Thanksgiving is the quintessential America 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 Association went to Capitol Hill with famed chefs, farmers, and leaders in the food industry who have committed to humane practices to take part in a Congressional Briefing on "The Humane Heartland."
Hosted by the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, the briefing outlined advances in human 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 people are concerned about how their food is raised than ever before and want to make choices that are in line with their values," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. "This Thanksgiving, we urge all Americans to set a humane table and give thanks to American farmers and ranchers who not only put food on our families" tables, but who work to put the "heart" in heartland by providing food that is safe, abundant, affordable and humanely raised under ethical, commonsense, and scientifically demonstrated standards."
At the briefing a famed Michelin-starred chef, top figures in farm animal welfare, farmers, and leaders of major organizations in food production involving hundreds of millions of animals outlined advances in humane agriculture in line with national studies showing overwhelming support for humanely raised food.
American Humane Association's most recent research shows overwhelming popular support for the humane treatment of farm animals and humanely raised foods. Its Humane Heartland Farm Animal Survey polled 5,900 Americans and more than nine in ten (94.9%) said they were "very concerned" about farm animal welfare, up from 89 percent in American Humane Association's 2013 study.
More than three-quarters (75.7%) stated that they were very willing to pay more for humanely raised eggs, meat, and dairy products, up from 74 percent in 2013. And for the second survey in a row, 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.
"Animals play a huge role in our lives, and it's so important that we treat them humanely and with respect for all they do for us," said Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), co-founder of the 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."
"As the holidays approach us, 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 Humane Bond Caucus.
"The most important part of my job is working with our network of farmers to make sure we start with the very best ingredients," said Ken Frank, owner and executive chef of Napa Valley's Michelin-starred La Toque restaurant. "It is no coincidence that those who make humane treatment a priority invariably have the highest quality products."
"For consumers, animal welfare is the number one concern. It also is the driving force behind our company," said Mika Manninen, the co-founder of Scandinavian Meat Masters. "We are the first and only company on the market offering American Humane Certified and non-GMO verified pork. It is this mission and our passion to advance awareness for the ethical treatment of farm animals and why we were proud to be part of the Congressional Briefing on ‘The Humane Heartland.""
"Humane animal care is at the heart of every successful dairy farm," said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. "Dairy farmers know that a well-cared for dairy cow is a productive cow that produces high quality milk. So in addition to the moral imperative of humane care, farmers also have an economic imperative to keep their herd healthy, happy and productive."
"The happy egg co. is passionately committed to improving the living conditions of all farm animals," said David Wagstaff, chief operating officer of the happy egg co. "We have established a profitable farming model that benefits laying hens, family farmers and U.S. consumers. Working with American Humane Association has allowed us to bring more awareness to Congress about the importance of providing Americans with affordable, high humane food, raised under the most ethical standards. We're confident that The Humane Heartland Congressional Briefing will further advance the movement toward humane agriculture in the U.S."
"I believe that that pig farmers are animal welfare professionals who provide the best care to pigs," said Keith Schoettmer of Indiana's Schoettmer Prime Pork, who was recently named "America's Pig Farmer of the Year" for his use of humane and sustainable practices. "The America's Pig Farmer of the Year program is a great avenue to share producers" commitment to doing things right every day on their farms."
Major News as Humane Food Trend Intensifies
Earlier this week American Humane Association applauded Taco Bell for its recent announcement that it will switch to using only cage-free American Humane Certified eggs in its more than 6,000 restaurants in 2017. The organization praised Taco Bell and its leadership for choosing animal welfare and working to make the fast food industry more humane.
"This is a great day for farm animals," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association when the news broke. "We applaud Taco Bell for its leadership in helping make the fast food industry more humane by committing to animal welfare."
American Humane Association 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 138 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 Association 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 for the resulting American Humane Certified program were built upon the internationally accepted values of the Five Freedoms, created by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as well as input from animal science experts, veterinarians and other animal husbandry specialists. These evidence-based 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 audit program.