HSUS Newsletter : Demand and Supply: Help Spread the Word on Certified Humane Products

It’s trite but true: You have to ask for what you want. Particularly at the supermarket.

Every item in your local supermarket is there for a reason: Either because consumers demand it-through their daily purchases-or because some supplier has convinced a supermarket that consumers will eventually demand it.

With an eye toward increasing demand for Certified Humane (CH) products nationwide, Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) and The HSUS have launched the first of many consumer education campaigns designed not only to convince retailers to stock CH products, but also to spread the word about the high standards and rigorous controls behind the CH label.

The first market in the education campaign is the Washington D.C. metro area. In early April, about 14,000 HSUS members in the D.C. area were sent an invitation from HFAC to ask their grocers and favorite restaurants to offer products that are Certified Humane Raised and Handled. To complement the direct-mail campaign, The HSUS is also featuring a CH story in All Animals, our quarterly glossy magazine for members.

“The Washington D.C. metro area is a good test market,” says Tamiko Thomas, an animal scientist and program manager with The HSUS’s Farm Animals and Sustainable Agriculture section. “There are already a number of CH products available in the metro area, but we clearly would like to add more.” (If you’re a D.C. area resident who would like to see more Certified Humane products in the market, please download our coupon and present it to your favorite grocer.)

Public pressure would seem to be an effective tool for transforming the supermarket into a more humane place. In 1993, The HSUS launched a campaign in three cities, including Denver, to encourage retailers to stock uncaged hen eggs in the dairy case. Within days of the campaign launch, a supermarket chain in the Denver market agreed to stock uncaged hen eggs in all seven stores.

Eleven years later-no doubt the result of other campaigns and countless consumer demands-you can find uncaged hen eggs in virtually any supermarket in the country (though it’s important to note that these uncaged hen standards are much more lax than those for Certified Humane.)

HFAC, the non-profit organization behind the Certified Humane label, plans to launch more consumer education campaigns in cities across the United States. Holly Bridges, HFAC’s Director of Outreach, has high expectations for the label: “The Certified Humane label gives people a clear choice.”

The timing appears perfect for such a campaign. Even though standards and enforcement policies vary greatly with each label found in a supermarket, “Consumer attitudes about organics have undergone a dramatic change,” according to a March 2004 article in Progressive Grocer.

“No longer viewed as just alfalfa and bean sprouts for the hippie set, today’s high- and “commercial-quality” organic items can be found in every dry grocery, frozen, and dairy product category. And in a classic win-win situation, growing demand is causing more manufacturers, farmers, and ingredient suppliers to enter the field, increasing sourcing and brand opportunities and driving down prices in the process.”

Behind the Label

Certified Humane is a label for meat, dairy, and egg products that have been produced with the welfare of the animal in mind. Among other things, certification requires that animals:

* Are allowed to engage in natural behaviors,
* Have sufficient space, shelter and gentle handling to limit stress,
* Have ample fresh water and a healthy diet without antibiotics or hormones.

Among the CH products already available in the D.C. area are Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs, Nellie’s Nest Cage-Free Eggs, Meyer Natural Angus Beef, duBreton Natural Pork, and Applegate Bacon. What’s more, Deer Creek Beef is available at the Mill of Bel Air, Bell Air Farmer’s Market in Maryland, every Saturday from April through October. You can even order online from Touchstone Farm, Echo Farm Dairy, and Hedgeapple Beef.

If your grocer doesn’t carry CH products, use our coupon and ask him or her to start. If you regularly buy from egg, dairy, meat, and poultry producers or retailers, write a letter asking them to take steps to become certified. HFAC’s web site has sample letters that you can send.

“By buying these products, you are not only promoting humane husbandry practices, but you are also supporting farms local to the D.C. area,” The HSUS’s Thomas says. “Deer Creek Beef and Hedgeapple Farm are in Maryland, Apple Gate Farms contracts some small family farms in Pennsylvania, and Touchstone Farm is in Virginia.”

CH products are available not only in D.C. To find out if grocers near you stock CH products (or for more information about the program), visit HFAC’s web site at CertifiedHumane.org.