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What does Free Farmed Certification Mean?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The American Humane Association has been active in animal welfare causes since 1877, and in 2000, it launched the Free Farmed program with the aim of improving living conditions for farm animals. With increasing pressure to produce food for a growing number of people, animals have suffered immensely. A growing social awareness of the living conditions of most farm animals, combined with educational efforts by the animal rights movement, resulted in the Free Farmed program, which assures consumers that animals have been raised in humane conditions with their welfare in mind.

Free Farmed animal products, when available, are always a better choice than commercially farmed options. Not only are Free Farmed products more ethical, but they are often healthier as well, because Free Farmed animals do not contend with the crowded and disease ridden conditions that factory farmed animals endure. The animal rights movement also suggests to consumers that happy food simply tastes better, although no scientific evidence has been mustered to bolster this claim.

The first and most important principle of Free Farmed labeling is that animals cannot be raised in confinement. In the case of chickens, for example, they must be permitted to roam open pasture spaces and may not be kept in cages. Free Farmed animals enjoy a better life without being confined among thousands of their kind in small, dark, unhealthy spaces. The foods they can forage in pasture add to the depth and complexity of the products produced from them, such as eggs and milk. In addition, animals allowed to forage naturally seek out a balanced and healthy diet, which results in better nutritional quality for the consumer.

In addition, Free Farmed animals must have access to free flowing food and water at all time. Conventionally raised egg laying chickens are often starved to induce a forced molt, which increases egg production, although the health cost to the chickens is very high. Free Farmed animals must have access to veterinary care and are entitled to receive treatment and disease prevention measures so that they live healthy lives without pain and suffering. Free Farmed animals are also encouraged to express normal animal behaviors and are not debeaked or subjected to tail docking. They must be given appropriate shelter, the company of other animals, rest, and a healthy diet.

Free Farmed certification is being sought out by a growing number of companies, which cooperate with the American Humane Association to achieve certification through a series of inspections. Certification can be revoked or denied at any time to farms not following Free Farmed practices. Free Farmed food is raised with the welfare of the animal in mind, but it also passes healthier foods down to the end consumer.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By bythewell — On Sep 30, 2014

@Iluviaporos - Free farm animals taste better as well. We kept a few beef cows when I was growing up and they were never stressed and had the run of a couple of large paddocks. They ended up being the best tasting beef I've ever had and apparently grass-fed beef is also much more nutritious as well. They think that lower cancer and depression rates in countries without many grain-fed animals are directly related to this fact.

The meat is more expensive if you have to buy it, but I also think it would do the Western diet a favor if they had to pay more for their meat. At the moment it seems like a lot of food goes to waste and this is probably because people just don't see it as valuable when they can get a dozen eggs for a couple of dollars.

By lluviaporos — On Sep 30, 2014

@clintflint - Ethics completely aside, it's actually a terrible practice for selfish reasons. Animals kept in close quarters have to be pumped full of antibiotics in order to keep them from dying and that leads to the kinds of resistant bacteria that are currently plaguing our hospitals.

Many factory farms end up poisoning the air, water and soil around them because of the massive concentration of effluent. There's a reason that employees in these places have to wear gas masks just to get to work.

By clintflint — On Sep 30, 2014

The thing is that we don't need to have these animals suffer in order to produce food for the planet. We only make them suffer so that they will produce cheap luxuries for the Western world. If we all thought of meat as something that we had on special occasions, or eggs as something that we occasionally got from our own two hens in the backyard, there wouldn't be any need for this.

It's because people expect to be able to buy two chickens for ten dollars or have a steak whenever they feel like it that this problem is happening.

I'm not a vegetarian myself and I don't think there is anything ethically wrong with consuming meat in general. I just think that we need to stop taking it for granted and start taking care of the animals that are our responsibility.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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