VANCOUVER — A decision by the Earls restaurant chain to switch to Certified Humane beef from the U.S. and then backtrack after facing a social media storm has drawn attention to competing certification programs for "humane" or "organic" beef. Here's a look at some of the programs.
SPCA Certified — The B.C. SPCA launched this program in the early 2000s. It incorporates third-party audits and has standards more stringent that those in the Canadian industry's codes of practice. They are based on the principle of five freedoms: from hunger and thirst, from distress, from discomfort, from pain, injury and disease, and to express behaviours that promote well-being.
Certified Organic — The Canadian Organic Standards are the rules by which all organic farmers in Canada are certified. The animal care standards are similar to the SPCA Certified standards and include bans on tie stalls for cows, outdoor access and minimum space requirements that are more strict than industry standards.
Certified Local Sustainable (Local Food Plus) — This program was launched in 2006 and certifies farmers based on six categories: on-farm energy use, sustainable production, native habitat preservation, labour practices and animal welfare. Standards include minimum space allowances that significantly exceed industry standards, outdoor access and allowing at least five months between birth and weaning for beef calves.
Certified Humane — Operated by U.S. organization Humane Farm Animal Care, this program's standards apply from birth to slaughter and are enforced through annual inspections. The standards for beef cattle include no added hormones or steroids, feeding cattle without animal by-products and ensuring access to clean, fresh drinking water, among others. Slaughterhouses are designed by animal-behaviour expert Temple Grandin, who specializes in calm, low-stress environments.
Animal Welfare Approved — This U.S. certification program that was founded in 2006. Standards ensure that every certified farm provides animals with continuous access to pasture or range, as well as the opportunity to perform natural and instinctive behaviours. Every farm is audited at least once a year to ensure compliance.