As animal welfare issues gain prominence in the consumer and agriculture communities, Dairy Farmers of America, Inc.’s (DFA) board of directors and management are taking a series of proactive steps to emphasize its commitment to proper treatment of animals.

“Animal welfare is a critical issue for our members and is vitally important to producing high-quality milk,” said David Darr, vice president of sustainability and public affairs. “We have a responsibility to clearly articulate our expectations regarding animal well-being and, equally important, to help educate consumers about those standards.”

A key initiative is the second round of DFA’s Gold Standard Dairy quality assurance program. DFA introduced the program in 2007 to proactively address the concerns of consumers, retailers and processors who are interested in how food is produced. The on-farm review includes animal well-being, environmental stewardship, employee training, and milk safety and quality. More than 90 percent of DFA member farms have participated in the Gold Standard process.

When the second round of the Gold Standard Dairy process begins in 2010, the program will incorporate measurement criteria from the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program, a nationwide, verifiable animal well-being program that demonstrates U.S. milk producers are committed to producing high-quality milk in a high-quality environment.

Further demonstrating its commitment to animal welfare, at its March meeting, the board approved a resolution affirming that the public image of dairy, including animal housing and care, is of utmost importance to DFA and its dairy farmer members. The resolution states that DFA will continue to emphasize an expectation of proper and caring treatment of animals through individual dairy farm quality programs, the Gold Standard Dairy program, and participation with other dairy industry organizations to establish animal well-being standards for the U.S. dairy industry.

In addition, the Board welcomed special guest Charlie Arnot to its March meeting to discuss the growing consumer interest in animal welfare issues, and how consumer perceptions influence demand and consumption. Arnot is chief executive officer of the Center for Food Integrity and president of CMA, a consulting company that works with companies across the food chain on issues management, communications and public relations.

Source: Dairy Farmers of America, Inc.