Adele Douglass
Executive Director
Farm Animal Services Washington, D.C.

The Free Farmed Labeling and Certification Program
The American Humane Association


The American Humane Association (AHA) was founded in 1877. Its mission “as a network of individuals and organizations, is to prevent cruelty, abuse, neglect and exploitation of children and animals and to assure that their interests and well-being are fully, effectively and humanely guaranteed by an aware and caring society.”

In 1877, the American Humane Association was formed when local Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Humane Societies came together to address the problem of the maltreatment of farm animals in transportation from the West to the East for slaughter. Over the years, the American Humane Association has led the fight for humane slaughter, and many other farm animal issues. This includes efforts to improve conditions at slaughterhouses, improving American laws to provide additional protections for farm animals, and ultimately development of the Free Farmed certification and labeling program.

The Free Farmed Certification and Labeling Program

The Free Farmed program got its start when the American Humane Association was in contact with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and learned about the Freedom Foods program. In 1999, members of the AHA Board of Directors, executive staff, and experts from its Scientific Committee met with the RSPCA and visited farms involved in the Freedom Food Scheme. These visits helped AHA develop the Free Farmed program and implement it in the United States. The RSPCA was very generous with its time, advice, and assistance in helping AHA create the Free Farmed Program. While some of the Free Farmed program is based on the RSPCA’s scheme, there are differences between the two programs. For example, the Free Farmed program is a certification and labeling program that lets consumers know that a specific producer has met AHA’s rigid farm animal welfare standards. However, the food is still sold under that producer’s brand. The Freedom Foods scheme allows producers to sell products under the Freedom Foods label/brand and competes in the market place with other “branded” products. AHA decided to undertake a certification and labeling program rather than one of branded products because it felt it could cover more products in the marketplace if it wasn’t perceived as a marketplace competitor. AHA also did not want to take on the enormous marketing costs, like those spent by Freedom Foods in marketing their brand.

Farm Animal Services

To handle the certification, administration, and monitoring of this program, the American Humane Association created Farm Animal Services, a separate non-profit organization. American Humane is responsible for the Animal Welfare Standards and Farm Animal Services is responsible for the administration, inspections, labeling, and marketing of the Free Farmed program and logo to producers and retailers as well as the public. Farm Animal Services also liaisons with the United States Department of Agriculture which verifies the Free Farmed
inspection and certification process.

The mission of Farm Animal Services is, “to improve the welfare of farm animals by providing viable, credible duly monitored standards for humane food production and ensure consumers that certified products meet these standards.”

The American Humane Association Farm Animal Welfare Standards


Each set of American Humane Association Farm Animal Welfare Standards are initially developed and written by a Scientific Committee comprised of experts in the fields of farm animal welfare, animal behavior, animal and veterinary science, and food production. The standards are then approved by the American Humane Association Board of Directors. The AHA standards are based on Scientific materials in addition to the RSPCA standards.

The Scientific Committee consists of:

• Dr. Joy Mench, University of California at Davis
• Dr. Janice Swanson, Kansas State University
• Dr. Carolyn Stull, University of California at Davis
• Dr. Julie Morrow, Texas Tech University
• Dr. Pam Hullinger, California Dept. of Food and Agriculture
• Dr. Brenda Coe, Penn State University, Farm Animal Services Staff
• Dr. Bill Van Dresser, Retired Veterinarian
• Dr. Temple Grandin Colorado State University
• Dr. Ruth Newburry, Washington State University
• Dr. Patricia Hester, Puerdue University
• Dr. Joe Regenstein, Cornell University

There are currently standards in place for Dairy Cows, Beef Cattle, Laying Hens, Broiler Chickens, Pigs and Sheep. The Scientific Committee is currently developing standards for turkeys, which are expected to be finalized later this year. To keep up with new techniques in farming and production, the Scientific Committee requests the Species Committees make recommendations for any changes to the standards. The Species Committee includes producers affected by the program, members of the Scientific Committee, AHA board members, and FAS staff. The Species Committee recommendations are sent to the Scientific Committee which then reviews the recommendations and approves, disapproves, makes additional changes before forwarding the standards to the AHA Board of Directors. The AHA Board of Directors then accepts or rejects the recommended changes to provide an updated version of the standards.

The Free Farmed Certification Process


Producers wishing to apply for the Free Farmed label must follow a rigid certification process. A producer or producer group requesting information on the program and wanting to participate is sent:

• an application form;
• copies of the relevant American Humane Association Farm Animal Welfare

Standards: templates for records that producers are required to keep (such as health plan, etc.); and a farm manual needs to be completed and returned to the FAS office which describes animal housing, nutrition, husbandry practices, health plans,
emergency procedures, casual euthanasia policy, and other information that will help the Free Farmed assessors judge whether the producer is compliant with AHA Animal Welfare Standards. Once a producer submits the relevant information to Farm Animal Services, the Director of Animal Science Programs reviews it and arranges for an assessor to contact the producer and arrange for aninspection. The assessor will also discuss the farm plan and other relevant materials with the producer to ensure everything is in order and that all the records needed for review are available.

The assessor does the physical on-site inspection of the applicant’s farm or ranch.. During the on-site inspection, the assessor conducts interviews with management personnel and employees, observes the operation in process, and reviews written procedures and supporting documentation. Assessors will itemize any significant findings of nonconformance with the

AHA Farm Animal

Welfare Standards, and assign a tracking number to each nonconformance. The items will be classified either as a "continuous improvement point/minor non-conformance," or a "hold point/major non-conformance." A major non-conformance is a situation where the well-being of an animal is at risk. A major non-conformance must be corrected before the approval process can move forward. A minor non-conformance concerns record keeping issues and other items
that do not have a significant impact on the well-being of the animal. These concerns do not prevent certification but must be corrected in a timely manner; Because major non-conformances points indicate findings that compromise the
integrity of the animals, certification may be denied or revoked until correction.

The assessor also completes a review document and a non-conformance document. The assessor then writes a report about the inspection, which is submitted, along with all relevant documents to the Executive Director of Farm Animal Services. The Executive Director reviews the assessment documents to determine if the producer meets program requirements. Applicants that meet all requirements as referenced in the AHA standards and instructions, will be issued a certificate of approval valid for one year from the date of the approval letter. Farm Animal Services may deny approval for failure to adequately address any documentation requirements; failure to demonstrate the capability to meet the program requirements; failure to provide access to supplier’s facilities and records; presenting false or misleading information; or for any evidence of noncompliance. Conditional approval is given if there are non-conformances and permission to use the Free Farmed logo lasts for the time it takes to rectify the non-conformance points, at which point the producer will be given full approval certification in the program.

The certificate allows the producer to use the Free Farmed logo for one year (full approval certificate) or for the time specified (conditional approval).Annual renewal inspections are also required. Participants are required to maintain approved programs as described in their system documentation. Any changes to the approved system that may potentially affect the integrity of the farm animals must be submitted in writing to FAS and approved prior to implementation. The FAS office will contact each participant before the expiration of their approval. Each participant must submit any revised copies of program documentation and be reassessed to maintain approved status.

FAS may suspend the approval from any supplier who fails to follow the approved policies and procedures, implements significant changes to approved systems without notification to FAS, or for any deliberate misrepresentation. If a supplier’s approval is suspended, the entire process must be re-initiated to be certified in the future.

Accreditation Procedures For Assessors:

Assessors assigned to conduct document reviews and onsite audits must be qualified by Farm Animal Services and have training, experience and education in animal science, veterinary medicine, or other relevant backgrounds as deemed appropriate by Farm Animal Services. Requirements include:

• The assessor must have a Masters degree in Animal Science or comparable animal experience and education.
• The assessor must complete a training class, which includes review and testing on the standards.
• The assessor must go on two apprentice inspections with an experienced assessor.
• The experienced assessor must submit a review of the performance of the assessor “trainee.”

USDA Verification

The Free Farmed Certification program is currently verified by the United States Department of Agriculture/Agriculture Marketing Service. The USDA verifies the Farm Animal Service inspection and certification process. This gives consumers added assurance that the Free Farmed label is awarded to only those producers who meet the rigid AHA Farm Animals Welfare Standards.

Farm Animal Services is in the process of preparing to apply for ISO 65 Guide Certification.

Farm Animal Services notifies the Agricultural Marketing Services of the USDA prior to inspections.

The USDA then arranges to accompany assessors on the assessment of the farms.

The USDA at this time covers about 25% of FAS inspections.


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