Certified Animal Welfare Audits for Farms:  Part 2 – Self-Made Claims

Part 2 in this series of articles looks at why industry needs to consider Certified Farm Animal Welfare Audits.

Many professionals in animal agriculture are frustrated with the bad publicity that farms often get. This bad publicity coupled with the lack of trust that consumers have with what’s being done to provide humane living conditions for the livestock entrusted to us. The undercover videos that get media attention are not the norm of our industry – regardless of the species we are discussing. However, often times these videos are the only looks that some consumers have of livestock agriculture and thus their ideas of modern production are tainted. 

Our industry is full of individuals who have dedicated their entire careers to improving conditions for farm animals, increasing sustainability of livestock agriculture and improving profitability. They also willingly pass their knowledge on to producers who are eager to hear how to improve the quality of life for their livestock. Michigan State University Extension Educators and Specialists routinely meet with species specific producers to discuss issues and educational programs; farm animal welfare is a subject that is covered in great detail. Farmers seek information about improving animal welfare for many different reasons; they understand the demands of their market and realize that the consumers want to feel good about where their food comes from. But more importantly producers care about their animals and want what is best for them. 

On the other hand, consumers have every right to experience frustration when a claim on a food package is confusing or misleading. Some of the claims that are placed on meat and poultry products today are only a marketing tool, and often are those that give our industry a black eye when they are proven to be untrue. The most trusted claims will always be from independent third party audits that have published standards that even the consumer can look up and learn more about, these claims come with a long list of regulations and guidelines that producers must follow and meet to receive certification. Many times we cannot open our farms to the general public because of biosecurity reasons, where we are protecting the animal’s health and well-being. By doing so, the livestock agriculture community appears as though we do not want the public to see what we are doing, resulting in mistrust of the consumer. Third party audits help to bridge this gap and make us a little more transparent to the consumer. 

Third party audits will have up-front costs associated with them. They also will require more time for documentation and other record keeping. However, third party audits will give the consumer a more positive perspective about what we do on our farms, build greater trust with them and build marketing capacity for our farms. Most farms that have had a third party certified audit will tell you that there have been positive benefits to their bottom line as well.  

Other articles in this series

 

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