OH, THE HUMANITY!

A year and a half after the first humane-certified product hit its shelves, D'Agostino Supermarkets is encouraging all of its livestock, poultry, dairy and egg suppliers to seek the humane-raised and -handled certification through Herndon, Va.-based Humane Farm Animal Care.Products that gain HFAC's seal of approval are from animals that have received a nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones,

A year and a half after the first humane-certified product hit its shelves, D'Agostino Supermarkets is encouraging all of its livestock, poultry, dairy and egg suppliers to seek the humane-raised and -handled certification through Herndon, Va.-based Humane Farm Animal Care.

Products that gain HFAC's seal of approval are from animals that have received a nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones, and have been raised with shelter, resting areas and space sufficient to support natural behavior, like swinging tails and flapping wings.

"There is no reason why animals shouldn't be treated in a reasonable manner," said Nicholas D'Agostino III, president and chief operating officer of the Larchmont, N.Y.-based chain. "When it comes to certain products [like veal], we'll only sell [humane-certified], because many people don't buy veal" due to the way calves traditionally have been raised.

"In other categories [like eggs], we'll give customers a choice. The humane-certified foods that we offer look tremendous and they're selling well."

Murray's Chicken, Echo Farm Puddings, Applegate Farms Bacon, DuBreton's Natural Pork, Philip Michaels' Veal and Giving Nature Eggs are among the initial humane-certified products offered by the retailer. D'Agostino hopes to add to its list in the near future.

"We've had several suppliers that are definitely interested in [certification] and some have even begun to go through the [certification] process" as a result of D'Agostino's request, said Mary Moore, spokeswoman for D'Agostino's. She could not provide names.

The humane certification impacts price minimally, according to D'Agostino's. For example, certified-humane Echo Farms Puddings sell for about 10% more than competitors' non-humane-certified puddings.

HFAC contends that intense confinement and overcrowding can create stress that impairs animals' health and growth of production. Growth hormones and chemical food additives are often used to compensate.

More than 42 meat, poultry, egg and dairy producers have been offered humane certification for their products, according to the organization. A number of supermarkets are looking into initiatives similar to D'Agostino's, HFAC officials said.