The American Humane Certified label is familiar to many consumers. The program was established in 2000 and is now applied to 15-20,000 American farms and ranches every year. Before that seal ends up in the grocery aisle, a comprehensive set of standards must be reviewed, put into action and audited. Over the past 20 years, American Humane has worked with dozens of scientists and auditors and thousands of producers to establish a set of best practices for raising farm animals that are founded in scientific research.
Transparency is foundational to this process and it goes two ways. American Humane make their standards as transparent as possible for farmers who choose to opt-in to the program, thereby opening up their facilities and operations to a rigorous audit process. Now, American Humane is working to communicate the science behind this certification with an even wider audience: their consumers. Behind the Label with American Humane is a new series from Heritage Radio Network, that is taking listeners from the grocery store aisle to the farm, explaining how their standards are developed and what it means for broiler chickens at Springer Mountain Farms, and all animals, to be raised humanely.
All of American Humane’s standards are informed by a panel of 24 experts with backgrounds as veterinarians, animal scientists, and practitioners. This Scientific Advisory Committee wrote the standards American Humane now applies to every farm they audit and certify, but their work with American Humane is ongoing. The American Humane Certified standards are a “living document.” Far from being set in stone, they are reviewed by this committee regularly to reflect current research, technological advances, and humane handling methods.
American Humane’s animal welfare standards total more than 200, but they all revolve around a few core principles named the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare:
- freedom from hunger and thirst
- freedom from discomfort
- freedom from pain, injury or disease
- freedom from fear and distress
- freedom to express normal behaviors
These broad benchmarks are manifested in detailed criterion for a farm animal’s nutrition, space allowance, lighting and shade, schedule for feeding and watering, and more.
Plans are species specific, so Springer Mountain Farms adheres to American Humanes’ Broiler Chicken Standards and is required to work with other professionals who are experts in the health of chickens. For instance, chickens’ nutritional plans must be developed in consultation with a qualified flock nutritionist who can assure that no growth promotion, antibiotics, or anti-parasitic agents are used unless prescribed by the attending veterinarian. Nutritional plans must also be tailored to a birds’ age and species/strain, any changes to the diet must be introduced gradually, and feeding patterns and sourcing of food must be documented.
Standards across the board dive into technical details like these. While consumers can trust that American Humane Certified products adhere to scientific-based best practices, American Humane is more than happy to oblige curious eaters by making their auditing process accessible. To learn more and hear from one member of American Humane’s Scientific Advisory Council directly, listen to Episode 3 of Behind The Label with American Humane wherever you get your podcasts.