Animal Welfare Approved

In April 2009 Thunder Heart Bison was certified by the Animal Welfare Institute as Animal Welfare Approved (AWA). We then became the first bison ranch in the United States to meet the stringent and exacting standards of the AWA. Among other criteria this certification requires that we allow our animals to free range and have access to pasture at all times. In addition to this we also do not wean our calves, but instead allow the natural family groups of the herd to develop at their own pace.

As harvest time approaches we select between five and seven animals that are usually between 3 to 4 years old. By field harvesting the bison we avoid the stress that is inherent in both transporting to and slaughtering in a processing facility. According to my friend, Temple Grandin, doctor of animal science, a field kill is vastly superior because there is no stress or fear associated with the death. The result is a transition for the animal that is both instantaneous and painless. This in turn results in meat that is more tender and flavorful because there is no cortisol released into the bloodstream.

Obtaining AWA certification is the gold standard for both producers and consumers. It guarantees the consumer that the meat they are buying has been both humanely raised and harvested.

Family farmers are the heart of this great country. And at their heart is a deep love and respect for the land and the animals they raise. The Animal Welfare Approved seal is a badge of honor for family farmers, since their attention to the health and well-being of their animals results in humane practices that serve as a model for all.

—Willie Nelson, legendary singer/songwriter

We demand the ultimate sacrifice of animals raised for food. Humans owe them a humane and dignified existence in return. The Animal Welfare Institute is setting the gold standard for how farm animals should be taken care of. I've worked closely with them for years and have seen their independence and deep commitment to humane animal farming. How these animals live affects us all because good animal husbandry provides wholesome food and protects our air, water, and landscapes.

—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.