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Global Animal Partnership Certification and What That Means for Your Pet

Pet nutrition has become a hot topic in the pet owner community. People are caring more and more about what they put into their faithful companions’ bellies, which means more pet food brands are working to find ways to meet new expectations for their food.

One issue that many animal-welfare conscious pet owners face is finding a cat or dog food that sources their ingredients from humane and sustainable producers. There is a plethora of labels that pet food brands will slap onto their food with claims of being organic and humanely sourced, but how are we supposed to know if they hold any real meaning?

The Global Animal Partnership (GAP) is working to provide pet owners with a solution to just that. Diane McDade, Business Development Manager at Global Animal Partnership, explains, “There is very little regulation in the pet food industry when it comes to the ingredients used, so Global Animal Partnership offers a way for brands to get a meaningful label that actually requires validation.”


What Does GAP Certification Mean?

GAP is working towards ensuring that meat products are sourced from welfare-friendly farms that promote the humane treatment of their farm and ranch animals. GAP believes that ranch and farm animals such as cows, broiler chickens, turkeys, sheep, pigs, goats, bison and laying hens, all deserve the highest levels of humane treatment, which they define using their three core principles: natural living, health and productivity, and emotional well-being.

The GAP organization works to recognize and certify companies, farms and ranches that meet their animal welfare standards so that consumers can be more thoughtful and knowledgeable when deciding which meat products to purchase.

In order to earn a GAP certification title, there is a thorough application and auditing process that each farm or ranch must go through. Once they have been audited, their GAP certification is broken into six possible ratings. Each step signifies a certain level of humane treatment:

Step 1: No cages, no crates, no crowding
Step 2: Enriched environment
Step 3: Enhanced outdoor space
Step 4: Pasture-centered
Step 5: Animal-centered; no physical alterations
Step 5+: Animal-centered; entire life on the same farm

These steps are also individualized to each specific animal to ensure that they maximize their quality of life. So when you see a “GAP-Certified” label at the supermarket, it will also have a step designation to let you know what level of humane treatment the source of that meat adhered to.

It’s important to note that there is no lifetime guarantee for GAP certification. The farms that have been certified are continually audited to ensure that they are maintaining the humane practices that GAP stipulates. Diane McDade elaborates, “Each GAP-certified producer or farm is audited every 15 months. We have chosen 15 months so that we can see the farm in every season to ensure the animals meet GAP standards throughout every season of the year.”

How Does GAP Certification Affect My Pet?

McDade explains, “GAP-Certified foods appeal to the animal welfare-minded consumers that want a label that is actually meaningful and third-party verified.” For a pet food brand to acquire a GAP certification, their meat must meet the same requirements as the meat produced for human consumption.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) program, Shop With Your Heart, aims to identify meaningful welfare certification for consumers and pet owners alike. Among the three programs that meet their requirements for a meaningful certification label is the Global Animal Partnership label from Step 2 and up. This means that the GAP certification must:

1) require farms to meet standards high enough to address animals’ basic physical, emotional and natural needs, and

2) have clear oversight protocols designed to ensure participating farms are meeting those standards.