Farm Forward is proud to announce the launch of the Leadership Circle, a new institutional purchasing program that leverages the buying power of businesses, universities, and civic and religious institutions to change the way animals are raised for food. The program increases the public’s understanding of higher welfare farming, supports a network of third-party certified farmers, and meets American consumers’ demand for products bearing animal welfare certification labels with meaningful standards.1 Further, the Leadership Circle encourages institutions to adopt a “less meat, better meat” approach by sourcing higher welfare meat, poultry, and eggs while incorporating more plant-based proteins to lower costs and improve public health, the environment, and animal welfare.
Founding members of the Leadership Circle include Bon Appetit Management Company, Airbnb’s Portland office, Cal Dining at the University of California Berkeley, Dr. Bronner’s, and Hazon, the largest Jewish sustainability organization in North America. These institutions are leaders in ethical and sustainable dining and, through their purchasing, are driving progress in sustainability and higher welfare farming.
Members of the Leadership Circle have committed to purchase only products bearing a third-party animal welfare certification for at least one animal product category, like eggs, within two years. Members have also committed to support farmers raising animals under optimal conditions (for example, on pasture), and in doing so are playing a vital role in rebuilding a network of sustainable farms in America.
Bon Appetit Management Company (BAMCO)—a food service provider for companies including Google and dozens of colleges and universities—has committed to source 100% of its eggs from higher welfare sources. Through its partnership with the Leadership Circle, BAMCO’s food service customers will have access to resources and technical support from Leadership Circle staff who can help them source higher welfare meat and poultry. Another founding Leadership Circle member, Cal Dining, has also transitioned to purchasing higher welfare eggs and, additionally, purchases Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Step 3 chicken and grass-fed, grass-finished beef. Cal Dining has also introduced strategies to reduce overall meat consumption, including a “flipped plate” concept that features plant-based proteins, rather than meat, at the center of a meal. As the first tech company to join the leadership circle, Airbnb’s Portland office has made similar changes, sourcing eggs from a regional farm as well as eggs from heritage hens raised by a local educational farm. Dr. Bronner’s—the number one selling organic soap company in the U.S.—is the first to join the Leadership Circle for chicken and beef, purchasing GAP Step 4 chicken and sourcing and subsidizing grass-fed, grass-finished beef for the taco truck that serves its 120+ employees lunch daily. These institutions’ leadership on animal welfare helps build significant demand for higher welfare products and is an example of how companies and universities are taking the lead on higher welfare conditions as well as reducing demand for animal products.
Members of the Leadership Circle benefit from Farm Forward’s team of food systems professionals, who help institutions
1) evaluate their current suppliers of animal products,
2) connect with certified higher welfare producers of meat, poultry, and eggs, and
3) employ strategies for successfully reducing animal consumption, transitioning to higher welfare products, or both.
The technical assistance offered by the Leadership Circle helps institutions align their supply chains with their institutional values by providing a comprehensive set of tools and technical assistance, free of charge.
The Leadership Circle is an official partner of the Real Food Challenge, which works with colleges and universities to transition at least 20% of their food spending to local, fair, ecologically sound, and humane sources by 2020. As a Real Food Challenge partner, the Leadership Circle will provide colleges and universities that have signed the Real Food Campus Commitment with additional technical assistance toward meeting their humane spending goals—an area in which many colleges and universities have struggled.
Funded in part by the Open Philanthropy Project and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Leadership Circle is instrumental in building the demand and supply chain for higher welfare animal products, which will ultimately make such products more available and affordable for institutions and the general public. By developing the network of sustainable and higher welfare farmers and ranchers, and by driving consumer demand for their higher welfare products, the Leadership Circle will raise the bar for animal welfare—helping to eliminate the most inhumane practices—and move animal agriculture in a more humane and sustainable direction.