Humane Farm Animal Care on Thursday announced changes to its Certified Humane label to define "Free Range" and "Pasture Raised" terms and standards.
The group, which runs the Certified Humane Raised and Handled program, certifies animal handling for more than 100 companies and producers.
HFAC implemented a 28-member team to review existing standards under the Certified Humane label and return recommendations for the new standards. That process included review of animal research and visits to farms to review various outdoor systems, the group said.
Under the new standards, the laying hen section titled "free range" has been divided into two sections – "free range" and "pasture raised." The revised standards also add a third category for birds which are outdoors seasonally.
This change in standards means that Certified Humane producers wishing to use the terms "Pasture Raised" or "Free Range" on packages must now meet the requirements of the newly defined categories.
For "Free Range," those requirements include at least 2 sq. ft. per bird. Hens must be outdoors, weather permitting – seasonally in some areas of the country – and when they are outdoors they must be outdoors for at least six hours per day.
The "Pasture Raised" requirement is 1000 birds per 2.5 acres, or108 sq. ft. per bird, and the fields must be rotated. The hens must be outdoors year-round, with mobile or fixed housing where the hens can go inside at night, or for up to two weeks out of the year, due only to very inclement weather
Additional requirements apply for both "Free Range" and "Pasture Raised." Currently, there are three "Pasture Raised" egg farms in the program and one "Free Range" farm.
In addition to the revised best science-based standards that encompass both "Free Range" and "Pasture Raised" hens, HFAC's current Animal Care Standards for Laying Hens include standards for the rearing of laying hens in barns either with or without outdoor access. Cages of any type have always been prohibited.
The minimum space requirements for barn-raised chickens include air with less than 10 parts per million of ammonia, 15% of the floor space must have litter for the hens to dust-bathe, perches must be provided at 6" per bird and at least 20% of those perches must be elevated.
There are requirements for feeder space and drinker space, as well. All animal byproducts are prohibited, as are antibiotics.