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Know Your Label: Certified Animal Welfare Approved

Certified Animal Welfare Approved is one of the fastest growing certifications and label claims in the United States and is highly reputable according to Consumer Reports.


This week on Know Your Label we continue our journey into the meaning of common food certifications and profile our second certification from A Greener World (AGW). Two weeks ago we studied AGW’s label Certified Grassfed, which builds upon their animal welfare program. Today we will be delving into Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW.


Certified Animal Welfare Approved

Let’s begin with a quick review of A Greener World (AGW), the nonprofit, third-party organization that created and manages the Certified Animal Welfare Approved label. AGW’s mission is to promote sustainable agriculture that has a positive impact on farmers, animals, livestock and the environment, through education, support to independent farmers, and the establishment of farm certifications. AGW offers four certifications: Certified Grassfed and Certified Animal Welfare Approved, as well as Certified Organic and Certified Non-GMO which will be covered in future issues of KYL!


Today’s certification, Certified Animal Welfare Approved, is the baseline for the other three certifications, meaning that if your farming cannot be certified as Animal Welfare Approved, it cannot receive any other certifications from AGW.


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Currently, Certified Animal Welfare Approved  is one of the fastest growing certifications in the United States, and Consumer Reports calls this food label “highly meaningful.” In a 2017 statement to the New York Times, the director of food policy initiatives at Consumer Union said that the only certification to be trusted for the humane treatment of animals is Animal Welfare Approved by AGW. Needless to say, this certification is highly regarded as a top indicator of animal welfare.


Certification Criteria

First, it should be noted that this certification is only available to independent farmers.

Second, this certification is based on a holistic birth to slaughter model, meaning that all stages of the animal life cycle through the slaughter process must adhere to regulations and be approved.

Third, audits are performed annually by certified AGW auditors.


Application Process
  1. Read the standards
  2. Apply online.
  3. Farm Audit
  4. Review process
  5. Sign and return paperwork


It should be noted that this program is not set up as pass/fail. If changes need to me made to a farm following an audit, AGW will work with the farmer to help bring those changes to fruition.


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Standards exist for all commonly domesticated farm animals. Exotic animals are not considered for accreditation unless they are indigenous (native) to the country in which they are being produced.

Approved animals: pigs, beef and dairy cattle and calves, dairy and meat sheep, dairy and meat goats, turkey, ducks, geese, laying hens and meat chicken, and bison.

In the US, yak, water buffalo, llamas, alpacas, ostriches, emus, rheas and beefalo are not considered for approval.


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There is no fee for participation.



The most basic and universal standard for Animal Welfare Approved is that animals are required to be raised on pasture. Other standards are regulated for each approved species, various types of slaughter, working dogs, parasite treatment, animal by-products and farm set-up. For a more detailed explanation of the standards, take a look at AGW’s website.


AGW aims to change livestock practices by advocating on behalf of farms that treat their animals humanely; this certification is a step in the right direction. While Certified Animal Welfare Approved does not provide standards for all animals kept on farms in America, it provides great insight into the human treatment of the animals whose products are most often found on our dinner plates.


If you enjoyed this read and want to learn more about food certifications and claims, subscribe to GCNow and stay tuned for our weekly blog. Want more now? Check out GCNow here.

GC Content Writer: Marissa Lazaroff