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Consumer Tips

Consumer tips on down products

The down feather coats we wear to keep us warm and the down feather comforters (referred to as duvets in Europe) we snuggle under on a cold night have a history worth investigating and a story worth telling. Because the materials used inside these products for insulation are just that: Feathers. And feathers come from birds. In fact, from millions of geese and ducks who were born with feathers for the same reasons we covet them – to keep them warm and dry in cold environments.


In the U.S., regulations require that an item labeled as "100% Down" must contain only down feathers and those labeled as "Goose Down" must contain at least 90% goose down, 10% goose feathers. Products simply labeled as "Down" can contain a mixture of fiber and feathers.


Why is it so difficult to trace the origin of down?

Down passes through a lot of hands before ending up in our duvets/comforters, and pillows: from the parent farm to the fattening farm, then to the slaughter facility – where foie gras birds are also slaughtered – to the down washing facility, then to the manufacturers, where down from different facilities may be mixed. In short, the supply chains have very little transparency, and without due diligence it is rare that brands can completely exclude the possibility that the down they process has come from animals that have suffered from live-plucking or force-feeding.


This is why FOUR PAWS calls for full transparency in down supply chains and regular, unannounced inspections of all farms and facilities.


What Can I Do?

When buying down duvets and pillows you should always check very carefully where the down comes from. Of course, the best way to avoid animal cruelty is to do without animal products altogether. These days there are excellent plant-based and synthetic alternatives – you’ll hardly notice any difference in comfort levels compared to down.



One of the most commonly known alternatives to down is Kapok – also known as “plant” down. This material is already used in bedding. Apart from Kapok, Primaloft®, a synthetic fiber, is also used as filling material. It has characteristics that are very close to down feathers and is used in duvets and sleeping bags. Other alternatives include Lyocell, polyester, millet, linen (flaxseed), Tencel or spelt.

However, if you do still want to buy down, make sure that you shop with care and avoid brands that cannot guarantee that the down supplied in their products was fully controlled and audited under the strictest animal welfare and traceability standards.

Are There Audit Systems and Certificates or Labels That I Can Trust?

There are a couple of certificates and quality labels that can help you better determine the origin of your down products. Below are two labels and certificates you can rely on the most. But take care! While almost all traceability gaps are tackled under these standards, they do not yet prohibit suppliers from providing cruel down in parallel to certified down, mainly because most suppliers cannot yet meet that requirement.


The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) is one of the strictest standards in the area of animal welfare and the traceability of down. It completely excludes live plucking and force-feeding. Under this standard, inspections are made annually and partly unannounced. Every batch of down is certified. Every facility producing RDS down is audited. Companies can also require parent farms to be covered by an optional module. Inspections are also made of washing facilities, storage, and processing locations in order to ensure traceability all the way to the final product. The RDS is currently implemented by over 140 brands in the outdoor, fashion, and sport retail industry.


The Global Traceable Down Standard (TDS) is one of the strictest standards in the area of animal welfare and the traceability of down. It completely excludes live plucking and force-feeding. The main strength of the TDS is that the inspection of parent farms is mandatory. These inspections are usually carried out unannounced.

Continued Progress

ALLIED Feather and Down, a leading global supplier of down feathers for the outdoor, sport, and apparel industries, has become the first major down supplier to exclusively sell fully audited down that is free from live feather plucking and force-feeding of geese and ducks, thereby becoming the only major supplier to reach this milestone.


ALLIED  Feather and Down and another major supplier, Downlite, were the first industry drivers that helped brands like The North Face and Patagonia make full supply chain traceability and animal welfare a reality. With this new 100% milestone, ALLIED has gone yet another step further than any other major supplier by exclusively selling down that is audited under the strictest full supply chain traceability and animal welfare standards.


Most major suppliers that sell fully certified cruelty-free down also supply uncertified down at the same time; some suppliers even knowingly sell down from the foie gras industry alongside cruelty-free down. ALLIED has shown true leadership and has proven that regardless of a suppliers’ size, if they want to be cruelty-free they can.


FOUR PAWS calls on all suppliers to follow ALLIED’s example and fully exclude down feathers from force-fed or live-plucked animals from their supply.

As long as geese and ducks are raised for meat and their down is used, FOUR PAWS will push to ensure that they have a life free of pain and suffering and a life where their essential needs are met. This is why FOUR PAWS calls on brands and suppliers to trace their full down supply chain in order to provide the highest possible guarantees that the cruel practices of live-plucking and force-feeding are truly avoided.