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LARCHMONT, N.Y. -- D'Agostino Supermarkets, based here, yesterday highlighted the certified humane products it carries in its 22 stores--including veal, chicken, eggs, pudding, and pork products--and called on suppliers of livestock, poultry, dairy, and eggs to join the Certified Humane Raised and Handled Certification Program, which promotes standards for the humane treatment of farm animals.
"We have always tried to be responsive to our customers' needs and concerns," noted Nick D'Agostino III, D'Agostino's president and c.o.o., in a statement. "We know that the issue of improving the treatment of animals raised for food is important to New Yorkers and our company. We were one of the first supermarkets in New York City to provide organic products to our customers. Now, we want to make a difference and do our part by encouraging our suppliers to source products from farms that follow high welfare standards of humane care of animals."
D'Agostino explained that the grocer had contacted, and would continue to contact, its livestock, poultry, dairy, and egg suppliers, urging them to initiate the program in their own companies. The supermarket chain already offers 35 Certified Humane products and hopes to offer "more and more."
The "Certified Humane Raised and Handled" label, which was introduced in May 2003, lets shoppers know that a food item item has been produced in accordance with Humane Farm Animal Care's (HFAC) standards for humane farm animal treatment. Animals must receive a nutritious, hormone- and antibiotic-free diet and be provided with shelter, resting areas, and space sufficient to support natural behavior. Forty-two companies are currently certified to use the label.
"When a high-profile retailer like D'Agostino requests and, in some cases, requires a supplier to become part of the Certified Humane Raised and Handled Certification Program, it is sure to have an impact on the industry as a whole," said HFAC executive director Adele Douglass. "We applaud their efforts and hope that other chains follow their lead."
At a press conference held at a Manhattan D'Agostino supermarket, representatives from such Humane Certified companies as Applegate Farms, Echo Farms Puddings, Giving Nature Foods, and Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs offered samples of their products. Nick D'Agostino noted at the conference that in addition to its recently introduced Humane Certified veal, which is the only type of veal the grocer now carries, the chain was actively working at getting beef and pork suppliers on board.
D'Agostino told Progressive Grocer that the company first became aware of the program about a year and a half ago through supplier Murray's Chicken, and became "very excited" by the prospect. The fact that Certified Humane products were available at the "right cost" was also a plus, he noted. The main thing, however, according to D'Agostino, is presenting the customer with options. "Given a choice, people prefer humane [items]," he said. "All the studies say that consumers are willing to pay a premium for humane product."
The chain has been promoting the veal through such methods as dedicated back pages in its flyers, posters, and tags in the meat case, and describes consumer response as positive. Over the next two months, the company hopes to roll out Certified Humane lamb, milk, and cheeses.