A new certification and labeling program proven to build trust with consumers is here for 2020.

As part of WATT Global Media’s 2020 Chicken Marketing Summit webinar series, Dr. Don Ritter shared his vision and early results with the One Health Certified certification program. The certification is an independently verified welfare scheme based on five key animal production values that’s shown to reduce consumer worries and effect purchasing decisions. He spoke on May 20, 2020, in the second in a series of seven webinars proudly sponsored by Zoetis. The webinar is available to view on demand for free and free registration for future webinars is open now.  

One Health Certified at-a-glance

Ritter, the director of technical marketing at Mountaire Farms, said the certification program is a holistic, transparent and comprehensive animal raising program based on responsible practices. It could be a solution to labeling issues in the industry.

Primarily, shoppers are concerned with taste, value and food safety. However, a growing and younger segment of consumers wants to feel confident their animal protein is raised humanely and sustainably.

One Health Certified is built around five key values: disease prevention, veterinary care, responsible antibiotic use, animal welfare and environmental impact. It aims to focus on the positives, rather than what the food is free from. The so-called absence label claims promote their product at the expense of another and spreads further misinformation about how animals are raised and food is processed.

The certification is administered by the National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education. It is a scheme focused on outcomes and continuous improvement that’s audited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and includes the use of the USDA’s Process Verified Program shield on the package.

An effective label

For the shopper in the store making a quick decision on which meat to buy, the label is critically important. Ritter said consumer research shows the consumer does not respond to other forms of communication or education and the actual label itself is paramount.

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The One Health Certified label places what consumers care about front and center. It demonstrates the animal is raised in a biosecure environment, under veterinary care with antibiotic use restrictions and animal welfare as well as environmental impact considerations.

According to consumer research, shoppers want a labeling scheme to cross all commodity groups, share a uniform logo, use a multi-point standard and be government audited. At the end of 2018, a survey of 1,003 American shoppers age 18 to 80 showed their concerns about how meat is raised and processed were significantly reduced when the One Health Certified label was used on a package of meat. It also showed 83% of consumers would choose to buy One Health Certified labeled products when shown a program description.  

The same study showed the concerns were even lower than when a product included a no antibiotics ever (NAE) label. In an era when antibiotic use reduction is spreading throughout animal agriculture, the program is centered on responsible use rather than total elimination. This way, Ritter said, it does not create two classes of products and avoids the unintended consequences that come with NAE practices.

Expanding the program

While the program is years in the making, the first retail labels for the One Health Certified program were deployed at the end of February 2020. Currently, the program is open to chicken and turkey producers. In the future, additional animal proteins – pork, egg, dairy and beef – will become available for certification.

Mountaire Farms is the first chicken producer to meet the standards of the One Health Certified program. The USDA verified that the practices of Mountaire Farms met the programs standards in November 2019. One Health Certified products will appear at several national and regional retailers that get their meat from Mountaire.

He said other companies are building their programs to become certified, but the process takes at least six months for total verification. The current COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. may have delayed the rollout, but by the end of the year more companies will start using the label.