There is one way that goat producers can make their products stand out. It’s a square green, blue and white label that has a picture of the sun peaking over the horizon, and it says: Animal Welfare Approved.
The Animal Welfare Approved seal is a hard earned badge of difference and demonstrates the farmer’s commitment to the care of their animals, the land and the local community. Farmers in this program are distinguished by a humane and conscientious attitude towards the animals in their care as evidenced by a physical audit and detailed plans and records of farm practices.
AWA’s core philosophy – and that of it’s certified farmers – is that the way we raise our animals, the nutritional quality of the meat, milk and eggs they produce, and the impact of the farming system on the environment are all intrinsically linked.
In practice, this means all animals in an AWA-certified herd must have ability to behave naturally and be in a state of physical and psychological well-being. This includes being raised on a family farm on pasture or range (AWA is the only label has this requirement), having no physical mutilations and having unaltered genetics. Additionally, the farmer must have a plan for maintaining the health of the animals that assures healthy animals and healthy preparation and consumption of the food.
The benefit of having AWA certification goes beyond a verification of a personal philosophy. By illustrating this commitment to animal health and welfare, AWA producers have been able to raise the prices of the food they sell while increasing consumer confidence in the quality of the product.
“From a consumer perspective, [the AWA label means] you can trust the product has been raised or produced to the proper standards,” explains Andrew Gunther, AWA Program Director. “From a retail or purchaser point of view, certification gives you that protection that the product you’re buying is in fact what you think it is.”
The process of becoming AWA certified can take from six weeks to three months because of the steps and qualifications that a producer must meet. Herd record keeping requirements can be met by mixture of diaries, calendars and spreadsheets, or by using herd management software such as EasyKeeper Herd Manager to organize animal records.
Gunther noted that the documentation for the health management plan doesn’t have to be an academic book; it just has to be in a written format. “We’re looking for evidence that confirms the farmer has been thinking and planning for eventualities that might happen on his farm,” Gunther said. The AWA organization will then confirm if the plans are being carried out in practice. “We have an auditor that goes to every farm,” Gunther said.
Once a farmer is approved, they may use the Animal Welfare Approved seal to promote associated products. AWA also provides additional marketing support, labeling assistance, listing on the Animal Welfare Approved searchable online database, and farmers’ market signage and marketing materials.
There are no fees to become certified or for ongoing program support.
To learn more about the benefits of being Animal Welfare Approved and program certification requirements, visit the AWA website.
Contributed by EasyKeeper Herd Manager staff writer, with appreciation to Andrew Gunther, Animal Welfare Approved program director, for taking the time to provide the information included in this article.