Niman Ranch teams up with Temple Grandin

Feb 20, 2009
by WLJ
Niman Ranch teams up with Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, a well- known animal handling expert and Colorado State University animal science professor, has teamed up with California-based Niman Ranch to audit and endorse the company’s claims of humane and sustainable production in its beef and pork operations.

“My quest to promote humane and sustainable livestock handling processes has been motivated by the unique gift I have to empathize with animals from being autistic,” said Grandin.

“Using animals for food is fine, but we’ve got to do it the right way. This program provides farmers and ranchers a practical and affordable way to give animals a decent life and minimize the impact on our environment at the same time.” The initial Niman Ranch release, which outlined a series of guidelines, was met with criticism from some segments of the industry, which prompted a follow-up response from Grandin last Monday clarifying her involvement with Niman Ranch and the certification process. She characterized the program as one designed by Niman Ranch. She told that she is working to improve the clarity of the Niman Ranch program while also making it easier to audit.

“My seal of approval is verification that they adhere to Niman Ranch standards and have a rigorous auditing program. Niman Ranch has more work to do and they are planning to have their auditing system in place by the summer. Other companies can also develop a program and seek my approval.

The standards for each company are specific to each company, but they must have a high level of animal welfare that can be verified by audits,” she said in her statement. The Niman Ranch program encompasses 21 guidelines for production, which include: Animals must be given the opportunity to care for, interact with, and nurture their young. In the case of swine, farrowing crates are not allowed.

Practices must be implemented that prevent soil loss or degradation in production areas, minimizes unacceptable or unintended poor air quality for family, workers, and neighbors, and prevents water quality degradation of surface and groundwater resources.

Animals must be fed a 100 percent vegetarian diet and have a feeding plan that will guarantee a sufficient, well-balanced diet to appropriately meet their nutritional needs at their stage in life and maintain required Body Condition Scores. Animals shall have access to their feed as long as is necessary for them to satisfy their nutrient requirements.

Pasture and/or bedding are the preferred environments. To qualify as pasture, 75 percent or more of the land occupied by livestock in this program must have vegetation with a root system.

Despite the guidelines created by Niman Ranch, Grandin said in her followup statement that her principles are, in some cases, more moderate than those issued by Niman Ranch.

“I have worked with Niman Ranch to clarify their existing guidelines so they would be clearer and less prone to different interpretations.

The 21 core principles on the Niman Ranch press release dated Feb. 11, 2009, are a rewritten clearer version of the basic guidelines for the Niman Ranch pork and beef programs that has been in existence for many years. The only added statements are on sustainable agriculture, which are basic good agricultural practices for both sectors of the industry,” Grandin wrote in her follow-up release. “I have worked with many companies, both conventional and niche/natural/organic, to define the terms in their guidelines more clearly. My approval of Niman Ranch guidelines was from an auditing standpoint—and not my personal opinion standpoint.” — WLJ