NOTE: This is a guest post from Jackie Sleeper, Director of Certification at Humane Farm Animal Care
Look carefully in the dairy area of most major supermarkets and you are likely to see many different egg products displaying the Certified Humane® seal. Being Certified Humane® is a badge of honor for farmers and the grocers who market their products. The certification meets the demand of consumers who want to purchase animal products that adhere to the highest humane standards.
It’s the right thing to do and it’s also good business.
Multiple public opinion studies have found that consumers care about where their food comes from. The public is becoming increasingly vocal about their desire for animal agriculture to meet comprehensive, science-based animal welfare standards.
Two of the most common products in the supermarket dairy aisle are eggs and milk. Despite the public’s increasing demand for animal products produced in a humane environment, the vast majority of dairy farmers have not felt the need for animal welfare certification. As a result, there are very few Certified Humane® dairy products and NO Certified Humane® milk products available in your grocer’s fridge. Indeed, there are fewer than 25 cow dairy farms in the US that are certified by either Certified Humane® or Animal Welfare Approved, the only two animal welfare certification programs widely considered to be the most rigorous and comprehensive.
The most common explanation we’ve heard for the lack of Certified Humane® dairies is a sense by farmers and milk producers that the public doesn’t care. “Where’s the demand?” we’ve heard from countless milk producers.
Actually, they’re right – not enough consumers are making their voices heard about their desire for humanely raised dairy products. Supermarkets are not hearing from consumers that they want Certified Humane® dairy products.
I know that if milk producers thought the public wanted proof that they take proper care of their dairy cows and produce milk products under humane conditions, they would apply for certification. Milk is a highly competitive market, and producers currently compete on a number of levels including price, packaging, nutritional content and safety. Becoming Certified Humane® would give dairy farmers the ability to compete on another level: humane treatment of animals – but they will only go through the certification process if they know that consumers want it.
Informed consumers want to know that the milk they provide for their family came from cows who are not constrained in tie stalls and are free to move about, are provided a healthy diet free from antibiotics, are not treated with growth hormones like rBST, and are required to have access to the outdoors (all of which are requirements of the Certified Humane® program). Certified Humane® dairy producers, and the grocery stores that sell their milk, will have a distinct marketing advantage because consumers will reward these producers and retailers with their business.
So next time you’re in the supermarket, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask the dairy manager to carry Certified Humane® dairy products – you can download a product request form here. Let’s work together to let dairy farmers know that consumers care about how dairy cows are treated.
Photo from ThinkStockPhotos