Over the last several weeks we have had the unique opportunity to take our readers along with us as we met with some of the farmers and ranchers that we provide our third-party verification services for. Sharing their stories with you has been a wonderful experience, as connecting you with those that have a passion for animal welfare is a passion of ours! We know you love food and want it to taste great, but you also have a desire for more education around that food, where it comes from and how it is produced. You’re connecting with your food on new levels, which means having a better understanding about where your food comes from.
For example, did you know those chocolate chips in your cookie are produced with ingredients from a fruit grown on a tree? Or did you know that the handling of an animal could affect the quality, taste, or look of the meat that inevitably makes it onto your plate? Expectations on how our food is produced are changing the food industry; from environmental standards to animal welfare. Better food quality means verifying producers are engaged in specific processes, which is the purpose of standards, audits and certification. One example of this is in the evaluation of animal care and wellbeing, so this week we’re diving into the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 5-Step Animal Welfare standard. Let’s head out to the farm!
What is the 5-Step Animal Welfare Program?
Before meat or other products can display the certified label, a third-party audit must be conducted at each farm/ranch in a given supply chain that wants to label their product as GAP certified.
First, let’s understand what that means to you. Below is some helpful information on the three components that GAP uses to define farm animal welfare.
- Health & Productivity – raising animals so that they’re healthy and productive with good quality feed and water, shelter, and free from disease, illness and injury (but treating any animals that get sick).
- Natural Living – raising animals in environments that allow them to express their natural behaviors effectively – both indoors and outdoors
- Emotional Well Being – raising animals in environments that provide them the ability to be inquisitive, happy and playful and minimize boredom, frustration, fear, stress and pain, as much as possible.
Understanding what farm animal welfare encompasses is important. Let’s also take a look at the “5” steps below as defined by GAP.
GAP was created in 2008, with an underlying commitment to collaboration with stakeholders involved in animal agriculture and production. Over the years, GAP has focused on continual improvements to animal care, management and animal welfare with their farm and ranch partners, while at the same time connecting with other segments of the food industry (e.g. retail, manufacturing, etc.) to grow awareness about animal welfare and their program.
GAP truly has a unique process demonstrating their commitment to transparency in labeling. They blend scientific research and practical knowledge to develop a thorough and evidence-based process. GAP covers beef, broiler chickens, bison, pigs, turkeys, goats, sheep, and laying hens and all of their standards are shared with the public to solicitate feedback as they are developed and/or changed over time. This allows you to share ideas and perspectives with GAP directly, creating a collaborative process for continuous improvement in the standard in a way that allows all stakeholders – from producers to consumers – to have a say in what matters most to them.
As you know, the core service of Where Food Comes From is third-party verification. Our IMI Global division is accredited by GAP to complete audits on every farm that is seeking a GAP certification – with audits taking place on every operation every 15 months. The GAP program covers the entire life of the animal, from the birth of a pig or hatching of an egg to finished product processing. You name it, they cover it.
In a recent GAP survey, 63% of consumers look for labels that call-out how the animal was raised when purchasing the products. When it comes to making choices for yourself and your family, transparency is extremely important. So why GAP? Their 5 – Step program allows them to be transparent so you know first-hand how an animal was raised. As customer demand increases, GAP is available to help you tell your story to consumers, raising the understanding about animal welfare in addition to increasing the use of the label. The last 10 years has been an exciting time for GAP, and they don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.