Our 5-Step program encompasses much more than our multi-tiered standards. We’re pleased to share with you the ins and outs of what, why, and how our signature initiative works.
Each set of our standards—from Step 1 to Step 5+—has its own requirements that must be met before certification by authorized, independent third-parties can assign compliance to that particular Step level. (Each Step rating has its own distinct label that identifies the particular Step level achieved.) Producers have the freedom to aim for any Step level and are provided the encouragement and guidance to move up the Stepped welfare ladder, if they choose.
There is a great responsibility in developing standards. The process must be credible, engage all stakeholders, ensure balanced participation, and be rooted in science with on-the-ground practicality.
Our standards development process starts with scientific experts advised by farmers and experienced auditors. Once an initial working draft is created, a species-specific ad hoc council is convened. Invited representatives from the scientific, advocacy, certification, and farming communities discuss, revise, question, and finalize the working draft before it is posted online for public comment. The ad hoc council reconvenes to address concerns and comments received from the public submissions. The final draft standards go before the Global Animal Partnership Board of Directors for adoption.
Current work: We are in the development phase of creating standards for egg-laying hens and, on August 30, 2011, released our new 5-Step program for turkeys.
Review and Revision
Standards must be reviewed and revised on a regular basis to incorporate new scientific findings and to ensure their relevance.
As with the development of new standards, the review and revision process also includes work from ad hoc councils, comments submitted by the public, and adoption by our Board of Directors.
Current work: On October 1, 2012, the 5-Step Animal Welfare Standards for Chickens Raised for Meat – v2.0 was issued. These standards will go into effect on April 1, 2013, replacing all previous versions, including the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards for Broiler Chickens currently in place. Any operations audited on or after April 1, 2013, including those undergoing re-certification on or after April 1, 2013, will be audited to the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards for Chickens Raised for Meat (v 2.0). We are in the process of reviewing and revising our multi-tiered standards for pigs and beef cattle, and will undergo that same process for our turkey standards.
At this time, our 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards cover the on-farm and transport components of animal production, phase 1 of our development process.
Current work: We are presently in phase 2—revising the original standards based on new science and the many key learnings from our pilot.
Future work: Phase 3 will include standards development for other components of farm animal production, such as breeding and slaughter.
AUDITOR TRAINING AND RATIFICATION
Assessing the welfare of farm animals is very different from many other types of audits. Global Animal Partnership’s authorized and skilled trainers teach and mentor auditors who, after successful completion of initial training, including examinations, and a probationary period, can become ratified 5-Step auditors. Learn more about our auditor training.
Current work: We are preparing a new auditor training course, as well as updating continuing education materials for current auditors.
The 5-Step certification cycle spans 15 months. Over time, farms are audited—and the animals they raise observed—in all four seasons.
As the standard-setter, Global Animal Partnership does not conduct audits nor make Step-rating certification decisions. Authorized, third-party certification companies, with trained and ratified auditors, perform the audits, assess compliance with our 5-Step standards, and issue Step certificates, as appropriate.
By working with independent certifiers, farmers, consumers, and retailers alike can be assured that Step ratings are fair, accurate, and free of any conflict of interest.
Current work: Based on all of our learnings from the two-year pilot, we are working collaboratively to streamline application and audit forms.
GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT
Providing guidance and support are critical to advancing our mission of promoting and facilitating continuous improvement in animal agriculture.
Future work: With the revision of each of our three original sets of multi-tiered standards and the creation of each new set of standards, we will develop a comprehensive manual that gives guidance to both the producer and the auditor.