Townshend farm earns top animal-welfare certification

TOWNSHEND — The herd of dairy goats at Big Picture Farm is now certified as Animal Welfare Approved (AWA).

The AWA certification and food label lets consumers know that these animals were raised in accordance with the nation's highest animal welfare standards, using sustainable agriculture methods on an independent family farm.

Like their peer AWA farmers across the country, Lucas Farrell and Louisa Conrad, recognize the growing consumer interest in how animals are being raised.

The two raise 30 dairy goats on about 90 acres of pasture. The goats produce milk used in Big Picture Farm's goat milk caramels, which recently won the 2013 Good Food Award in the Confections category.

Farrell and Conrad told The Commons they raise their animals outdoors on pasture because of the benefits for animals, consumers, and the environment. They said they use a rotational model of grazing to minimize the parasite population and help them avoid chemical wormers and ensure the pasture has plenty of time to replenish before the goats graze that area again.

Both said they applied for Animal Welfare Approved certification because of the high standards it sets for animal husbandry.

Conrad explained the audit process “is extensive, thoughtful, and tracks every aspect of goat care, from diet to health care to living quarters.”

“We just really wanted to join an association that is committed to the same things we are, and whose certification would properly reflect and acknowledge the quality of our farm and animals. We love our goats enormously, and the quality of our products is a reflection of them and their quality of life,” she said.

AWA has published “Food Labeling for Dummies,” a regularly updated guide to commonly used food claims and terms, available as a free download at

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