Foster Farms has become the first major broiler producer in the nation to carry the American Humane Certified seal, ensuring consumers that its farms meet the nonprofit's stringent animal welfare guidelines for raising poultry.

"It's the right thing to do for our birds, and we know that it is important to our consumers," said Ron Foster, CEO of Foster Farms, in a written statement.

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The certification requires livestock producers to submit to annual audits by third-party inspectors -- in this case Validus -- and follow specific handling requirements. The rules are science-based to meet the American Humane Association's five tenets for raising food animals: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behavior; and freedom from fear and distress.

Foster Farms, the nation's eighth-largest broiler chicken producer, has 140 farms; 100 in California and 40 in the Pacific Northwest. Those farms will receive surprise reviews throughout the year. The auditors will be checking 200 criteria covering living conditions, diet and natural behaviors.