Most people know that before you ever purchase your food, it goes through multiple steps and processes to reach your plate. Here at Where Food Comes From, it is our responsibility to share with you on the stories behind your food and those processes it goes through to reach your plate. The farmers that grow our food truly are the point of change in the food industry. As we introduce you to farmers we partner with through our programs and certifications, you’re getting an inside look into the variety of choices they make daily to ensure they are producing food in a responsible way. This means understanding practices like the treatment of animals, which leads us to our Validus division and the work they do in assessing animal care.
Who is Validus?
Late last year in our New Year’s blog article we briefly touched on our Validus Certified programs. Today we get a chance to dive deeper into Validus’ Animal Welfare Review and all that it takes to evaluate animal care and wellbeing within this program.
Let us introduce you to the Validus Certifiedprograms. Validus ensures food is produced according to specific and transparent production practices. The best part is, like many of our programs, all of their practices go through extensive auditing in order to be certified. As a result, you know that not only have participating producers agreed to follow certain practices, but they have proven to do so as well.
Certification from Validus covers criteria specific to animal welfare, environmental integrity and worker care. For those who have been evaluated and approved in all three Validus programs, they receive the prestigious Validus CARE certification – which is the equivalent of receiving an Emmy in the food verification world. Now that we’ve explained a little bit about Validus, let’s take a deeper look into the Animal Welfare Review program.
Validus has Animal Welfare Review certifications for multiple species, but the most widely used and prevalent in the industry today is the Animal Welfare Review program for Dairy (also known as AWRD). Accredited to both the USDA Process Verified Program requirements and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Specification (TS) 34700 for Animal Welfare Management/General Requirements and Guidance for Organizations in the Food Supply Chain, the Validus AWRD standard comes with some serious clout.
Once a company or farm applies for AWRD certification the review process begins. This consists of several steps, which includes interviews, onsite audits, and document and process assessments. Certification is awarded to farms who demonstrate compliance with specified criteria, including:
- Proper animal handling and management
- Herd health procedures and care
- Food and water quality standards
- Housing that promotes animal comfort and cleanliness
- On-farm security procedures
- Proper care of special needs animals
To ensure these standards are upheld, Validus assembles an expert committee for each sector; animal welfare, environmental health and worker care. Each sector consists of five individuals who are considered experts in their given field of study. They listen to suggestions from participating farms, consider new and emerging industry research and technologies, and review the current standards annually in order to continuously improve the evaluation criteria. Did you hear that? They listen and make changes! This ensures that the standard is always current and is always striving to improve and shift with both industry and consumer expectations.
Over the next few weeks we will be sharing information about the other programs supported by Validus. In the meantime, if you want to gain more insights about these programs visit the Validus Certified website.