Demand for high-welfare, sustainable food is at an all-time high, as consumers seek meat, eggs, and dairy products that are not only healthful, but produced with animal welfare and the environment in mind. And as more people become aware of the benefits of pasture-based farming—and realize that many food label claims like “free range” or “all natural” are highly misleading—they are seeking out the trusted Animal Welfare Approved as the label of choice for sustainable farming.
Established in 2006, Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) is an independent, nonprofit farm certification program. We audit, certify, and promote farmers across the U.S. and Canada who raise livestock outdoors on pasture or range, using truly sustainable agriculture methods. Our standards cover farms that raise animals for meat, dairy, and eggs, including the following species: beef and dairy cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, poultry and bison.
AWA is committed to bringing farmers and consumers together through an open and transparent program. We believe family farmers should receive a fair price for supplying consumers with high-welfare, sustainably produced food that they can trust. So, what makes AWA different from other farm certifications?
Integrity and Trust
AWA is the only farm certification that guarantees animals are raised outdoors for their entire lives on an independent family farm using truly sustainable agriculture methods. No other food label offers these distinctions. We’re also one of only two certifiers in the U.S. to require audited, high-welfare slaughter practices, and we’re the only label to require pasture access for all animals. Unlike most farm certifications, however, we don’t charge a single cent to participate in the program. Because we don’t charge any fees, we can remain completely independent and impartial. The result? An unrivaled level of both the integrity of the program and consumer trust in the AWA logo. Year after year, our standards have been consistently recognized as the most meaningful of any farm certification in the nation. Last year, Consumers Union rated AWA as the only “highly meaningful” label for farm animal welfare, pasture access, and sustainability.
In addition to our high standing among consumers, AWA is equally proud of our growing reputation among farmers and ranchers for being a practical, achievable, common-sense program that’s grounded in the realities of everyday farm and ranch life. Our farm standards have been developed in collaboration with scientists, veterinarians, researchers and farmers across the globe to maximize practicable, high-welfare farm management. Once approved, farmers can use the AWA logo to add value and differentiate their products in the marketplace.
Our goal is to support farms utilizing high-welfare, sustainable farming practices, so we’ve created a range of marketing and technical resources that are available at no cost to farmers in our program. Our regional Farmer and Market Outreach Coordinators serve as a one-stop shop for marketing and program-related inquiries for farmers in our program, and develop market opportunities for Certified AWA products with retailers and restaurants. We work with every farmer to produce a tailor-made press release to promote their new certification, and add the farm (and details of where product is sold) to our popular and searchable online database. We also connect participating farms to our free marketing support services—including free label design assistance and free marketing materials, such as farmers’ market signage and food labels. Our technical team is always available to answer questions about our standards or provide support. We also publish a range of free information, offering hands-on technical advice to famers.
In addition to AWA certification, we recently launched a new label specifically for farmers practicing a forage-only feeding protocol, Certified Grassfed by AWA. Although other grassfed labels exist, none has fully met consumer expectations when it comes to a grassfed and forage diet, environmental management, and farm animal welfare–until now. This certification is available to AWA farmers for a nominal annual administrative fee. For more information see our Certified Grassfed FAQs here.
A Practical Certification Program
So what does AWA certification involve? Our program is open to independent family farmers who own their animals and who are responsible for their day-to-day management. We encourage farmers and ranchers of all sizes to read our online standards for the species they farm to see if they are consistent with their farming practices and values.
Once you have reviewed the standards, the approval process begins by filling out a Farmer Application. After we receive your application, we will contact you to discuss any questions you may have about the program or approval process and to schedule a farm visit. A qualified AWA program auditor will then pay a visit to your farm to complete a confidential audit.
The audit involves a review of farm records and a physical assessment of the welfare and condition of the animals and the farm environment. AWA’s trained auditors visit every farm in the program at least once a year. We’re always happy to answer any questions about our standards and the application process, and to provide technical assistance, as needed.
Find out more
If you’re interested in learning more about the AWA program, read our farm standards to insure they are consistent with your practices and values—then get in touch! Our standards are available on our website, AnimalWelfareApproved.org—or we can mail them to you. You can call us at (800) 373-8806 or email us and we’ll be glad to connect you with your regional coordinator. For more information, visit our website.