Farm: Ward Family Farm
Location: Monroe, New Hampshire
- Home farm with ≈ 40,000 hens
- Processes over 3,000,000 eggs per day
- Partners with 130 family farms in the U.S.
Certification: Certified Humane®, a project of Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC)
In the 1980s, the Ward Family Farm was struggling, unable to keep up with industrial-scale egg producers. So when the third generation of Wards inherited 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 in the nation. They credit this shift for significantly benefiting their business.
Fast forward to 2019: Carol and Gerry’s son Jesse is the CEO, and the Ward Family Farm—now the home farm of Pete and Gerry’s—has six barns housing approximately 40,000 hens, along with one of the company’s two processing facilities, which processes just over 100,000 eggs per day. Additionally, Pete and Gerry’s partners with 130 small family farms throughout the United States that raise Pete and Gerry’s hens. In accordance with Certified Humane® Free Range standards, these hens have access to grass pastures (weather permitting), lay their eggs in traditional nests and have dust areas to perform natural behaviors. Pete and Gerry’s products are available in fine food retailers across the nation, as well as in some restaurants and colleges.
To credibly distinguish themselves in a marketplace saturated with unverified claims, Jesse and his family sought a program that certified compliance with strict “free range” requirements. In 2003, they chose Certified Humane® because they viewed it as trustworthy, and Jesse believed its robust standards could help Pete and Gerry’s expand in its 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 can use to remove themselves from the larger flock. Jesse reports that with every rigorous audit, the company has to make a few small, reasonable changes, such as adding additional shade structures to pasture.
Beyond the standard application fee of $75, Pete and 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” and invaluable to consumers who are searching for trustworthy companies.
HFAC Certification Outcomes
Benefit to Animals. According to Jesse, the overall percentage of mortality over the life of a free range 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 growing increasingly aware of unverified claims made by producers, the Certified Humane® label helps differentiate Pete and Gerry’s by providing important third-party credibility. Pete and Gerry’s uses the Certified Humane® logo on its website and all of its brand materials and packaging.
Technical Advice. Because Certified Humane® provides technical advice and subsidizes program costs for small producers, Jesse believes it is accessible to producers of all scales. Certified Humane® has also encouraged Pete and Gerry’s producers to share ideas about how to comply with standards and improve hen welfare through improvements like new roost and nest designs.
Why Certify with HFAC?
Jesse has this advice for farmers considering HFAC certification: 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®.”