Three farms within 30 miles of Corvallis are Animal Welfare Approved (AWA): Fairview Farm and Happy Cow Farms in Dallas, and Deck Family Farm in Junction City. AWA is a “label for meat and dairy products that come from farm animals raised to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards.” Only family farmers can apply for AWA certification.
Some of these products are available at grocery stores in Corvallis. Fairview Farms, a goat dairy, sells its products at the First Alternative Co-ops and Market of Choice. First Alternative also sells Deck Family Farm’s beef, pork, and eggs. Corvallis-raised options are surprisingly absent; no farms within 20 miles of town are AWA certified.
Why anyone goes out of their way to seek AWA certification or purchase their labeled products is an indication of the slipping trust consumers put in conventional factory-farming production methods. It may seem silly—with the exception of dairy herds, these animals are going to be killed for food. If you don’t mind killing and eating animals, why bother? Apparently there are plenty of meat eaters that still have compassion for animals and think about what may have happened during the majority of that animal’s life.
In the Deck Family Farm profile on AWA’s website, Christine Deck said that when they started selling their products in grocery stores the certification was a necessity. “Having the label helps us establish veracity and tell consumers that we’re really doing what we say we’re doing,” she said. “AWA has the highest standards, and I believe it says so much more about how we raise our animals than the other animal care labels out there.”
Animal welfare thoughts aside, more humane treatment of animals often coincides with more environmentally sound practices. Pastures are gentler on local ecosystems than feedlots. Animals fed appropriate diets and no growth hormones are healthier and need fewer antibiotics.
The standards required for AWA labeling are extensive and animal-specific. It is the only label that requires pasture access for all animals and audited, “high-welfare” slaughter practices. The beef cattle and calf standards, for example, recommend on-farm slaughter which must be reviewed by AWA. Off-farm slaughter must also be done by reviewed slaughterhouses with approved processing.
There are 15 categories of beef cattle standards alone, including breeds, pasture, housing, protection from predators, and transportation. AWA has 18 complete standards on its website for processes and animals including cows, pigs, and chickens.
The Animal Welfare Institute started the AWA program in 2006. AWA is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that does not charge farmers for certification or accept donations from farmers. Standards and certification processes are on its website: http://www.animalwelfareapproved.org/.
In a town known for its farmers’ market, co-op, and obsession with local options, why aren’t more Corvallis area farmers doing this?
by Lana Jones