Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


2014 VeriCare Live


Assessment approaches rising to address 'trust me' issue

This section last updated: March 2, 2014

Delivering a platform for effective and credible verification of responsible practices

Courtesy Alberta Milk

The expectations and pressure to not only "show" but "prove" livestock welfare standards is going in one direction – up, up, up.

This is fueling a rising trend toward assessment approaches designed to accomplish everything from measuring and benchmarking to verifying that specific approaches are followed.

In Canada, this is also a need that flows directly from the effort to develop new Codes of Practice for the care handling of farm animals. The Codes are designed to provide a national understanding of farm animal care requirements and recommended practices for the various livestock species. But in an emerging era of farm animal care where the expectation is that "trust me" doesn't cut it anymore, the natural question anticipated is "How do we know the Codes are followed?

It's a simple question. It's also one that Canada will need to answer in order to provide the level of animal care assurance Canadians and the world are increasingly asking for.

The broadest and arguably most influential approach to emerge is an effort led by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) to support industry through the development of an Animal Care Assessment Framework process. Alberta Farm Animal Care is a provincial stakeholder in NFACC.

A major milestone was reached in 2013 with the launch of the Animal Care Assessment Framework. The dairy industry has test- piloted the framework and the stage is set for other industry sectors to begin putting it to work in 2014.

Providing proof of good practices

The framework is essentially a platform tool that industry groups can use as a foundation from which to build their own species-specific assessment programs to demonstrate that the Codes are being followed.

It offers a common approach to program development that, like the Codes themselves, allows Canadian livestock production to have a strong level of consistency across the country.

Clear message to consumers

According to NFACC, the Assessment Framework benefits commodity groups by providing an informed framework and useful resources that lessen the burden of needing to develop assessment approaches on their own. It is designed to ensure the assessment programs developed not only provide assurance that animals are well cared for according to the standards reflected in the Codes but also benefits the farmers and their industries as a valuable management tool.

In the bigger picture, one of the greatest advantages of the Animal Care Assessment Framework is the power it carries to communicate a clear and consistent message about how Canada addresses farm animal welfare. This includes facilitating consistent communications along the value chain and between commodity groups, as well as effective communications to customers, the broader consumer marketplace and society in general, both domestically and internationally.

Details on the Animal Care Assessment Framework, including development process and timeline, are available at www.nfacc.ca/animal-care-assessment.

The Latest – Thinking. Ideas. Developments.

Codes of Practice: Windows on an evolving world

This section last updated: March 2, 2014

Note: This section is regularly updated with new stories. Check back regularly for the most recent version of this VeriCare Live report.

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Global GAP: Livestock welfare in the spotlight

What people are saying

Perspectives on progress

This section last updated: March 4, 2014

"We have heard 'trust me doesn't cut it anymore' in today's environment and it's important to have a credible way to not only say what we're doing but prove it. The Animal Care Assessment Framework is designed to provide that assurance through a nationally-coordinated common approach."
– Caroline Ramsay, Assessment Coordinator for the National Farm Animal Care Council

"Codes serve as an insurance policy for making sure all farm animal care stakeholders know the expectations. Assessment programs are a way to demonstrate the Codes are being followed."
– Mike Slomp, Industry and Member Services Manager of Alberta Milk

"It's a new era and these approaches are becoming more commonplace. The farm or industry intends to provide good welfare and has third-party assessments or audits to ensure the programs are working or to prove to others in the supply chain, and ultimately to consumers, that their animals have good welfare."
– Dr. James Reynolds of Western University in Ponoma, California

"Say what you do. Do what you say. That's the key. Codes have a role but we need more than voluntary programs. With the increasing pressure, it is no longer sufficient to say appropriate animal care practices are in place – now we must prove it."
– Trevor Prout, Producer Programs Manager of Alberta Chicken Producers

"We needed a way to demonstrate on-farm practices and we wanted producers to be part of the process. There was concern that if industry didn't take the lead, others would. So that's what we did."
– Catherine Scovil, Associate Executive Director of the Canadian Pork Council

"We can better manage what we can measure and this program will be a tool to do that. It provides a basis for benchmarking to support management decisions both at an industry level and an individual producer level. This promotes continual improvement."
– Ron Maynard, dairy producer and Vice President, Dairy Farmers of Canada


Contact Meristem for more information on the initiative and partnering opportunities.