“Chicken TV.” That's what the farmer I knew called it when he pulled up a lawn chair in the pasture with his birds at dusk to watch them go about their chicken business. There was nothing more satisfying for him after a long day than to watch “the ladies” peck, scratch, socialize and explore, curious about his presence. This told him that he was doing his job correctly. 

More humane farming is not just gratifying to farmers and better for animals. It also creates safer working conditions and makes economic sense as savvy consumers increasingly reject the premise of cruel factory farming.

A brutal habitat

Today, billions of farm animals live in crowded, inhumane facilities in conditions that no member of the public could stomach – never mind enjoy observing – if they saw them first hand.

In these sealed warehouses, animals are unable to perform any of their natural behaviors and live on top of their own waste, causing lameness, skin sores, infections and extreme psychological distress.

This is no way to live, but it’s also no way to work. Farmers breathe this stinking, burning air, and interact with fearful, frustrated animals who, as a result, can be more prone to aggression.

“...crowded, stressful conditions on farms cultivate diseases that are highly transferable and increasingly resistant to the drugs we’ve always used to treat them...”

Health risks

Poor farm conditions can have serious health implications for farmers, too. In 2014, Johns Hopkins University scientists tested 22 people who worked on confinement pig farms in North Carolina and found that 86 percent carried staph bacteria associated with livestock, and almost 50 percent had strains that were resistant to one or more antibiotics.

Whether it’s MRSA, salmonella, or E. coli, crowded, stressful conditions on farms cultivate diseases that are highly transferable and increasingly resistant to the drugs we’ve always used to treat them, putting farmers at severe risk.

Kindness profits

The financial incentives for more humane farming are growing steadily. Healthier animals mean less suffering and reduced mortality, as well as reduced need for expensive medications. As the public becomes educated about the unethical, unhealthy reality of factory farming, they are seeking alternatives.

A 2016 ASPCA survey showed that 77 percent of consumers are concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food, and 76 percent would purchase verifiably higher welfare products even if it resulted in price increases.

A humane future

This is why meaningful independent welfare certifications like Certified Humane, Global Animal Partnership and Animal Welfare Approved are growing and now collectively audit and certify the welfare of more than 400 million farm animals.

These audits, verifying that animals have the space and enrichment to satisfy their natural behaviors and maintain physical and emotional well-being, should not be confused with unverified and undefined claims like “natural” or “humanely raised.”

Over the next decade we expect to see more and more farms and companies committing to these higher standards because it’s right, it’s what consumers demand, and at the end of the day, it’s a way of raising animals that a farmer can be proud of.