WASHINGTON, March 18, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- American Humane Association, the country's first national humane organization founded in 1877 around the issue of farm animal welfare, hailed the results of a three-year study that confirmed the humane value of Enriched Colony Housing for egg-laying hens. American Humane Association was the first U.S. organization to endorse Enriched Colony Housing in 2010 as a major improvement over conventional housing. Enriched Colony Housing gives egg-laying hens significantly more room than the conventional housing, and provides hens with room to sit, stand, turn around and extend their wings, as well as enrichments such as a nest box, scratching area and perches that allow hens to move about freely and express their natural behaviors.
The three-year study, by the Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply, looked at a variety of factors affecting the sustainability of three different housing systems (conventional, enriched colony, and cage-free/aviary), including hen health and well-being, food safety and quality, environment, worker health and safety, and food affordability. Enriched Colony Housing scored high in many areas and the research provides data that can lead to design changes to further improve the welfare of egg-laying hens.
Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association, which was involved in the research along with other top animal welfare experts and NGOs such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the American Veterinary Medical Association, said, "American Humane Association believes in science and this years-long research will help improve the lives of millions of laying hens on our nation's farms. Our American Humane Certified™ farm animal welfare program was the first humane certification program to adopt enriched-cage housing as a humane way to house hens back in 2010, and the new findings strongly support the initial research that was considered to make this decision. The research identifies a sustainable egg supply by providing evidence to support attainable and affordable egg production that ensures animal welfare."
"When animals are involved, evaluating their welfare is a crucial aspect of any production system," said Dr. Marion Garcia, Chief Veterinary Officer at American Humane Association. "But to truly achieve sustainability, a variety of other factors such as the environment, the health and safety of the workers, food safety and quality, and affordability of what's produced should also be considered, effectively evaluating the entire system."
American Humane Association Certifies Three Systems as Humane
American Humane Association certifies not just one but three types of humanely raised eggs from hens reared in production systems that meet their rigorous humane animal welfare standards. They include:
Eggs from hens raised in Enriched Colony Houses:
Enriched Colony Housing provides a small flock of birds with room to sit, stand, turn around and extend their wings, as well as a nest box, scratching area and perches that allow hens to move about freely and express their natural behaviors, letting chickens be chickens. More farmers are converting from old small, conventional cages to this humane housing for hens as retailers and consumers expect higher animal welfare standards at affordable prices.
Eggs from hens raised in cage-free systems:
American Humane Association certifies more than 90 percent of all the cage-free eggs produced in the United States. Hens raised in cage-free systems have room to roam around on litter, elevated perches, nest boxes, and areas to peck and scratch. Hens in cage-free housing may have access to the outdoors.
Eggs from hens raised Free-Range or on Pasture:
Free-range and pasture systems provide birds with daytime access to outdoor areas. The hens have access to sheltered areas at nighttime and during inclement weather. Eggs that have the American Humane Certified label "Free-range" require at least 21.8 square feet of outdoor pasture for each hen. Eggs that have the American Humane Certified label "Raised on Pasture" require at least 2.5 acres per 1,000 hens of outdoor space during the daytime, and access to sheltered areas at nighttime and during inclement weather. Hens are free to roam daily, as well as flap, perch, forage and dust-bathe, which is natural hen behavior. Pastures must be rotated regularly. Hens must be provided water, shade and shelter from predators and wild birds.
"Farm animal welfare is one of the last great frontiers in the humane movement," said Dr. Ganzert. "Ten billion animals are raised each year on our nation's farm and ranches and it is up to all of us to see they are treated humanely using scientifically demonstrated and verifiable standards. Based on the new research, we encourage the more than 95 percent of Americans who choose to eat eggs, meat and dairy, to choose humanely raised products, including eggs from chickens living in Enriched Colony Housing."
About the American Humane Certified® farm animal welfare program
American Humane Association was founded in 1877 on the issue of farm animal welfare, and created the American Humane Certified™ program, the country's first and largest independent, third-party humane farm animal welfare certification and audit program. The program has more than 200 species-specific, science-based standards that cover everything from adequate space to air quality, heat and lighting, humane treatment, and the ability of animals to express natural behaviors. The standards, which are reviewed regularly by a Scientific Advisory Committee made up of the some of the world's leading experts and animals advocates, including Dr. Temple Grandin and Dr. Joy Mench, were built on 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 scientists, veterinarians and other animal husbandry specialists.
About American Humane Association
American Humane Association is the country's first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we're also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.
SOURCE American Humane Association