Components of Animal Welfare - Global Animal Partnership

Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Program was developed with the animal’s welfare as the primary focus. But what does farm animal welfare mean?

We define animal welfare as 3 overlapping components that together with good management and genetics, contribute to good farm animal welfare:

  • Health & Productivity – raising animals so that they’re healthy and productive with good quality feed and water, shelter, and free from disease, illness and injury (but treating any animals that get sick).
  • Natural Living – raising animals in environments that allow them to express their natural behaviors effectively – both indoors and outdoors
  • Emotional Well Being – raising animals in environments that provide them the ability to be inquisitive, happy and playful and minimize boredom, frustration, fear, stress and pain, as much as possible.

By defining animal welfare, this helps us to identify and improve farming and ranching systems and practices. We then translate these systems into standards for each species under our GAP 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating program.

The 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating Labels

Once a third-party audit has been conducted and a GAP Step® rating has been assigned, the appropriate GAP label is displayed on certified meat and other products. When you see the GAP label, you can feel confident that the animals have been raised following comprehensive standards focused on their care and welfare.

G.A.P. Animal Welfare Rating Labels: Step 1
G.A.P. Animal Welfare Rating Labels: Step 2
G.A.P. Animal Welfare Rating Labels: Step 3
G.A.P. Animal Welfare Rating Labels: Step 4
G.A.P. Animal Welfare Rating Labels: Step 5
G.A.P. Animal Welfare Rating Labels: Step 5+

The Standards Development Process

GAP has a rigorous process for setting standards that involves lots of input along the way.

Standards Development - 1 - Research


Scientists, farmers and certifiers gather information from experience, peer-reviewed research, geographic variables, and field tests to begin to create a draft of species-specific standards.

Standards Development - 2 - Review


Each set of species-specific animal welfare standards is iteratively reviewed by multiple professionals and may go through the review process multiple times.

Standards Development - 3 - Collaboration


An initial draft is posted for public review, comments and feedback. This step opens dialog and provides us with ideas and perspectives that may have been missed.

Standards Development - 4 - Revision


A revised draft is authored and reviewed to ensure all concerns have been acknowledged. Each set of animal welfare standards may be revised for multiple periods before a final draft ready to test on-farm.

Standards Process: Field Test On-Farm


Once the revised draft is complete, GAP field-tests the new standard with multiple suppliers to gather more data. After this trial run is complete, the standards are either revised based on findings, or submitted to the GAP Board for final approval.

Standards Development - 5 - Approval


Once approved by the GAP Board, standards are published for use in the GAP 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating Program.

5-Step® Animal Welfare Standards

Our multi-step standards are truly unique. Each species-specific standards reflects a thorough, collaborative and transparent process, which blends the best of scientific and practical knowledge currently available. By involving input from farmers, ranchers, scientists, veterinarians, certifiers, industry experts, advocates and food companies, our standards reflect our mission of continuous improvement in animal agriculture, and our commitment to supporting our partners through the process, Step-by-Step.


Broiler Chickens






Laying Hens

Did you know?

GAP is replacing 100% of chicken breeds that result in poor welfare outcomes by 2024 with breeds meeting specified welfare outcomes within its 5-Step® Rating Program. With this change, we can affect the lives of almost 300 million chickens annually.