The Global Animal Partnership is bringing together farmers, scientists, ranchers, retailers and animal advocates to develop ways to improve the lives of farm animals in Nebraska and other states. Anne Malleau is the global animal production and welfare coordinator for Whole Foods Market, a natural and organic retailer and says they have developed a five-step animal welfare program rating system.
“They system runs all the way up to one to five-plus. Step one farm in pork and chicken is a 100-percent indoor system where the environment is closely monitored and they have lots of space and as you move from a step one farm to higher steps, the animals have access to outdoors, they become a pastured centered system and then at the very end they are spending their entire life on the farm.”
Malleau says the producer is rated and their product is then labeled as such when sold at grocery stores and other retailers. There are a number of standards including being raised on a vegetarian diet and no antibiotics or hormones.
“One, we think they will impact and make a difference in a significant number of animals lives. Also, we are really excited the fact that it gives a way to showcase our farmers and ranchers that supplies us. It also gives them a platform to make changes and be supportive. It also gives consumers a really transparent way to understand where their food comes from and how it was raised so they can make informed buys.”
Malleau says they do know that sometimes animals become ill and need veterinary care that includes medication. She says they want all sick animals to receive the medical care they need but unfortunately they can not be marketed after slaughter at natural foods outlets because they no longer meet their criteria.
“While we want the animals to be treated, the program doesn’t allow that animal to be marketed through an antibiotic free program. They say actually trying to raise animals antibiotic free has forced them to look at their production system and really refine what they do so they can be the best managers possible. There is always going to be situations where you have to treat animals and we absolutely want the animals to be treated but then they cannot be marketed through a system where that claim is made.”
Their statistics show that 1,200 farms and ranches nationwide are using the five-step Animal Welfare Rating Standard and that means more than 140 million farm animals are raised according to the systems standards.