Updated: Sep 7, 2022
September is National Poultry Month. While we didn’t know this (marketing) holiday existed until recently, we’re psyched about the timing because it turns out we have some big cluckin’ news to share about our dedication to animal welfare:
In fact, we have been sourcing our Mary's chicken and Mary's turkey from Pitman Family Farms—a G.A.P. certified vendor—for the past seven years. So why make it official now? In taking these steps, we’re not actually doing anything differently, we’re just doing it louder.
You may be asking yourself, “What is G.A.P.?”
Despite being evocative buzzwords today, the terms “humane” and “humanely raised” have no legal definition. Individual brands and producers can set their own parameters for what this means, operating with no oversight; in other words, a company can use the word “humane” on a label so long as they list what they believe qualifies them as humane. This creates a void between what brands subjectively claim and what consumers need to know in order to make informed decisions.
Global Animal Partnership (G.A.P.), a non-profit organization, provides a solution by offering a comprehensive framework, developed to allow for continuous improvement in farmed animal welfare. You may already recognize the logo, especially if you’ve shopped at Whole Foods. Since 2008, the program’s evolving species-specific standards reflect the latest research in agricultural science, combined with achievable, practical application for improved welfare, for the entire life of the animal. Accredited third-party certifiers audit every single farm every 15 months to ensure compliance with G.A.P. standards. Their work currently impacts over 400 million farm animals across 4,000 farms.
How about the Better Chicken Commitment?
The Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) is an initiative that was the result of collaboration between 10 different animal welfare organizations. It has five major components:
Moving over to higher welfare breeds
Providing environmental enrichment
Minimum space requirements
Atmospheric stunning slaughter methods
There are two versions of the commitment. We’ve signed on to the more stringent Version One, which requires that G.A.P. be the auditing body. Again, we had already been meeting the standards of the commitment before making it official as our supplier, Mary’s Chicken, was already on board. Both versions of the commitment require certain benchmarks to be met by 2024, and the move to higher welfare breeds to be completed by 2026. More than 200 companies, and we’re talking large multinational corporations, have signed on.
From our perspective, the BCC is raising the ground, not reaching the sky, of where we should, as a society, be treating farmed poultry. These are not new practices for our vendors, and we have been well aware of the need for higher welfare breeds for some time (trust us, the level to which we nerd out about this stuff knows no bounds). That said, higher welfare companies only make up a vanishingly small percentage of meat raised in this country. By signing onto this commitment, we join a larger movement that we hope will expand this percentage by holding the bigger companies to account.
Why Chicken and Turkey?
Of all farmed animals, conventionally raised poultry and pigs live under the most miserable conditions. We don’t make a pork recipe, and probably never will, based on our own personal convictions. Back to poultry. The average broiler chicken is slaughtered at 45 days; turkey, between 60 and 80 days. In our industrialized farming system, they are not treated as the sentient beings they are. In committing to Step 3 chicken, we are ensuring that at the minimum the birds that are used in Evermore have natural daylight, room to roam, environmental enrichments and outdoor access. At Step 2, our turkey has an enriched environment and plenty of space.
Why Didn’t We Do This Earlier?
As we already mentioned, we didn’t need to change any of our practices to qualify. We actually came to the G.A.P. certification process organically, after spending a lot of time speaking with people at various animal welfare nonprofits, asking many questions about how to ensure that we are sourcing the best we possibly can.
In truth, we were initially hesitant to take the leap for a few reasons. First of all, we believe that welfare certifications can be an important factor in assessing a meat or food, but they are not the only factor. We carefully vet ALL of our vendors, and we would never call a meat vendor partner unless we felt confident about their commitment to animal welfare and environmental stewardship. In fact, both our beef and lamb vendors sell G.A.P.-rated meat as well, but they do not certify all of their acreage, even though they use the same practices.
Also, we are a very small company operating in a Whac-A-Mole manufacturing reality of transit hiccups and vendor shorts. We had to be sure that we could consistently secure G.A.P.-rated poultry in order to make this claim. Building a strong partnership where we could have the assurances that our business was being prioritized has taken years of knowing and growing trust with Mary’s.
We strongly believe that by aligning with G.A.P. and the BCC now, we are becoming part of a larger movement to drive consumer awareness toward better animal welfare practices. G.A.P. certification not only plugs us into their network, but also qualifies us for Shop With Your Heart®, a program by the ASPCA®, an incredible resource for consumers. The G.A.P. symbol on our boxes and website also visually add to our lexicon, serving as shorthand to let you know how much we care about animal welfare.
It’s time for our words to speak as loud as our actions.