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New Zealand sheep ranch first in world to achieve G.A.P. animal welfare certification for lamb

Karen Atkins from Atkins Ranch pictured with Mark Warren of Waipari Station.

AUSTIN, TEXAS (Jan. 31, 2017) – Atkins Ranch in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, which supplies grass-fed lamb to Whole Foods Market stores across the US and Canada, has been certified to Global Animal Partnership’s (G.A.P.) 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating program for meat sheep, becoming the first Step 4: Pasture Centered sheep program in the world. Atkins Ranch achieved the Step 4 certification in October 2016, following an audit of their supplier’s ranch, Waipari Station.

“As a global leader in farm animal welfare, G.A.P. is proud to welcome Atkins Ranch as the world’s first Step 4-rated meat sheep program,” said G.A.P. Executive Director Anne Malleau. “As G.A.P. continues to expand, Atkins Ranch’s Step-rated sheep are an important addition for consumers seeking high-quality meat raised to comprehensive standards focused on animal welfare.”

G.A.P.’s Step 4: Pasture Centered standard means that sheep must live on pasture throughout their life, in addition to meeting more than 100 other standards that cover the entire life and harvesting of the animal.

Atkins Ranch Executive Director Jim Goodall says the G.A.P. Standard aligns with the Atkins Ranch way of farming. “New Zealand is well known for its pasture-centered farming systems,” said Mr. Goodall. “Our ranchers are leaders in New Zealand pastoral farming. It’s an intergenerational farming system that our ranchers have excelled at for years. We formed Atkins Ranch in 1989, committed to farming systems we understood and were proud of, raising animals as nature intended: 100 percent grass-fed, free to roam on pasture and free from antibiotics and GMOs in their feed. We know this produces a premium product that’s healthy and tasty.”

In addition to Waipari Station, 20 other Atkins Ranch ranches have also achieved Step 4: Pasture Centered certification, with 30 to 40 more expected to follow over the next month.

“It’s hugely rewarding for us all,” said Goodall. “I am pleased for Mark Warren and his team at Waipari Station, and excited that we are on the journey to delivering US consumers the first G.A.P. Step 4: Pasture Centered lamb available.”

G.A.P.-certified products will be labeled to show the Step rating they have achieved.

“This makes it really easy for American families to feel confident they are buying a product they can trust, said Malleau. “In the US and around the world, consumers want assurances that the meat they buy is not only high quality, but is raised well.”

Media contact: Libba Letton, 512-949-9491