Sustainability Certification


Western Sustainability Exchange certifies ranch, farm, and food businesses that meet a diverse and rigorous set of Sustainability Criteria. These criteria address various areas of production, including feeding, farming, pest and weed control, predator control, grazing practices, monitoring range and ecological condition, livestock handling, and continuing education. They evaluate the practices that producers use to protect human and livestock health and welfare, and the health of soil, water, air, open space, and wildlife resources. Simply put, WSE Certification ensures that an operation:

  • Treats animals humanely
  • Eliminates hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics
  • Significantly reduces or eliminates chemicals used in production practices
  • Protects open space, wildlife habitat, and water and soil quality
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Certification Claims

Producers may qualify for the following claims through WSE certification if they meet certain criteria:

No Hormones or Antibiotics

  • If no livestock have been treated with growth hormones, synchronization hormones or antibiotics (either subtherapeutic or therapeutic)

Low-Stress Livestock Handling

  • If livestock are handled in an ethical, humane, livestock-centered, psychologically-oriented, behaviorally-correct method based on mutual communication and understanding (for more information visit Stockmanship Journal)

USDA Certified Organic

  • If the operation complies with the USDA National Organic Program regulations and bears Organic certification

Sustainable Stewardship Practices

  • If producers exceed 75% of WSE's Sustainability Criteria 

American Grassfed Association Certified

No Genetically Engineered Seed or Feed

  • If livestock animals are fed exclusively a vegetarian diet without genetically engineered feeds

Protected by Conservation Easement

  • If certified operations manage property encumbered by a conservation easement

Sustainability Criteria

Livestock Producer Sustainability Criteria

Produce and Grain Grower Sustainability Criteria

Processor Sustainability Criteria

Food Aggregation and Distribution Sustainability Criteria

Food Service Business Sustainability Criteria

General Sustainability Criteria


Western Sustainability Exchange uses the Sustainability Criteria to certify farmers, ranchers, processors, and food service businesses for WSE programs.

These criteria reflect years of market research that identifies the characteristics many consumers, chefs, and natural food markets demand in “natural food” products. The elements of the criteria were developed in consultation with range specialists, ranchers, farmers, chefs, and processors.

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They also track food service businesses’ use of sustainable foods, energy and water use, and waste reduction measures.

Producers must meet 75% of WSE’s Sustainability Criteria to qualify for marketing assistance. Products containing growth-hormones and/or animal by-products as protein feed for livestock are ineligible. Products that use GMOs as seed sources are also ineligible.

The WSE Sustainability Criteria evaluates agricultural production on the sustainability continuum. There is no hard-and-fast measurement for sustainability. Consequently, WSE’s Sustainability Criteria are dynamic documents that are regularly revised and updated to reflect a fluid marketplace and an evolving understanding of best management practices. And, they consider developments and changes in the practices of specific operations over the course of time.