What is humane farming?

FACT believes there is a better, more humane way to raise farm animals. At minimum, farm animals deserve adequate space, access to the outdoors, clean water and air, the opportunity to express their natural behaviors, and healthful feed. Furthermore, FACT believes that living conditions should allow food animals to live and feed without aggression from other animals, including predators and members of their species.


"Humane farming" may seem like a vague or loosely defined term, but FACT maintains a set of strict beliefs and standards on how we define humane farming. Animals should receive antibiotics only for treatment of disease or illness, as prescribed by a veterinarian. Antibiotics, hormones, or other substances should not be used to promote faster animal growth. All animals should be fed a natural diet free of animal by-products and should have continuous access to clean and well-ventilated housing or shelter that protects them from weather extremes.  Each species has its own particular needs when it comes to high standards of animal welfare:

 

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Beef cattle

Beef cattle should not be confined on feedlots or other types of confinement feeding operations, instead being given access to open pasture. Beef cattle should be fed a natural diet consisting of grasses and pasture-based forage for life, with the exception of milk consumed by calves prior to weaning. Calves should be reared with their mothers, as well as other cows and calves and should not be isolated. Weaning should be determined by the health condition of the cow and her calf, with preference given to longer weaning times. All animals should be provided continuous outdoor access to properly managed pastures and not undergo tail docking, dehorning, and branding. Beef cattle should receive antibiotics only for treatment of disease or illness, as prescribed by a veterinarian.

 

Dairy cows

Dairy cows should be provided continuous outdoor access to properly managed pastures, and the majority of their diet should be comprised of naturally growing roughage and forage to ensure proper functioning of their rumen (the first of a cow’s four digestive compartments). Lactating cows should be milked no more than two times per day, as excessive milking leads to stress and disease--as well as decreased milk levels for their own calves if they are impregnated. Learn more about FACT's humane principles on dairy production. Dairy cows should receive antibiotics only for treatment of disease or illness, as prescribed by a veterinarian. Please also review different dairy brands that incorporate humane treatment of their dairy cows.

 

broiler chickens (raised for meat)

Broiler chickens should not be confined indoors and adult birds should also be given the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time on pasture. When they are on pasture, the birds should have access to housing that provides protection from climatic conditions and predators. Chickens raised for meat should live in conditions that allow the birds to have freedom of movement and the ability to engage in most natural behaviors, such as eating, preening, running, jumping, scratching, foraging and ground pecking, wing flapping, dust-bathing, encounters with other birds, and vocalizing. Broiler chickens should receive antibiotics only for treatment of disease or illness, as prescribed by a veterinarian.

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Laying hens (raised for egg production)

Laying hens should not be raised in cages or confined spaces, but rather in conditions that allow the birds to have freedom of movement and the ability to engage in natural behaviors--such as spreading their wings, pecking, dust bathing, perching, and nesting. All laying hens should have access to nest boxes and sleeping perches. Hens should be given daily access to the outdoors with preference given to entirely free-range systems. The birds should not be subjected to forced molting and should be raised in conditions that do not necessitate debeaking or beak trimming. Hens should receive antibiotics only for treatment of disease or illness, as prescribed by a veterinarian.

 
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Pigs

Swine should not be confined in gestation or farrowing crates, but rather raised in conditions that allow them to have freedom of movement and the ability to engage in natural behaviors--such as wallowing in mud, rooting, foraging, and nesting. Swine should also be allowed to express their desire for social interaction. For example, pregnant sows should be kept in groups to allow for socialization and piglets should be kept with their farrowing mates. Pigs should not undergo tail docking or other forms of physical mutilation, such as nose rings and tusk removal. Pigs should receive antibiotics only for treatment of disease or illness, as prescribed by a veterinarian.

 
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turkeys

Turkeys should have access to clean, well-ventilated housing that is comfortable and provides protection from climatic conditions and predators. The birds should be raised in conditions that allow for natural light and dark cycles. Turkeys must be allowed to molt naturally and should not undergo debeaking or other forms of physical mutilation such as castration, wattle trimming, desnooding, or detoeing. Turkeys should have access to raised perching areas, nest boxes, dust baths, and continuous access to clean water. Prompt removal of mortalities and regular cleaning of living spaces are essential. Turkeys should receive antibiotics only for treatment of disease or illness, as prescribed by a veterinarian.