Promoting and facilitating continuous improvement in animal agriculture is one of our core missions and why we developed our initiative—the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards.

The very structure of the 5-Step program encourages higher welfare practices and systems to the benefit of farmers, consumers, retailers, and the animals.

Each set of tiered standards—from Step 1 to Step 5+—has its own requirements that must be met before certification to that particular Step level is assigned, if appropriate. Producers have the freedom to aim for any Step level they choose. Each Step rating has its own distinct label that identifies the particular Step level achieved.

In essence, Step 1 prohibits cages and crates. Step 2 requires environmental enrichment for indoor production systems; Step 3, outdoor access; Step 4, pasture-based production; Step 5, an animal-centered approach with all physical alterations prohibited; and, finally, Step 5+, that the entire life of the animal be spent on an integrated farm.

As of May 1, 2014, the 5-Step program includes 2,406 farms and ranches that range from Step 1 to Step 5+ and raise more than 147 million animals annually:

The 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards program:

  • encourages and inspires farmers and ranchers to move up the welfare ladder, if they so choose
  • engages a broad spectrum of producers, rather than a minority segment of the agricultural community
  • allows for a wider selection of products from farms and ranches for greater consumer options
  • more accurately recognizes producers for their welfare practices
  • better informs consumers about the production systems they may choose to support

As the standard-setter, Global Animal Partnership does not conduct audits or make Step-rating certification decisions. Authorized, third-party certification companies perform the audits and issue Step certificates, as appropriate. By requiring independent certification, we can be confident that Step ratings are fair, accurate, and free of any conflict of interest.

Learn more about our process, get answers to frequently asked questions, download our standards, and meet 5-Step farmers.