The launch of the One Health Certified program is an amazing step forward to help consumers make an informed choice in support of responsible animal care principles. Consumers today are bombarded with numerous labels, or claims, related to animal production practices which is fantastic for an array of choices. However, many of these niche market programs have trade-offs and unintended consequences for the animal and the environment. This program appears to take a wholistic approach within the ‘One Health’ global context of humans, animals and the planet.
The press release announcing the launch noted, “One Health Certified, a comprehensive animal care program, establishes verified animal production practices in five core areas: disease prevention, veterinary care, responsible antibiotic use, animal welfare, and environmental impacts.”
In providing a producer perspective the press release said, “It was important to us that we participate in a holistic and ethical program that strives for optimal health outcomes for animals, consumers, and the planet,” said Dr. Don Ritter, director of technical marketing at Mountaire Farms. “One Health Certified successfully avoids the trade-offs and unintended consequences of more narrowly focused programs, which may at times put animal health and welfare at unnecessary risk.”
Sincere compliments to the program administrator, the National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research & Education (NIAMRRE), and to those involved in its conceptualization and to those bringing it to life. Finally, a program that should provide the opportunity for more fully informed consumer choice that provides for the best animal care and the most sustainable animal production practices.
Existing programs such as “no antibiotics ever” or “no GMOs”, each have their champions and market niches. However, each of these programs have trade-offs related to animal care, animal productivity and carbon footprint. The best animal care practices should allow for farmers and veterinarians to make appropriate decisions on the use of antibiotics, not a “never ever” approach, as the later approach leads to potential increased morbidity and mortality when animals are exposed to bacterial diseases for which an antibiotic is needed for proper animal care. The most environmentally friendly and most sustainable programs should provide a means to use the best technologies that increase production efficiency. The use of GMO (genetically modified organisms) technology has demonstrated such use practices increase production and production efficiency.
The new program leverages the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Process Verified Program that provides for objective criteria and third-party verification for program compliance. The program has species-specific requirements for each animal protein under one universal program.
Obviously, the program details will be important as all the species-specific criteria are fully developed. Objective science-based criteria with a wholistic approach will be important for the benefit of animal health, planet health and human health. Transparency and accountability will be key going forward. The concept is excellent and one for which the food chain from farmers through the retail and quick service sectors should all align to maximize consumer understanding and eliminate existing marketplace confusion. Today’s array of labels around various farm production practices pretty much assures confusion amongst consumers and a more unified approach should minimize this over time with proper education.
Taking a global view, One Health Certified would appear to be a program that could provide a unified platform for global use. The ‘One Health’ approach that considers humans, animals and the planet is definitely a wholistic approach. Companies with global brands could have consistency around their global supply chains. Consistency through the global food supply chain should increase the efficiencies of the global food supply chains which will benefit all consumers.
A worldwide ‘One Health’ program has tremendous potential – now let’s see if the total food chain, from the farm to the consumer, can align for worldwide adoption and consistency. This is an excellent step down a path for a global opportunity to responsibly meet a true marketplace need via a program that reflects responsible animal care for responsible consumer choice.