Future Harvest Newsletter : New Certified Humane Label Aimed at Building Consumer Confidence

Certified Humane Raised and Handled is a new product labeling and certification program aimed at consumers that is getting national press attention. An article in USA Today (8/12/03) calls the label the “gold standard” in improving the lives of farm animals. Farm inspections conducted by Humane Farm Animal Care, a nonprofit organization based in Herndon, Virginia, are used to certify producers that can meet rigorous, annual on-site inspections. The program is now certifying farmers raising beef and dairy cattle, as well as sheep, pigs, turkeys, and laying and broiler chickens.

One of the first farms certified under the program is Touchstone Farm in Amissville, Virginia. Alan Zuschlag, the farm‚s owner-manager oversees a flock of nearly of 80 Clun-Forest sheep, bred for stock as well as meat. Custom-cut lamb is sold on the farm’s website for buyers in the D.C. area only.

“I feel that this program is based on good animal husbandry” said Zuschlag. “It takes into consideration the needs of the farmer, as well as the animals.”

Zuschlag also feels that the program helps to market his farm’s lamb by giving “added-value” to the consumer.

The Certified Humane program has the blessing of the major animal welfare protection groups as well as USDA. Inspectors have training and education in animal science, veterinary medicine or related fields, according to Humane Farm Animal Care. To assure fairness, the USDA Agriculture Marketing Services verifies the inspection and certification process.

Certified Humane prohibits the use of growth hormones, and requires that animals are raised on a regular diet of quality feed, free of antibiotics. Producers must also comply with environmental standards. Processors are required to meet the American Meat Institute Standards (a higher standard than the Federal Humane Slaughter Act). Additional information about the certification program is online at certifiedhumane.com, or call Holly Bridges at 703-435-3883. More information about USDA verification process is found at www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/lsarc.htm.