Drover’s Journal : Happy Cattle, Happy Consumers

Animal-welfare audits might someday become necessary for market access, but for now, a few producers are voluntarily participating in a certification process to add value and exploit a niche market. Take, for example, Prather Ranch, a 15,000 acre operation in northern California, which recently received certification from a group called Humane Farm Animal Care. HFAC is a nonprofit organization supported by a coalition of animal-protection organizations including the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States.

The certification allows Prather Ranch to market beef using the organization’s “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” label. The ranch, in turn, follows a set of specific Animal Care Standards and allows rigorous on-site audits from HFAC inspectors. “We talk to consumers every day who are concerned about animal welfare,” says Mary Rickert, who manages Prather Ranch with her husband Jim.

Prather Ranch markets beef through natural-food stores, specialty-meat stores and farmers’ markets in Northern California and Southern Oregon, and through the ranch’s Web site.