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What does it mean to be a “family farm?”

By August 6, 2016April 16th, 2021Archives

The term “family farm” gets tossed around a lot when talking about animal agriculture and is often used for marketing in ways that can be misleading. But what does “family farm” actually mean? In the farm animal world, it’s a term that very few programs actually define – including G.A.P.. Instead, in our 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating Program we use the word “operation,” because the term “farm” and “ranch” differ depending on the species and geographic location.

It’s important to know that “family farm” is not a predictor of size, but nor should it be – and that size is not a predictor of good animal welfare. From our experience, big isn’t always bad, and small isn’t always wonderful. Good animal welfare really comes down to how the animals are managed, their nutrition, and their environment – all things the 5-Step® program focuses on.

In its 5-Step® animal welfare standards for each animal in its program, G.A.P. defines “operation” as “a single farm or ranch with one or more locations where animals are raised under direct supervision.” You can find an example of this definition in our Turkey Standards. And as we require in each animal standard, every operation must be third-party audited every 15 months. When we start to look at the wide variety of farms, ranches, and business relationships that connect them, a single operation if often a small part in a larger farming system.

G.A.P. does get asked quite frequently if we have ‘family farms’ in the program, and the overwhelming majority are family owned or managed – some are independent, some are contract growers, and others have business relationships with companies that sell products from their animals to retailers and/or food manufactures.

G.A.P. is proud to work with farmers and ranchers who have taken the time to become 5-Step® certified, regardless of whether their operations are big, small, or somewhere in between.