Farm: Ward Family Farm
Location: Monroe, New Hampshire
- ≈ 40,000 hens
- Processes over 100,000 eggs per day
- Partners with 125 family farms in the eastern U.S.
Certification: Certified Humane®
The Ward Family Farm was struggling in the 1980s, unable to keep up with industrial-scale egg producers. So when the third generation of Wards took ownership of the farm, they took it in a new direction. Carol Ward Laflamme (Gerry's wife) and her cousin Peter (“Pete”) Stanton shifted to cage-free, organic production, eventually becoming the first Certified Humane® egg producer nationally, and this shift has significantly benefited their business.
Fast-forward to 2016, and the Ward Family Farm—now Pete & Gerry’s—has nine barns housing approximately 40,000 hens and processes just over 100,000 eggs per day. Additionally, Pete & Gerry’s partners with 125 small family farms throughout the eastern United States who raise Pete & Gerry’s hens. According to Jesse, Pete and Gerry’s hens have access to the outdoors in good weather, lay their eggs in traditional nests and have dust areas to perform natural behaviors. Ninety-five percent of Pete and Gerry’s product is sold in large retail stores throughout the East Coast. It sells some eggs via regional distributors to colleges and co-operatives, as well.
To credibly distinguish themselves in a marketplace with unverified claims, Jesse and his family sought a program that certified compliance with strict “cage-free” requirements. In 2003, they chose Certified Humane® because they viewed it as trustworthy, found its standards to be robust and believed it could help them enter their target retail markets.
In order to become certified and maintain certification, Jesse explains that the farm has had to make some changes including installing more scratching and dust-bathing areas, increasing the amount of available perching area, and creating elevated perches that timid hens could use to remove themselves from the larger flock. Jesse reports that with every audit (which he notes are rigorous), the company has to make a few small changes. That said, he has found the “Corrective Action Plan” process to be very reasonable.
Beyond the standard application fee of $75, Pete & Gerry’s pays a few hundred dollars annually for its audit fee, as well as the audit fees for its supplier farms. It also pays the certification cost in the form of a royalty on products sold with the Certified Humane® label. Overall, Jesse has found the program fees to be “very reasonable.”
HFAC Certification Outcomes
Benefit to Animals. According to Jesse, the overall percentage of mortality over the life of the flock is lower than average for similar flock sizes. Moreover, their indoor scratching space and outdoor range areas allow the hens to exercise.
Cutting Through Market Confusion. Jesse notes that with consumers increasingly skeptical about unverified claims made by producers, Certified Humane® helps differentiate Pete & Gerry’s by providing important credibility. Pete & Gerry’s uses the Certified Humane® label on its website and all of its brand packaging.
Technical Advice. According to Jesse, Certified Humane® has been a conduit for program producers to share ideas around how to comply with standards and improve welfare, such as roost design and nest design. Because the program provides technical advice and subsidizes program costs for small producers, Jesse believes it is accessible to producers of all scales.
Why Certify with HFAC?
Jesse Laflamme has this advice for farmers considering HFAC certification:
According to Jesse, a welfare-focused approach isn’t “just good for our hens and the planet. It has also been good business.” “Consumers are searching for alternatives to the traditional food system. Integrity in labeling is important now, and will become even more important in the future, and I believe that when it comes to animal welfare, there is no higher and more trusted standard for consumers than Certified Humane®.”