25 years of RSPCA Approved Farming
The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is celebrating 25 years of higher welfare farming, with more than 3 billion farm animals benefitting from the scheme’s strict standards. The scheme was established in 1996 in response to an absence of sufficient legal requirements for Australia’s most intensively farmed animals. It’s designed to improve welfare standards on farms and continues to play a key role in the RSPCA’s efforts to drive improvements for animal welfare. During this time, the scheme has allowed millions of Australia’s most intensively farmed animals – egg-laying hens, pigs, meat chickens, turkeys and farmed salmon – to live in higher welfare farming conditions.
Making an impact
In 2020, more than 585 million animals were raised under the scheme and in accordance with its detailed animal welfare standards. Most of these animals were meat chickens, with 87 percent of Australia’s meat chicken production now meeting RSPCA Standards.
“We have comprehensive standards focused on improving animal welfare, as well as a tough and stringent certification process,” says RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell.
Developed by RSPCA Australia’s science team, the RSPCA Standards are informed by animal welfare science, RSPCA policy and leading farming practices in Australia and overseas.
“The RSPCA Standards go above and beyond what’s legally required in Australia,” Mussell says. “We work with large-scale producers to raise the bar for animal welfare in a way that’s sustainable long term. We want to set participating farms on a path of continuous improvement in animal welfare while maintaining commercial viability. Because ultimately, this improves the lives of hundreds of millions of animals each and every year.”
In 2020 alone, the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme certified:
• 579 million meat chickens
• 5.5 million farmed Atlantic salmon
• 200,784 turkeys
• 88,705 pigs
• 86,771 layer hens
• 525 farms
RSPCA Approved farmers setting the standard
Farms participating in the scheme must meet the RSPCA’s animal welfare standards. They’re also subject to a demanding, ongoing certification process. A key part of this is regular visits from RSPCA assessors, two to four times every year.
“Participating farms are part of the scheme because animal welfare is important to them,” Mussell says. “They also want Australians to see the RSPCA Approved certification on their products when they’re grocery shopping or dining out, and know that the only way to get this certification is to be rigorously assessed by the RSPCA.”
Second generation farmers John and Ange Rohde were early adopters of the RSPCA Standard and have participated in the scheme for more than 15 years. As demand has grown for eggs that are farmed in a way that gives hens a good life, so too has the Rohde family farm. More than 70,000 hens roam their free-range farm in South Australia’s Clare Valley. Hen welfare is core to their business, with the RSPCA Approved certification providing the third-party guarantee their customers are looking for.
“Our mission is to produce tasty and ethically farmed eggs from the happiest chickens,” say John and Ange. “Being an RSPCA Approved farm for over 15 years highlights the importance we place on animal welfare. It also ensures our standards are the best in the industry.”
Freedom Farms is part of Cordina Farms, Australia’s oldest poultry processor. Cordina was the first to develop a fresh chicken market in Australia. They were also the first to introduce cage-free open barns for chickens. Cordina was an early adopter of the RSPCA Standard for meat chickens. The processor now offers a range of higher welfare RSPCA Approved chicken products through its Freedom Farms brand. This has ensured that millions of birds have been farmed in an environment that meets their health and behavioural needs.
“When we launched Freedom Farms in 2011, the concept behind the brand was to create affordable, higher welfare chicken that stands for honesty in farming by communicating the real facts on how our chickens are grown,” says Jeremy Clegg, Cordina’s Chief Operating Officer. “We decided to work with the RSPCA to ensure there are real, tangible welfare benefits for our Freedom Farm chickens; not just fluffy marketing spin.”
From the moment the RSPCA Standard for farmed Atlantic salmon was released, Huon Aquaculture worked to become Australia’s first RSPCA Approved salmon producer. To this day, they are the only producer meeting the RSPCA Standard for farmed Atlantic salmon.
Peter and Frances Bender started farming fish in the 1980s. Today they farm 5.5 million salmon annually to the RSPCA Standard. As salmon consumption has increased, so has consumers’ desire to know more about how the salmon they eat is produced.
“Huon Aquaculture works with the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme because it has an unparalleled focus on fish welfare, just like we do,” says Frances, Huon Aquaculture co-founder. “When purchasing and eating Huon Salmon, people can be assured that the fish have been farmed in a way that meets their behavioural and health needs.”
The role of the consumer
By choosing RSPCA Approved in the supermarket and when dining out, you’re supporting farming that prioritises animal welfare and is leading to a future of higher welfare farming.
“Australians should know that when they choose products with RSPCA Approved certification, it’s leading to an increased uptake of higher welfare farming practices along the supply chain,” Mussell says. “And that’s a good thing. Because making sure all animals – including those farmed for food – have a good quality of life is paramount.”
To find RSPCA Approved products available at supermarkets, butchers and restaurant chains, head to rspcaapproved.org.au. You can also look for the RSPCA Approved logo. This means you can be confident the product has come from a farm with good animal welfare. To find out more about participating farmers and RSPCA standards, check out this video library, and to learn more about the impact the scheme has had, click here.