American Humane Association, the first national humane organization and the world's largest farm-animal welfare certification program, has selected Gus Arrendale of Springer Mountain Farms as the recipient of the prestigious National Humanitarian Medal. The National Humanitarian Medal is awarded to visionary leaders whose actions reflect the essential values of compassion, caring and hope.

Arrendale has been with the American Humane Association program since its inception as a visionary leader in the humane movement, bringing the progressive farm animal welfare program to his family's operations. In 2001, Arrendale led Georgia-based Springer Mountain Farms to become the first poultry producer to bear the American Humane Certified seal of approval. Since then, he has been active in educating his fellow producers - as well as retailers and consumers - about the benefits of third-party animal welfare audits and humane certification.

"I am honored to receive the National Humanitarian Medal from American Humane Association, an organization I deeply respect and have enjoyed working with, helping to educate my colleagues about why the American Humane Certified program is so vital," said Arrendale. "My family is passionate about the humane treatment of our chickens, and at Springer Mountain Farms we produce all-natural chicken raised on a vegetarian diet without the use of antibiotics, steroids, growth stimulants or hormones."

Arrendale currently serves as president of Springer Mountain Farms, overseeing the day-to-day operations and decisions, but has spent most of his lifetime with the company, representing the third generation of a family dedicated to poultry farming. Even before entering elementary school, he was caring for baby Easter chicks at home, and then taking them to his grandmother's farm to live. Throughout his teenage years, he worked in a number of positions at his family's business, from delivering baby chicks, to working in the processing facility, to delivering the finished products to the supermarkets.

This work ethic allowed him the opportunity to learn the operations of his family's business from the ground up. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from the University of Georgia, Arrendale returned to the company and helped to develop it into the operation it is today.

Arrendale is also committed to agricultural issues in his state and around the country. Nationally, he serves on the National Chicken Council's Marketing Committee and is a member of the National Poultry & Food Distributors Association. On the state level, he has served on the Agricultural Technology Research Program's Poultry Advisory Committee at Georgia Tech, was a past president of the Georgia Poultry Processors Association and is also a lifetime member of the Georgia Poultry Federation.

But Arrendale is equally active and dedicated to his community through his commitment to higher education. He continues to serve as chairman of the board of trustees at Piedmont College, in Demorest, Ga., as he has for the past 10 years. In 2007, he received Habersham County Rotary Club's Vocational Excellence Award, and in 2010 he was presented with the Distinguished Citizen Award by the Boy Scouts of America.

"The agriculture industry is the No.1 economic engine in Georgia, and businesses like Springer Mountain Farms represent the best of what our state's industry has to offer," said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. "Gus is a leader in environmental stewardship and a truly deserving recipient of this prestigious award."

"Gus has been a special partner for American Humane Association over the years, and we are honored to bestow upon him the prestigious National Humanitarian Medal at the 2013 Hero Dog Awards," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association president and CEO. "He is truly a humane visionary in the animal welfare community, deeply committed to the welfare of all farm animals. Through his leadership by example, he has been instrumental in helping the nation's oldest and largest farm animal welfare program grow at this unprecedented rate."

The award will be presented at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards ceremony, which will be broadcast nationwide on the Hallmark Channel on October 30.