Many of us recall the iconic ad, where the elderly lady searches for the meat between two fast food buns. Now, conscientious consumers are more likely to look for where the beef’s from, than where it is. If you want your beef, poultry, pork, eggs and cheese to come from a family farm where the animals are raised as close to their natural state as possible, look no further than the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) label.
Sometimes I envy that guy who grabs a foam-plated, plastic wrapped package of pinkish cubed beef and tosses it in his grocery basket without a second glance simply because he has “stew beef” scrawled on his grocery list. Ignorance is bliss… but not for the cow’s health and well-being, the planet’s, and eventually not for yours either.
Meanwhile, I lift an endless milieu of packages to check for labels: Organic, grass fed, free range, rBGH free, no added hormones, local, all natural. While the labels can often be confusing, and the organizations behind them somewhat elusive, one new label is a cut above the rest… Animal Welfare Approved.
AWA is a national, non-profit organization that monitors, certifies, audits, and supports family farm operations striving for high standards of animal well-being and sustainability. AWA certification has become like the golden seal for sustainable farming, recognized by the World Society for the Protection of Animals as having some of the most stringent standards.
This is good news for farmers and consumers. Those farmers who have a commitment to making sure their cows, chickens, pigs, goats and other livestock are physically and psychologically healthy from birth to… well, the end of their lives… finally have their appropriate badge of honor.
Consumers benefit from Animal Welfare Approval’s transparency as an organization. When you pick up that package of cubed steak with an AWA label stuck on its white butcher paper, you know exactly what standards it was held to, from the farm to the slaughterhouse. And if you don’t already know, its very easy to find out.
Just a few clicks of the mouse, and you can navigate through the AWA’s web site to their list of standards. Spelled out in detail, from the nine page document on Geese Standards to the Guideline for Working Dogs, (and all of the sheep, cows, pigs, rabbits, and chickens in between), AWA leaves no room for question.
For example, provision 3.0.1 of the Laying Hens Standards states that “Bird management must be focused on promoting health rather than treating disease.” Not only that, but the standards also require “Avoidance of physical, nutritional, or environmental stress.” What hen wouldn’t want a stress-free life with preventative care?
Simply reading through one of these AWA documents will show you the stringency of their codes and their commitment to animal welfare and sustainability. Without a doubt, the eggs, milk, cheese or meat wearing the AWA seal of approval is the absolute best for the environment, for the animal, and for your body.
That’s all wonderful, but it doesn’t do any good if you can’t find it, right? Once again, with just a little web site navigation and your zip code, you can locate AWA approved grocery stores, co-ops, farms, markets, and even restaurants within twenty miles of your home!
New York even boasts its own fully AWA-endorsed diner! “Grazin’” serves up only the best certified local, grass-fed beef burgers and organic hand-cut fries, among other menu items that patrons can rest assured are eco-friendly and Animal Welfare Approved. Now that’s guilt-free fast food.
So, as much as I would like to run into my closest local grocery store and pick up the cello-wrapped cubed steak, ignorance really isn’t bliss. However, easily spotting the AWA label… and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that my food was sustainably raised… is getting close to it.