If you missed the scoop about this new occasional series, here’s the inaugural pay-it-forward post. Read on to learn about another organization I donated to.
Organization: Animal Welfare Approved (A Greener World)
Location: Redmond, Oregon
What they do: Create animal welfare and environmental standards and provide certifications and accreditation to food suppliers who meet the standards.
Funding: Supported solely on third-party donations with no government funding.How I learned about them: Earlier this year I attended the Carolina Farm Stewardship Organic Commodities and Livestock Conference. The first session I attended was on food labeling and the speaker was Callie Casteel with Animal Welfare Approved (AWA). I was already familiar with most deceptive labeling practices, but I wasn’t aware of the limited federal regulations surrounding some labels.
This session was a cold reminder that ‘organic’ (a label I strive to opt for whenever possible) does not mean cage-free and free-range, and even then, cage-free does not mean the animals were raised outdoors. Callie shared the disappointing truth that, “Organic for meat does not define animal welfare.” She showed images of how cage-free poultry farms are run and it was sad to see so many chickens (as I love my chickens!) squeezed tight in close quarters. And pasture-raised? According to my notes from the session, there are no government definitions for this label.
Consumers often are unaware how food suppliers go about validating their labels. For instance, there might be a single inspection process for one label, but an annual routine inspection for another.
If understanding the differences with current food labeling in the United States is important to you, AWA has a wonderful free guide book Food Labels Exposed (PDF at the link). They also offer it as an app! And you can search for AWA-approved suppliers in your area.
AWA came about in 2006 and is rated “highly meaningful” by Consumer Reports. They use science-based standards and consider the health of animals, humans, and the environment when implementing their certifications. What I thought was most impressive with AWA are the benefits they provide to farmers. As of this writing AWA certification is FREE. AWA annually inspects farm practices to issue or deny the accreditation. Then approved farmers get a ton of FREE benefits and marketing, some include:
- Press release (composition and distribution)
- Label assistance and graphic design assistance
- Promotional materials (check out the free marketing materials)
- Reduced rate on AWA-labeled egg cartons
Free certification and marketing support? Seems like a no-brainer if I were a farmer!
I loved that this group runs entirely independent from the government and offers so many great benefits to support farmers across the country.