Deer Creek Beef and Hedgeapple Farms Beef in Maryland, and DuBreton Natural Pork in Quebec.

What if local supermarkets don’t carry these particular product lines?

Our website has a sample letter to give to grocers. It asks them to sell products that carry the label or to ask their suppliers to change their systems so as to be able to apply for the certification.

Why wouldn’t a farmer or rancher be willing to make these changes?

Because they’ve invested a lot of money in their current housing systems and aren’t likely to make changes unless they believe there’s a market for their products-which are likely to cost more. We need to create that market. That’s the objective of this program: to improve the lives of animals through the marketplace. If everyone does their part, this program has the ability to change the way farm animals are raised in the United States.