NEW YORK — Ten pet food brands have signed on to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) higher welfare pet food initiative and have committed to earning a welfare certification recognized by the ASPCA's Shop With Your Heart program.

According to Maral Cavner, senior manager of corporate policy at ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare, the Shop With Your Heart program was established in 2016, and pet food products were added to the Shop With Your Heart Grocery List in 2017.

“This year, new pet food products and filters were added to help consumers easily identify more humane food and treat options for their cats and dogs,” Cavner said.

The 10 pet food brands include:

  • BIXBI® Pet
  • Caru Pet Food®
  • Evermore Pet Food
  • Goodness Gracious
  • Happy N’ Healthy®
  • My Perfect Pet™
  • RAWR
  • Savage Cat Food®
  • Shine Pet Food
  • Viva Raw

These brands have committed to earning a certification recognized by the Shop With Your Heart program, with some having goals to achieve this as soon as the end of this year and others striving for certification by 2027. These commitments aim to not only meet increasing consumer demand for products with higher animal welfare standards, but also to create a more equitable market for welfare-certified farmers.

“As pet food brands demand higher-welfare ingredients, welfare-certified farms can sell more of their products at a fair price, rather than selling those parts into the conventional market, potentially at a loss,” Cavner explained. “When welfare-certified farmers can fully realize the value of their product, it may reduce or offset pricing for certified ingredients destined for human consumption.

“Pet foods play an essential role in allowing the full use of welfare-certified ingredients to better meet the values and dietary needs of both Americans and their companion animals,” Cavner added.

Certifications recognized by the Shop With Your Heart program range from pasture-raised — which the ASPCA sees as the highest standard — to outdoor access, to indoors with enrichments — what the ASPCA described as “the baseline for better welfare.”

“The ASPCA does not certify products directly, but rather recognizes three independent and meaningful welfare certification programs through its Shop With Your Heart program: Animal Welfare Approved by a Greener World, Certified Humane® and Global Animal Partnership®,” Cavner explained. “The ASPCA encourages pet food brands to obtain these certifications in order to eliminate unacceptable factory farming practices from their supply chains and provide a better life for the animals on the farms from which they source.”

Additionally, the ASPCA shared five companies with existing animal welfare commitments have made recent progress toward achieving higher-welfare standards along their supply chains through the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) and other animal protein certifications. They include Campfire Treats, which recently became the first company to reach full compliance with the BCC; Earth Animal, which made progress toward its animal welfare reporting through the BCC; Evermore Pet Food, which has committed to fully transitioning to higher-welfare chicken breeds by the end of 2023 through the BCC; Nugget’s Healthy Eats, which has made progress toward the BCC and committed to better beef-sourcing certification in 2023; and Open Farm, which has made reporting progress toward the BCC.

“The ASPCA offers support to pet food brands in their effort to transition their supply chains to more humane sourcing by offering to connect them with potential suppliers, explaining certification options and associated benefits, and providing guidance on crafting and communicating farm animal welfare policy commitments and progress,” Cavner said. “As pet food brands achieve certification, the ASPCA collaborates with them to highlight their welfare-certified products through its Shop With Your Heart program, which includes regular updates to the ASPCA’s member base across the United States.”

In partnership with the ASPCA, the Next Generation Pet Food Manufacturers Association is advocating for its members to seek animal welfare certifications recognized by the ASPCA Shop With Your Heart program.

“Loving and nourishing your pet shouldn’t come at the expense of animals raised on farms,” Cavner said. “We’re proud to be working with progressive pet food companies to develop more humane ingredient sourcing and ensure that pet owners can find products that better align with their concern for all animals.”

In March 2023, the ASPCA conducted a web-based survey of 1,000 adults in the United States, commissioned by Ipsos, to better understand public opinions about pet food sourcing standards. According to the survey, 87% of respondents said they would be likely to switch to brands that “put more care” into sourcing of animal-based ingredients. Within this pool, 92% of respondents reported they seek higher-welfare animal-based products for themselves, and 77% of respondents said they do not. In other words, 77% of people willing to switch pet food brands have higher animal welfare standards for their pets’ nutrition products than the animal-based products they buy for themselves.

The survey also asked consumers, “How much more would you be willing to pay for pet food if you knew they treated the animals in their supply chain more humanely?” The answer was overwhelming — 82% of respondents said they would be willing to pay 10% more, and 52% are willing to pay 15% more for more humane pet food products.

As part of its Shop With Your Heart Program, the ASPCA maintains its Grocery List as a resource for consumers, its Farm Guide as a resource of animal welfare-certified farms by state, and a Label Guide, which explains each certification recognized and recommended by the ASPCA, as well as common claims that may suggest higher animal-welfare standards.

“There is a vast divide between consumer expectations and the reality of industrial animal agriculture practices and food labels,” Cavner said. “As long as the marketplace is cluttered with confusing and often meaningless labels like ‘natural’ and ‘farm-raised’ it will be difficult for welfare-conscious consumers to make choices that match their values. The resources offered through the ASPCA’s Shop With Your Heart program allows shoppers to feel empowered to improve farm animals’ lives while supporting brands that use independently verified welfare certifications that eliminate some of the worst factory farming practices.”

Read more about sustainability efforts in the pet food and treat industry.