Here at AWA, we’ve been thinking a lot about this special holiday and how we may have more in common with our ancestors than we think. Upon arriving in America, the early pilgrims ate what was locally available (granted, they didn’t have an alternative!). This happened to be animals that ranged and foraged in the woods and pastures, eating a diet specific to their natural needs and free from non-therapeutic antibiotics or added hormones. Sounds like a Certified AWA farm, doesn’t it? Meat, dairy, and eggs from animals raised outdoors on pasture or range is better for you, better for farmers, and better for the planet all great reasons to give thanks.
As the year comes to an end, it’s a tradition of mine to write a note of gratitude to our friends, farmers and ranchers, consumers, advocates, donors, and everyone else who has helped give the future of sustainable farming room to grow and flourish.
And what a year it has been! Animal Welfare Approved has yet again experienced a fantastic year of growth and innovation, driven by the ever-increasing demand for healthy, environmentally friendly and high-welfare products. Here are some highlights of significant milestones we have achieved over the last year. None of this could have been achieved without your continued support.
George Washington University's Urban Food Task Force, Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) have joined forces by providing a platform for DC's vibrant culinary community to focus on strengthening the supply chain for sustainably raised meat.
As we enter Earth Week 2011, millions of people across the U.S. and the world are looking for ways to minimize their impact on the environment. It might surprise you to know that one of the best places you can start is the food you eat. Did you know that at least 30 percent of our annual carbon footprint is made up of our daily food choices? Choosing the right food – such as Animal Welfare Approved meat and dairy products – is one of the most important, everyday activities that can reduce our individual environmental impact and help to improve the well-being of farm animals at the same time.
So, why not use this opportunity to reduce your consumption of unsustainable, low-welfare, intensively reared feedlot meat and dairy – and choose high-welfare, pasture-based meat and dairy products instead? Animal Welfare Approved’s online directory makes it easy to find AWA-certified farms and products in your area and to support sustainable farming. Pasture-based farming can bring real benefits to us all, not only through healthier products but by helping to protect the planet for future generations.
Program Director Andrew Gunther is pleased to announce that Animal Welfare Approved farmer Jeremiah Jones of GrassRoots Pork Company in Beulaville, North Carolina has been awarded the 2010 Glynwood Farmer Harvest Award. Glynwood, a nonprofit dedicated to sustainable agriculture and farmland preservation, gives this award to highlight innovative work being done to increase access to fresh, locally produced food and to recognize leaders from across the country who are supporting regional agricultural systems.
“AWA nominated Jeremiah because he fits the profile perfectly. Not only is Jeremiah a truly great farmer, but as president of the North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association, he gives of his time and talent tirelessly to lead a group of pasture-raised pig producers in developing niche markets and in the creation of best-practice standards,” says Andrew Gunther. “Several years ago when I first started to work in the U.S., this group was the first I helped set up. I was privileged to work with Jeremiah and the group to launch their marketing cooperative, thus assuring the group’s viability and stability.” NCNHGA is currently seeking new producers to join the cooperative as there is a growing demand for pastured pork. All members of the NCNHGA must be certified AWA, a commitment the group and its customers firmly stand by.
Animal Welfare Approved was pleased to join more than 30 organizations supporting family farmers at this year’s Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America. The AWA Farm Aid team, Beth, Emily and Brigid, arrived in Milwaukee excited to participate in Farm Aid Eve, FARMpardy (AWA’s version of JEOpardy) and, of course, the 25th Anniversary Farm Aid concert.
Dave Matthews: "The farmers on our good Earth are taking care of the land and taking care of our children."
Neil Young: "Maybe you don't realize what's really going on with factory farms in this country, how they are displacing family farms at an alarming rate...Factory farms are the reason why we have food alerts. They are the reason why we have dying people and disease. Try to buy something from a family farm, something that's sustainably grown. You deserve the best. Your children deserve the best."
This week, Animal Welfare Approved and Wild Turkey Farms hosted a poultry processing workshop to train potential users of the new mobile processing unit (MPU). Funded by a Good Husbandry Grant and built by Wild Turkey Farms, this plant-on-wheels can travel to area farms for on-farm processing – minimizing transport stress on the animals and providing farmers an economical processing alternative (rental rates start at $45/day). Techniques on humane slaughter were demonstrated as well as cervical dislocation for emergency euthanasia. Attendees learned the importance of humane handling and catching to ensuring product quality and took home some good tips on effective product presentation.
Many farmers raising birds for meat operate under the 1,000 bird exemption, meaning that they are not required to have an inspector on-site at the time of processing. However food safety is even more important for the small farmer than it is for a large plant and sanitation, biosecurity and recordkeeping were emphasized as important tools to ensure a safe product for the consumer. A very knowledgeable and gracious staff from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, including Don Delozier, State Director for the NCDA&CS Meat and Poultry Inspection Division and Compliance Officer Melanie Pollard, presented on the relevant regulations for on-farm processing, how to comply and where to go for more information.
For ethical eaters attending this year’s Big Apple BBQ in New York City June 12-13, a visit to legendary pitmaster Ed Mitchell and The Pit restaurant booth will be an exceptional opportunity to satisfy a hunger for ‘cue while supporting family farmers raising their animals with the highest humane standards. The Pit, of Raleigh, North Carolina, will be serving its signature whole-hog barbecue made exclusively from Animal Welfare Approved pastured pork supplied by the North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association (NCNHGA). Pastured pork means the pork comes from pigs raised outdoors, on pasture, where they enjoy sunlight and mud baths in natural surroundings. For eaters, AWA pastured pork means there is no conflict between what your taste buds savor and what your conscience demands.
Animal Welfare Approved staff will be on-hand to run contest giveaways of limited edition AWA “I (HEART) Pastured Pork” T-shirts and backpacks, apply temporary tattoos, and answer questions about farm animal welfare and the Animal Welfare Approved program. “We’re proud of our farmers and proud of our program,” says Animal Welfare Approved Program Director Andrew Gunther. “Since we can’t really shout it from the rooftops, we thought t-shirts would be fun.” All visitors who sign up for the Animal Welfare Approved e-mail list will receive a free drawstring backpack.
On May 4 Animal Welfare Approved hosted an expert panel of writers, farmers and representatives of sustainable livestock production. Entitled, “Green Pastures, Bright Future: Taking the Meat We Eat Out of the Factory and Putting it Back on the Farm," the discussion centered on the need for truly sustainable livestock farming that takes into account animal welfare and the health of our environment - and ourselves. Panelists included investigative journalist and author of Animal Factory David Kirby; author of the bestselling Righteous Porkchop Nicolette Hahn Niman; chicken farmer and whistle-blower in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.” Carole Morison; and rancher, veterinarian and president of the American Grassfed Association, Dr. Patricia Whisnant.
The USDA is moving forward with its efforts to revamp the animal identification policy after the public comment period for the National Animal Identification Service (NAIS) revealed that the majority of respondents were highly critical of the program. Only a fraction of the producers in the United States were willing to participate in NAIS. The USDA announced on February 5, 2010 it was going to revise efforts to track animal disease using input from producers, individual state agricultural policymakers, experts and Tribal Nations.
The USDA has now committed to forming a new animal disease traceability framework in partnership with the states and Tribal Nations. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has expressed hope that the new framework will allow producers, the states and the Tribal Nations to use their expertise to draft a traceability program that works best for them. The new framework will only apply to animals shipped interstate and will only focus on animal disease traceability.
The future of high-welfare, environmentally and financially sustainable livestock farming is brighter than industrialized agriculture would have us believe, says a panel of experts convening on May 4, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. in Washington, DC for a public discussion, “Green Pastures, Bright Future: Taking the Meat We Eat Out of the Factory and Putting it Back on the Farm.” The panel discussion is presented by Animal Welfare Approved in cooperation with the Pew Environment Group.
Participating on the panel are investigative journalist and author of Animal Factory David Kirby; author of the best-selling Righteous Porkchop Nicolette Hahn Niman; chicken farmer and whistle-blower in the Oscar-nominated documentary "Food, Inc." Carole Morison; and rancher, veterinarian and president of the American Grassfed Association, Dr. Patricia Whisnant. The discussion will be moderated by Andrew Gunther, program director for Animal Welfare Approved.
On President's Day, the National Black Farmers Association concluded its cross country rally in Washington, D.C. and Animal Welfare Approved’s legislative partner, Animal Welfare Institute, attended in support. NBFA members have spent the past month mobilizing support for the distribution of payments owed to black farmers as a part of a 1999 discrimination settlement, which awarded one billion dollars to them; President Obama has allocated the funds in his FY 2010 budget. The last Farm Bill seconded this verdict by allocating funds and opening doors for 80,000 farmers locked out of the original suit to have their cases heard in court.