Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) is a food label for meat and dairy products that come from farm animals raised to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. The program was founded in 2006 as a market-based solution to the growing consumer demand for meat, eggs and dairy products from animals treated with high welfare and managed with the environment in mind. As a program accredited to ISO guideline 65, you can trust in the AWA label while making food choices when you can’t visit the farm yourself.
It’s now widely accepted that raising animal intensively – indoors or confined on dirt feedlots – is not only bad for animal welfare, but it’s also harming human health and the wider environment. You only have to look at the headlines about the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, environmental pollution from intensive farming systems, and animal welfare abuses to see that our food system is broken.
The AWA program operates on the simple understanding that the way we raise our animals, the nutritional quality of the meat, milk and eggs they produce, and the impact of farming systems on the environment, are all intrinsically linked. We know that if we manage our animals properly and according to their needs, we don’t have to rely on things like routine antibiotics and other chemical inputs to farm. We know that healthy, content animals produce better tasting, healthier meat, milk and eggs. And we know that pasture-based farming livestock systems can actually have a positive impact on the environment, too.
WHAT DO WE DO?
AWA audits, certifies and supports independent family farmers raising their animals according to the highest animal welfare standards, outdoors on pasture or range. Called a “badge of honor for farmers” and the “gold standard,” AWA has come to be the most highly regarded food label when it comes to animal welfare, pasture-based farming, and sustainability.
We set standards or rules that farmers must follow before they can sell their meat, eggs and dairy products using the AWA logo. Our standards have been developed in collaboration with scientists, veterinarians, researchers, and farmers across the globe to maximize practicable, high-welfare farm management.
Our standards ensure that every AWA-certified farm provides their animals with continual access to pasture or range, as well as the opportunity to perform natural and instinctive behaviors essential to their health and well-being. AWA is one of only two labels in the U.S. that require audited, high-welfare slaughter practices, and is the only label that requires pasture access for all animals. All AWA standards, policies and procedures are available on this website, making our program one of the most transparent certifications available.
Every farm in the AWA program is audited at least once a year to ensure compliance with our standards. We pride ourselves on having the most experienced auditing team in the U.S. Our auditors undergo a rigorous selection and training process before they can go out to evaluate farm records, the farm environment, and animal conditions on the day of the audit.
We operate on a nonprofit basis and do not charge farmers to join the program. Because we are not dependent on any certification fees, we can remain completely impartial in our auditing, resulting in the unrivaled integrity and trust of the AWA logo among today’s conscientious consumers.
Choosing the right food is one of the most important, everyday activities that can reduce our individual environmental impact – and help to improve animal welfare at the same time. We work hard behind the scenes to educate consumers about the impact of our food choices on our health, the environment, and animal welfare by visiting schools, attending public events, and publishing reports and other public educational information.
We are committed to bringing consumers and farmers together through an open and transparent program, where family farmers receive a fair price for supplying consumers with high-welfare, sustainably produced food that they can trust – and which doesn’t cost the Earth. Our dedicated team of Farmer and Market Outreach Coordinators work across the U.S. and Canada to develop new market opportunities for our farmers – and make AWA-certified products as widely available as possible.
Transitioning to a high-welfare, sustainable farming system isn’t easy – and can represent a steep learning curve for many farmers and ranchers. We provide ongoing technical support and assistance to our farmers and ranchers to help them understand and overcome the technical challenges they may face.