Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

October 11, 2002                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Issue #88


1. National Organic Standards Going into Effect
2. Outdoor Access for Chickens Opposed
3. Free-Range Organic vs Conventional Pig Production
4. Production, Killing & Processing at Polyface Farm
5. Kosher Poultry Slaughter
6. AVMA's New Forced Molting Position Criticized
7. AVMA's New Sow Housing Resolution Criticized
8. AVMA's Animal Welfare Policies Denounced
9. Updates: Ca. Dairy Ads; Wa. Calf Killers Case; Greased Pig Substitute


The government's new organic standards are slated to go into effect October 21st. The USDA's National Organic Standards Board has been working with food producers and companies since 1990 to develop the standards [which also involved a tremendous amount of public input]. Prior to this, some 30 states and more than 50 certifiers, all with different standards and requirements, determined what could be labeled as organic. The new standards permit 3 types of organic claims. Products with 95-100% certified organic ingredients can bear the "USDA Organic" seal. Those with 70-94% organic ingredients can be labeled as "made with organic ingredients." Products with less than 70% organic ingredients can only list organic ingredients in their ingredient panel. Currently accounting for 2% of retail sales, organics are one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry with sales expected to reach $11 billion in 2003.
"New U.S. organic food rules to level playing field," Reuters, Deborah Cohen and Jessica Wohl, October 4, 2002.

Outdoor access for chickens is [again] being opposed by industry and a related association (see issue #68). A representative of the American Association of Avian Pathologists (see also item #6 below) and a lobbyist for the egg industry are meeting with USDA officials to discuss it today. They, along with some USDA & FDA  officials, cite Salmonella and other health concerns as the basis for their objection. Eleven U.S. House members also sent a letter to the USDA opposing the free-range rule. The poultry industry previously opposed outdoor access for birds and a requirement that only organic feed can be used (see issue #73). According to a spokesperson, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has no plans to change the rule. Organic farmers and members of the organic advisory board say the complaints are overblown, noting that safeguards against disease can be taken. Organic egg sales amounted to over $40 million in 2000. The United Egg Producers (UEP) recently unveiled their new certification logo that will appear on egg cartons from operations that adopt UEP's welfare guidelines for egg-laying flocks.
"USDA Lays Egg by Requiring Chickens to Go Outdoors, Farmers Say," Des Moines Register, Philip Brasher, October 3, 2002.
"UEP unveils new certification logo," Poultry Times, September 30, 2002.

The cover story of the September 30th issue of Newsweek was entitled "Should You Buy Organic? How New Rules will Affect Your Food, Your Health, the Planet." It includes a sizable article contrasting a confinement pig operation with a free-range, organic one. Tom Frantzen, owner of the organic operation, "thinks corporate farming is as deadening to the souls of animals as it is to farmers." Gary Lynch, owner of the confinement operation, states "We used to raise hogs. Now we're raising pork." The article discusses differences between the two in regard to feed, breeding, housing, tail docking, manure management, and income.
"A Tale of Two Hogs," Newsweek, Geoffrey Cowley, Karen Springen, Nate Hoogeveen, and Joan Raymond, September 30, 2002.

Polyface Farm is a diversified operation producing cattle, poultry, pigs, rabbits, eggs and plant products. All of the animals are fed on pasture as much as possible rather than on grain. Owner Joel Salatin has produced 2 books about his Virginia operation, "Pastured Poultry Profits," and "Salad Bar Beef," along with a video. "Chicken Day" occurs 4 times a month from May through October, on which 250 birds are killed and processed in an open-air pavilion. The family, including 10-year-old Rachel, and apprentices slaughter up to 8,000 birds during the 6-month period. The article contains a graphic explanation of the procedures and 2 photographs of the operation.
"‘Chicken Day' at the Farm of Many Faces," The New Farm, George DeVault.

Empire Kosher Poultry, located near Harrisburg, Pa., has been operating since 1938. The company can slaughter and process up to 20,000 chickens and 15,000 turkeys a day. A single rabbi kills 10-20 birds per minute by making "one cut through the neck and spine that severs all connection between the body and brain." About 1% of the birds are thrown away because of an improper cut, according to a company official. The birds are then put into bleed-out cones. Since they are not stunned, they "subconsciously flail about." Prior to using the cones, the birds reportedly would often "unintentionally harm themselves during the death struggle." Since kosher law prohibits any blood in or on the bird, they are not scalded but are instead then placed directly into a feather-picking machine. About 2% of the birds that make it past the USDA inspector to a rabbi inspector are rejected for bruises or other defects and are sold as non-kosher.          
"King Kosher," Poultry, Joshua Lipsky, April/May 2002.

Recently, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) adopted a new position statement on the forced molting of egg-laying hens (see issue #77). The resolution was introduced by the Association of Avian Pathologists (see also item #2 above). It condones the use of "‘day length' dietary restrictions" as a means of inducing a molt [which is done to synchronize and increase egg production]. "Intermittent feeding or diets of low nutrient density rather than total feed withdrawal" are recommended, and water is not to be withheld.
A letter by Ian Duncan, Professor of Poultry Ethology and Chair in Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph, was published in the Association's journal, contesting the rationale of the policy. Dr. Duncan disputes the claim that forced molting simulates natural molting, which is caused by shortening day-length followed by hormonal changes. He explains that in the U.S., forced molting is usually done by withholding food for 5-14 days. He notes that such practice is opposed by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and is banned as cruel by most European countries and by leading fast-food companies. Dr. Duncan points out that the "intermittent feeding" guideline is open to interpretation and abuse. He states: "The evidence that force molting reduces welfare is overwhelming. Mortality doubles in the first week of food deprivation, doubles again in the second week and the behavioral evidence suggests that hens suffer enormously."
"New position on induced molting wins favor," Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, September 1, 2002.
"Clarifying Poultry Welfare Issues," Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Ian Duncan, September 15, 2002.

The AVMA also adopted a sow housing resolution submitted by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV). The resolution arose in response to challenges by animal protection advocates against the use of gestation crates (see issue #79). The resolution concludes: "Current scientific literature indicates that individual gestation stalls meet each of the aforementioned criteria, provided the appropriate level of stockmanship is administered." One AVMA delegate commented, "The standards are the most elemental that could be listed. If we accept the standards, we'll come into deserved criticism as an organization that doesn't place much value on animal welfare." AASV President David Madsen countered: "The current position doesn't list even basic requirements....[the new resolution] may seem elemental, but I'm personally embarrassed at the current language, and this [resolution] would move it one notch up."
A letter by Dr. Brenda Forsythe was published in the AVMA journal denouncing the resolution. Dr. Forsythe notes, "Intuitively, I understand that confining an intelligent healthy animal for weeks to months in a space that is too small to turn around in is harmful to the animal." She then cites scientific evidence in support of her contention, including the demonstrable chronic stress response exhibited by pigs confined in small cages, like gestation crates. Dr. Forsythe explains, "The well being of stall-housed sows is compromised, compared with group-housed sows, on several indicators of welfare including behavioral stereotypies, aggression, and body weight."
"Resolution on pregnant sow housing OK'd," Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, September 1, 2002.
"Disagrees with AVMA policy on pregnant sow housing," Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Brenda Forsythe, September 15, 2002.

Veterinarian Peggy Larson discusses her disapproval of the AVMA's (see above) animal welfare policies in a recent issue of the quarterly newsletter of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights. She states that "most of the association's policies promote animal industries at the expense of animal welfare, including promoting practices that cause great harm, pain and unplanned death." She points out the Association's support and promotion of farmed animal confinement practices, such as forced molting, gestation crates, and the crating of calves for veal. Other examples she cites are the AVMA's support of the use of "random-source" dogs and cats for experimentation and education; and its support for the use of animals for entertainment, such as rodeos, circuses, and racing. She faults the AVMA for having become a trade organization and notes that its Animal Welfare Committee is comprised of pro-industry veterinarians. She doubts these problems will change until the Association's members demand attention to animal welfare.
"Take a Closer Look at the AVMA's Animal Welfare Policies," Peggy Larson, Directions, Spring 2002.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided not to take action against a television advertising campaign for California cheese. PETA had filed a complaint claiming the ads were deceptive in that the cows were depicted living on pasture instead of on a feedlot (see issue #69). The FTC said its decision is not a determination of whether the ads comply with the law but only that it had decided not to take formal action on the complaint.
A second youth has been arrested for an August 29th rampage that left 15 calves dead and 18 injured, one of whom was later euthanized (see issue #83). The 14-year-old boy was charged with 7 counts of animal cruelty, 7 counts of burglary and 1 count of 1st-degree malicious mischief. He was among 3 youths initially arrested for the beatings. Kevin Broers, the primary suspect goes to trial on November 22nd; the other youth is no longer a suspect. Police say the boy was drunk and high when he clubbed calves with a lead pipe, picking up one "screaming calf" and breaking his/her neck. Broers used bats and brass knuckles to bludgeon the calves, according to the police report. Some of the surviving calves have suffered permanent brain damage. The prosecutor said she planned to ask for a $100,000 cash-only bail for the suspect. He faces a maximum sentence of incarceration until the age of 21. See also:
A photo of the stuffed toy pig which replaced a real pig in the greased pig contest at the Henderson County Farm City Day (see issue #87) can be seen at:
"No action taken against ‘Happy Cows' campaign," Associated Press, October 8, 2002.
California Cheese Producers
"14-year-old arrested over killing of calves," The Seattle Times, Jennifer Sullivan, Oct. 5, 2002. 
"Woodinville boy charged in attack on dairy calves," The Seattle Times, Jennifer Sullivan, October 10, 2002.