Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Certified Humane

Portait of the author as a chicken farmer

When I was growing up I didn't think much about where my food came from. Perhaps because I ate fruit and vegetables from my mother's organic garden and eggs from our chickens, and salmon that my father caught, the concept of a factory farm was unknown to me. But despite infrequent raids on my mother's garden, I don't eat food so directly provided by my parents anymore.

It's easy to be dismayed at the poor quality of our food and terrible way animals are treated. Can't animals be treated well? Ideally we would want to allow them ample pasture to roam, proper diet and minimal stress levels. As good as they had it at my parent's place.

Demand for organic and increased standards and regulations means organic choices are no longer limited to farmer's markets and "health food stores" but are more easily found in supermarkets. But can you imagine a future beyond organic? A more humane future? One with standards and regulations?

Rather than the tactics of animal rights groups trying to convince everyone to become vegetarian, Human Farm Animal Care, a non-profit group, has worked together with animal scientists, the ASPCA, the Humane Society and others to create a certification and labeling program for meat, eggs, dairy and poultry ensuring humane treatment. Their mission is to improve the welfare of farm animals by providing viable, credible, duly monitored standards for human food production and ensuring consumers that certified products meet these standards.

Among the standards, producers must allow animals to engage in their natural behaviors. They must raise animals with sufficient space, shelter and gentle handling to limit stress. They also most make sure that they have ample fresh water and a healthy diet without added antibiotics or hormones.

Available here in the Bay Area, all of Prather Ranch products are Certified Humane. This is a fairly new program, but it's a glimpse at how the future might just look. You can check out the website to find Certified Humane products near you.

Over at Bay Area Bites is my take interview with Steven McCarthy of Prather Ranch.