AHA certification adds credibility to Foster Farms message

Foster Farms became the first major US poultry producer to earn official third-party humane certification from the 136-year-old American Humane Association.

AHA certification adds credibility to Foster Farms message

Client: Foster Farms (Livingston, CA)
: Fineman PR (San Francisco, CA)
: American Humane Certified
March 11 - May 31, 2013
$100,000 - $150,000

West Coast poultry producer Foster Farms has been committed to humanely raising birds since its 1939 founding. In March, after a six-month, 200-point audit of its 140 facilities, Foster Farms became the first major US poultry producer to earn official third-party humane certification from the 136-year-old American Humane Association (AHA).

The company and its long-time AOR Fineman PR promoted the certification and the AHA.

“There's a lot of skepticism about agriculture and food products today,” says Ira Brill, director of marketing and advertising services at Foster Farms. “Animal welfare is increasingly important to consumers, especially West Coast consumers. Even though we follow humane processes and quantified our policy in 2008, we felt it necessary to get third-party verification from a credible animal welfare organization to provide assurance to consumers.”

“It was important that AHA get recognition as the oldest humane organization dealing with animals and children and to position Foster Farms as an industry leader for addressing the issue,” explains agency SVP Lorna Bush. “Getting the certification was a huge commitment, and we wanted Foster Farms to earn that recognition.”

Events, media relations, and social media outreach drove awareness.

The San Francisco Chronicle got a March 6 exclusive on the certification news.

A dedication event for a new Foster Farms Poultry Education and Research Facility at California State University, Fresno State, was held March 11. The facility replicates Foster Farms' facilities, thus Brill says it's the first US college program with AHA humane certification.

California's Agriculture Secretary, a Fresno congressman, Foster Farms president Ron Foster, and the university's president spoke at a press conference for local, national, and trade media as well as student bloggers. They also answered media questions via web conference.

Media in attendance got barn tours, which Bush notes was a big deal given the level of biosecurity involved.

In conjunction with the dedication, the team pitched data from a humane perceptions survey conducted in January by NSON Opinion Strategy.

A “Humane Road Show” that featured AHA's 82-foot animal rescue rig, which has saved 70,000 animals from disasters in the last five years, and an educational exhibit traveled to seven cities in California, Oregon, and Washington March 12 to 25.

The exhibit included videos Brill describes as “docu-mercials” about AHA. The videos were also used in ads and posted to AHA's Facebook and YouTube pages.

Local market media, pet bloggers, politicians, and educational leaders were invited to the road show stops. Attendees were encouraged to sign a humane pledge on FosterFarms.com.

Foster Farms' Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages were updated regularly.

Food Network host Aida Mollenkamp talked about how to have a humane kitchen during a March 27 SMT/RMT and during in-studio interviews in April and May.

FosterFarms.com visits increased 233% on March 11 to more than 4,000 (daily average is 1,200). Traffic exceeded 50,146 during the first month, up 49% year on year.

The tour reached about 15,000 consumers. Nearly 400 took the pledge.

The videos got 5,408 total views March 11 to May 31.

The campaign garnered 1,172 placements in outlets including AP, Oregonian, and Seattle Times. PBS's “America's Heartland” covered Foster Farms' humane certification story on September 27.

A front-page San Francisco Chronicle story generated 640 Facebook likes.

Average engagement (clicks, likes, comments, and shares) on related Facebook posts March 11 to 25 was 4%, four times above average for food brand pages according to Fanpage Karma.

The team is currently helping relaunch Foster Farms' frozen cooked chicken brand.

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