Animal Welfare Approved

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to apply for the Animal Welfare Approved seal? *

Independent family farmers who raise all animals of a given species according to Animal Welfare Approved standards. This just means the farmer owns the animals, and is responsible for their day-to-day care. Cooperatives and networks of family farms are also eligible, with the understanding that all farms in a group must be certified if the group wants to claim Animal Welfare Approved status.

Can I use the seal without being audited or inspected? *

No. We are a label claim under the Code of Federal Regulation No. 9, with published standards and guidelines. It would be an offense to use the seal without a successful audit of the farm and inspection of the slaughter plant for meat animals.

What can a farmer joining the Animal Welfare Approved program expect? *

Farmers working with Animal Welfare Approved can expect transparency, confidentiality and integrity. Certification through our program is an independent verification that a farm meets our standards for the certified species. We conduct professional, impartial audits based entirely on these standards. If standards are not met, farmers can expect to receive technical support in achieving compliance. Once a species is approved, farms may use the Animal Welfare Approved seal to promote associated products. Additional marketing support is available to participating farmers, including labeling assistance, listing on the Animal Welfare Approved searchable online database, and farmers’ market signage and marketing materials. Animal Welfare Approved does not buy or sell animals or animal products.

Are there any fees involved to participate? *

Not in the foreseeable future. Audits, certification and technical and marketing support are all entirely free. Animal Welfare Approved operates a fee-free program so that we can support all farms raising animals humanely, and avoid any potential conflict of interest. Since we receive funding from donors who respect the family farmer as the custodians of the country side, we do not depend on fees and are able to remain impartial in our auditing. We do however, like any nonprofit organization, accept donations.

How does the approval process work? *

There are a few basic steps a farmer must complete in order to join the Animal Welfare Approved program:

  1. The farmer carefully reviews the standards of the specific species in question to make sure that there farm is in compliance. This includes making sure the associated slaughterhouse is comfortable participating in the program.
  2. The farmer submits a farm application. When the form has been reviewed an Animal Welfare Approved team member contacts the farmer to discuss the farm and the next steps.
  3. When all of both parties are comfortable that the farm is ready, an appointment can be made to visit the farm and the slaughter plant. We try to schedule the visits with other farms in the area to make best use of resources. A qualified Animal Welfare Approved farm auditor visits the farm/slaughter plant to conduct an official inspection.

Once the results of both farm and slaughter inspections have been obtained, the Program Coordinator contacts the farmer to inform them of the approval status. In cases of non-compliance, when the farm or plant successfully makes the necessary changes, an approval notice and welcome pack are sent to the farm. The farm is then listed on the program’s website.

If approved, the farmer agrees in writing to abide by the Animal Welfare Approved standards. This agreement is good for one year. Audits are then conducted annually or more often if needed to confirm compliance. All farmer and slaughter plant audits are confidential.

How does the Animal Welfare Approved program ensure compliance? *

All farms are audited at least once annually to ensure compliance. Audits are impartial and based on the published standards. Though an audit is a snapshot of a farm, auditors are able to get an accurate picture of year-round practices by evaluating farm records, environmental quality and animal conditions.

Why does the Animal Welfare Approved program require that animals should be raised on an independent family farm? *

Independent family farms own the animals on the farm which has been shown to give the greatest potential for positive welfare.

What about transport and slaughter? *

Just like farms, participating slaughter plants are reviewed annually, or more often if necessary. Animal Welfare Approved standards address the handling, transport and slaughter of animals as well as their day-to-day treatment. We are the only program with a maximum of 8 hours transport in the United States. Our slaughter standards are based on the guidelines of the American Meat Institute, but go a step further in prohibiting the use of electric prods. Animal Welfare Approved also requires humane slaughter for species not covered under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, including chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks. We are strong proponents of Controlled Atmosphere Killing (CAK) and actively work with farmers and slaughter plants to advance the welfare improvements and viability of this technology.

What is “dual production” and why does Animal Welfare Approved prohibit it? *

Dual production is when a farm raises some animals of a given species under a humane protocol and others in a conventional system. For instance, a dairy operation might raise half of their cows outside according to Animal Welfare Approved standards and the other half confined in feedlots. Animal Welfare Approved does not allow dual production because the system is misleading and gives unfair advantage to those selling humane and inhumane products side-by-side.

What is the Animal Welfare Approved program’s commitment to the consumer? *

We are committed to providing consumers and farmers with an open and transparent program. We provide up-to-date news and science as it breaks to both farmers and consumers. The Animal Welfare Approved seal is a high-integrity label that clearly identifies products from animals raised humanely on independent family farms. We have consistently been rated the “most stringent” by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and will continue to evaluate farms based on our rigorous standards. These standards are publicly available on our website.

How are the standards created, and can they be changed? *

The standards have been carefully researched, developed and reviewed by the Animal Welfare Approved Standards Board, with the advice of experts from an extensive network of pioneering veterinarians and scientists and farmers who have consistently shown their commitment to animal-centered systems. It is our belief that there is always room for improvement, and our standards are evaluated annually to take into account the latest research in high-welfare animal husbandry.