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New “Certified Humane” Egg Standards Hatched in VA

PHOTO: Pasture-raised hens get 2.5 acres per 1,000 hens to roam and feed, according to guidelines developed by the Virginia-based group Humane Farm Animal Care. Photo courtesy HFAC.
PHOTO: Pasture-raised hens get 2.5 acres per 1,000 hens to roam and feed, according to guidelines developed by the Virginia-based group Humane Farm Animal Care. Photo courtesy HFAC.
January 28, 2014

HERNDON, Va. – Free range or pasture raised – there are many such terms for eggs sold in grocery stores, and it's hard to decide what they really mean.

But if there's a Certified Humane label on the carton, buyers can be assured it means what it says.

That's because of a nonprofit organization called Humane Farm Animal Care based in Herndon, Va.

Its executive director, Adele Douglass, has just released revised standards for free range and pasture raised eggs.

While there's currently no legal definition for either term in the U.S., she says her organization differentiates them by the space and outdoor time available for the laying hens.

"It took us two years,” she says. “Our scientific committee, we had input from our producers, we revised, we re-looked at, we went on farms, we looked at various standards, we looked at research."

She says pasture raised now means at least two-and-a-half acres for every 1,000 birds, with year-round outdoor access and shelter.

Free range means a minimum of two square feet per bird, and outdoor access can be part-time and weather permitting.

There are already three pasture raised egg companies on the program, including Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Virginia.

The Certified Humane label can be found on poultry and meats as well.

Douglass says her organization is made up of close to 5,000 farms and more than 120 food companies.

All producers have to meet strict guidelines for the animals, from birth to slaughter.

"The way an animal is raised affects not only the welfare of the animal, it affects human health and it affects the environment, and the economic well-being of the farmer," Douglass maintains.

She says the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals due to overcrowding is a major factor in people's resistance to antibiotics – and a contributor to groundwater pollution caused by farm runoff.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA