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
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
• 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.”
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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