Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday – one that celebrates American traditions, family togetherness and gratitude for the unparalleled bounty of our great nation. As families across the country prepare for their Thanksgiving feasts, American Humane went to Capitol Hill this week with farmers and leaders in the food industry who have committed to humane practices to take part in a congressional briefing on “The Humane Table.” Hosted by the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, the briefing outlined advances in humane agriculture, called on the American public to support humane farming practices, and celebrated the farmers and ranchers who work to feed the world and raise their animals right.
“More and more people are concerned about how their food is raised and want to make choices that are in line with their values,” said Robin Ganzert, PhD, American Humane president and CEO. “This Thanksgiving, we urge all Americans to set a humane table and give thanks to American farmers and ranchers who provide food that is safe, abundant, affordable, and humanely raised under ethical, commonsense, and scientifically demonstrated standards.”
At the briefing, congressional leaders, top figures in farm animal welfare, individual farmers, and leaders of major organizations in food production outlined the importance of demonstrably humane agriculture.
American Humane research shows overwhelming popular support for the humane treatment of farm animals and humanely raised foods. Its poll of 5,900 Americans revealed that more than nine in ten (94.9%) said they were “very concerned” about farm animal welfare. More than three-quarters (75.7%) stated that they were very willing to pay more for humanely raised eggs, meat, and dairy products. And in a ranking of the importance of food labels, “humanely raised” scored highest over other labels including “antibiotic-free,” “organic,” and “natural.” Impediments to people’s choosing humane products was also explored: While one-third of those surveyed (35.3%) said they did purchase humanely raised foods, more than half (54.6%) said they were either not available (35.6%) or too expensive (19%). Nearly one in ten (9%) said they did not know the difference.
In a July 2019 survey by American Humane, 77 percent of respondents said it is important to see a third-party certification label on the packages of chicken they purchase to help ensure it was humanely treated.
Speakers at the briefing emphasized the importance of verifiably humane agriculture.
“As another year comes to an end, we start to think about bringing our family and loved ones together to our family tables to break bread and share in the spirit of the holiday season,” said Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), co-founder of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus. “This Thanksgiving, we want to give thanks to those who have made the humane choice for their animals, and we thank them for their dedication to animal welfare.”
“It is important that we celebrate our farmers and ranchers who strengthen the bond between humans and animals and work tirelessly to put food on our tables in a safe, ethical and humanely raised manner,” said Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX), co-founder of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus. “By strengthening the humane bond between us, the well-being of people, animals and the world can be significantly improved.”
Alice Johnson, DVM, senior vice president for animal well-being at Butterball LLC, the iconic turkey brand that has been an American Humane Certified producer since 2013, underscored the importance of humane farming using verifiable standards and practices.
“We are proud that this Thanksgiving, one in three turkeys served will come from Butterball and will carry the American Humane Certified seal on its packaging,” said Dr. Johnson. “It is important that people are empowered to set a humane table during the holidays.”
Today, Butterball will further demonstrate its commitment to both people and animals by working with American Humane to deliver a truckload of humanely raised turkey to DC Central Kitchen in Washington, D.C.
Mel Coleman, vice president, Coleman Natural and fourth generation member of the founding Coleman family, spoke with great fervor about the value humane farming has for his company.
“We’ve been committed to excellence in animal welfare standards since my family started ranching in 1875,” said Coleman. “Sometimes it takes looking back to our roots, and doing things the way nature intended, to really get it right. We owe it to ourselves to leave the land and livestock in better condition than we inherited it.”
Jessica Langley, director of sustainability at Pilgrim’s said, “At Pilgrim’s, ensuring the well-being of the chickens under our care is an uncompromising commitment. Animal welfare is embedded in the framework of our culture, and we continually strive to improve our welfare efforts through the use of new technologies and the implementation of standards that meet and exceed regulatory requirements and industry guidelines.”
Drew Frey, director of live operations, Culver Duck Farms, Inc., said, “Culver Duck is not only dedicated to animal welfare, but to increasing operational transparency and telling our story to consumers. We take pride in our product, our producers, and the animals in their care. This Thanksgiving, we encourage folks across America to set a humane table.”
American Humane was founded around the issue of farm animal welfare in 1877 and has been at the forefront of improvements and protections for children, pets and farm animals for 142 years (see historic timeline). With a history of working positively and collaboratively with farmers, ranchers, animal advocates and the American public to create moderate, mainstream and commonsense solutions that work for both animals and people, in 2000 American Humane created the nation’s first third-party farm animal welfare certification and auditing program with more than 200 science-based standards covering everything from adequate space to air quality, heat and lighting, humane treatment, and the ability for animals to be animals and express the natural behaviors of their kind. These standards are reviewed regularly by a Scientific Advisory Committee made up of some of the world’s leading experts and animal advocates. Today the American Humane Certified program is the nation’s largest third-party farm animal welfare certification program.
More information about the American Humane Certified program can be found at AmericanHumane.org.