FORT COLLINS, COLO. — Dr. Temple Grandin recently announced the launch of a "one-of-a kind" certification program that combines evaluating both sustainable and humane practices., Alameda, Calif.-based Niman Ranch plans to be one of the first companies to be audited and carry the certification seal for its humanely- and sustainably-raised natural beef, pork, lamb and chicken.

Titled "Dr. Temple Grandin Certified, Sustainable & Humane", the program was created by Dr. Grandin and Niman Ranch "on their belief that animals should be treated with respect and allowed to fulfill their instinctive natural behaviors without damaging their environment, and with the belief that our land is a natural resource that must be preserved for generations to come," according to a news release.

Beginning in August 2009, companies wanting to carry the certification seal will be audited on 21 core principles developed by Dr. Grandin and Niman Ranch. These principles must be met by all farmers and ranchers receiving certification, regardless of what species of livestock they produce.

The principles include: animals must be given the opportunity to care for, interact with, and nurture their young -- farrowing crates for swine are not allowed; practices must be implemented that prevent soil loss or degradation in production areas, minimize unacceptable or unintended poor air quality for family, workers and neighbors -- and prevents water quality degradation of surface and groundwater resources; animals must be fed a 100% vegetarian diet and have a feeding plan that will guarantee a sufficient, well-balanced diet to appropriately meet their nutritional needs at their stage in life and maintain required Body Condition Scores; animals must have access to their feed as long as is necessary for them to satisfy their nutrient requirements; and pasture and/or bedding are the preferred environments -- to qualify as pasture, 75% or more of the land occupied by livestock in this program must have vegetation with a root system.

Dr. Grandin and Niman Ranch are now developing separate guidelines for each species of animals, as well as a comprehensive auditing program.

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