Third-party auditing is a key requirement of the Responsible Minimum Standards. The most effective way to ensure meat, milk and egg producers are successfully implementing a meaningful animal welfare program is to require regular and independent audits of the operation from a third-party inspector.
There are several good animal welfare certification programs, each with comprehensive standards and global reach. These programs can assure that animals are not being confined in cages or gestation crates, and that farms are meeting additional requirements covering facilities, equipment and practices related to rearing, feeding, veterinary care, transport and slaughter. These standards reflect the agreed best practices for a country or region. Many certification programs include an element of continuous improvement and are updated regularly to reflect advances in science, housing, nutrition and management.
While there are many farm certification programs available, only a few cover animal welfare well. The FARMS Initiative can offer guidance on which programs meet the Responsible Minimum Standards, and where gaps exist. Currently, the FARMS Initiative can—for no fee—provide guidance on particular certification standards on a case-by-case basis.
In some instances, a private company will create and implement its own internal audit system. The FARMS Initiative recognizes that companies that publicize their standards and the results of their auditing demonstrate a higher level of transparency than companies that have no audit program and do not make animal welfare part of their non-financial reporting. That said, the FARMS Initiative strongly recommends financial institutions require independent audits to a strong standard, ensuring an objective assessment, and, ultimately, better animal welfare.