America loves Thanksgiving – the holiday that celebrates family traditions, togetherness and gratitude for the unparalleled bounty we enjoy. While the “First Thanksgiving” was a celebration of a successful harvest and survival, the abundance of the modern Thanksgiving is a testament to the work of today’s farmers and ranchers and advances in how they raise their animals. At the American Humane Association, we will be going to Capitol Hill today to brief Congress about and celebrate The Humane Table Thanksgiving.

A new American Humane Association survey of 5,900 Americans shows overwhelming popular support for the humane treatment of farm animals and humanely raised food. The 2014 Humane Heartland™ Farm Animal Survey, the second annual survey we’ve conducted, reveals that more than nine in 10 respondents (94.9 percent) were very concerned about farm animal welfare, up from 89 percent in our 2013 study. More than three-quarters (75.7 percent) said they were very willing to pay more for humanely produced eggs, meat and dairy products, up from 74 percent last year.

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For the second year in a row, in a ranking of the importance of food labels, “humanely raised” scored highest, over “antibiotic-free,” “organic” and “natural.” Impediments to people’s choosing humane products was also explored: While over a third of those surveyed (35.3 percent) said they purchased humanely raised foods, more than half (54.6 percent) said they were either unavailable (35.6 percent) or too expensive (19 percent). 

The results of Humane Heartland™ survey make it clear that more Americans are concerned with how the 10 billion animals on U.S. farms and ranches are raised from their living conditions to what they are fed.

The jump in “organic” food sales underscores the potential market for the more important “humanely raised” products. In 2014, the sale of “organic” products is projected to be $35 billion, up from $3.6 billion in 1997.

Farmers and ranchers continue to respond to the demands of the market place. Significant advances have been made in veterinary care and animal behavior science that allow for animals to be raised in a healthier, less stressful environment. Thanks to these advances, what and how we eat can be based on values rather than just survival. And, while humane agricultural practices give families a values choice, this choice should not be limited by pricing. Humanely raised food should also be affordable, so that all Americans can put these products on their Thanksgiving table. 

In a nation of such ingenuity that we are able to produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared with 1950, we should be able to work together to develop new methods to produce “humanely raised” food at a lower price.

I know we can make this happen. For nearly 140 years American Humane has worked collaboratively with generations of U.S. farmers, ranchers, agricultural scientists and animal advocates to create moderate, mainstream and commonsense solutions that work for both people and animals.

Our American Humane Certified™ program, the nation’s oldest, largest and fastest-growing farm animal welfare certification program, now ensures the welfare of some one billion animals and has been at the forefront of advances in farm animal practices.   

American farmers are often criticized when things go wrong and too seldom praised for everything they do right. As part of our effort to end abuse and discourage poor farming practices, we salute the farmers, ranchers and producers who get it right, and we encourage others to follow their best practices.

The Humane Table briefing is about recognizing farmers and ranchers who allow us to make value rather than survival choices as we celebrate our nation’s bounty on Thanksgiving and every day. We praise those who are doing so ethically by ensuring that farm animals are afforded humane treatment as defined by science and best welfare practice. That is something for which we can truly be thankful.

Ganzert is the president and CEO of the American Humane Association.