McDonalds Releases Controlled Atmosphere Stunning
Study for Chicken Slaughter
Fast food leader McDonalds Corp. announced
on June 29 the results of an internal study regarding
the feasibility of using controlled atmosphere stunning
(CAS) for chickens raised for meat. In November 2004
McDonalds said it would publicize results of its analysis
if PETA would withdraw a shareholder resolution that
would have mandated that the company produce the report.
PETA contends that CAS using an inert gas is more
humane than stunning chickens using electrical baths
prior to slaughter. Some of McDonalds' European suppliers
are already using the system. Based on those supplier
relationships and other information, McDonalds concluded
that its "current standards for animal welfare are
appropriate for the Company's global supply chain
at this time," meaning they will not require their
suppliers to use CAS. The report cited CAS's "early
stage of development" as the primary reason for not
using it now, but it also said the technology "has
potential" and that management will examine it further.
The McDonalds report provides a brief history of the
development of CAS and draws upon academic and industry
experts to build a consensus opinion of the technology.
McDonalds says that its suppliers' experience with
CAS have resulted in several benefits, including easier
handling of birds because they do not have to be shackled,
more efficient stunning, and higher quality flesh.
However, the report also notes that CAS carries a
higher initial cost and that updating older slaughterhouses
and training workers may be barriers for some suppliers.
The report states that improvements in electrical
stunning have been made, but those improvements seem
to relate to quality of flesh rather than animal welfare.
(For the full text of the McDonalds report on CAS
technology, follow the link below).
"Board Report on Feasibility of Implementing Controlled Atmosphere Stunning for Broilers," McDonalds Corporation, 6/29/05
Poultry Welfare: Wegmans Investigation; HSUS and Trader
Joes; Farm Deaths
WEGMANS: The New York
State-based group Compassionate Consumers released
a documentary video covering three separate investigations
of Wegmans Egg Farm. The full film is also available
for downloading on the group's website (see below).
According to one media report, "The film shows hens
wandering over heaps of manure and the group's investigators
removing corpses from wire cages and freeing injured
hens whose heads, feet or wings were snagged in the
wire-grid 'battery' cages." Wegmans is the largest
egg farm in New York, with more than 700,000 hens
housed in 11 barns, plus another 250,000 pullets not
ready for full egg production. A Compassionate Consumers
website created specifically for the Wegmans investigation
provides a detailed photo gallery and stories of hens
rescued from the farm.
TRADER JOES: After successfully convincing natural food retailers Wild Oats and Whole Foods Market to stop carrying eggs from hens raised in cages, The Humane Society of the US (HSUS) is trying to do the same with Trader Joes. So far the company has refused the request based on the grounds that it must keep prices low for its cost-conscious shoppers. In response, HSUS is calling upon activists and consumers to convince Trader Joes to adhere to what an HSUS official calls a tradition of "taking animal welfare seriously."
DEATHS: In FAW
#5-25 we reported that nearly 420,000 chickens
perished in a barn fire in Iowa. This week another
62,000 birds died in two separate incidents involving
heat exhaustion and another fire in Pennsylvania.
This includes 42,000 chickens who died of heat exhaustion
at two farms in Oregon in the same week, due to overcrowding
the animals and temperature control failures. Another
20,000 chickens died in the Pennsylvania fire.
1. "WegmansCruelty.com," Compassionate Consumers, July 2005
2. "Activists Take on Wegmans," Democrat and Chronicle, 7/2/05
3. "Going Cage-Free: If Whole Foods and Wild Oats Can Do It, Why Can't Trader Joe's?" HSUS, 6/28/05
4. "Deaths of 42,000 Chickens Raise Issue," The Oregonian, 7/5/05
5. "Fire Kills 20,000 Chickens in Coop on Northampton County Farm," WNEP.com / Associated Press, 6/30/05
3. DR-CAFTA Passes US Senate with Major Implications for Farmed Animal Welfare
On June 30, the US Senate approved the far-reaching Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) by a vote of 54 to 45. The US House of Representatives will now consider the issue, although its outcome is less certain in the House because many Republicans oppose DR-CAFTA for economic reasons. Many farm groups are nonetheless lauding DR-CAFTA's passage in the Senate, including support from the American Meat Institute (AMI), the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). AMI President J. Patrick Boyle said that the Senate's passage of DR-CAFTA "signals new opportunities and growth for producers and processors throughout the Americas." An AFBF economic report indicates that DR-CAFTA would increase US agricultural exports by an estimated $1.5 billion per year, much of it from animal products. The report estimates export growth resulting from DR-CAFTA's passage, by product type, as follows: Poultry ($178 million); Pork ($108 million); Beef ($47 million); and Cheese/Butter ($18 million). The numbers are based on AFBF's estimates for aggregate export gains over the next 20 years for each product (see link to economic analysis, below). A US House vote on DR-CAFTA is expected during the week of July 11, 2005.
1. "Central American Trade Pact Passes Senate Vote," Meatingplace.com, 7/4/05
2. "Senate Passes Free-Trade Pact CAFTA," Journal-Gazette / Associated Press, 7/1/05
3. "Statement Regarding Senate Passage of CAFTA-DR," AFBF, 7/1/05
4. "Economic Analysis of the CAFTA-DR," AFBF, 2005
PDF file (365k): http://www.fb.org/issues/cafta/DR-CAFTA-Report-Final.pdf
4. Farmed Animal Waste Management Research and Technical Advances
The full presentations from a January
2005 symposium on the "State of the Science" of farmed
animal waste management are available in full online.
The symposium, sponsored by the National Center for
Manure and Animal Waste Management, included a diverse
program with mostly technical and scientific presentations.
Specific presentations of interest include "Environmental
and General Public Concerns" and "Risks of Antibiotics
and Endocrine Disrupting Compounds in Animal Waste."
The US Department of Agriculture funded much of the
research, which is meant to discover means of mitigating
the environmental impact of large-scale farming. One
new technology employed by a dairy farm in Minnesota
has successfully powered a hydrogen fuel cell using
methane biogas captured from cows used for milk production.
This represents the first time farmed animal "biogas"
has produced sufficient fuel to run a hydrogen cell;
the system uses waste from the farm's 430 cows, processed
in a massive "anaerobic digester." These and similar
manure-related advances may improve environmental
conditions. However, animal protectionists will note
that they also make the mass confinement of animals
for human consumption more environmentally defensible.
1. "Symposium: State of the Science - Animal Manure and Waste Management," January 2005
2. "Dairy Runs Hydrogen Fuel Cell," Feedstuffs Online,"
BSE Case: Regulatory Fallout Continues but Industry Economics Are Unaffected
The discovery of BSE in a US-born animal
slaughtered in November 2004 prompted severe criticism
of the US Department of Agriculture's testing procedures
and calls for regulatory changes, but had little impact
on "beef" markets. The USDA's confused testing procedures
have caused lawmakers to request better cooperation
between the department and the Food and Drug Administration,
and improved means of identifying animals on a national
level. Notably, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns appeared
to dismiss concerns that the department might lift
the ban on allowing "downer" cows into the human food
supply, although he didn't rule it out for the future.
Instead, Johanns said, "The downer ban is there. We
haven't made a specific decision about the timeline
(for lifting the ban), but it will be done very publicly."
The BSE infected cow from last November was a so-called
downer, or non-ambulatory animal, lending weight to
the suggestion from some animal protectionists that
the downer ban should be permanent. None of the BSE
news has seemed to dampen beef markets, however, with
one rancher saying, "Everybody's pretty much desensitized
to it (BSE) now... I don't think this is going to
1. "Ban on Downer Cows Will Remain," Newsday / Associated Press, 6/30/05
2. "DeLauro Calls for USDA, FDA to Coordinate Attack on BSE," Meatingplace.com, 6/30/2005
3. "Cattle Futures, Cattlemen Calm After Latest Case," The Dallas Morning News, 7/2/05
Global Meat Consumption to Grow Despite Gain in Popularity of Plant-Based Diets
According to the WorldWatch Institute,
the production of meat from animal flesh has increased
by 500% since 1950 and is expected to grow 2% every
year through 2015. The institute says that much of
the growth in meat consumption will come from "developing
countries where eating meat is seen as a sign of wealth
and prosperity." In its Vital Signs publication, the
institute says that by 2020 the average person will
consume the "equivalent of a side of beef, 50 chickens,
and one pig" every year. Meat production will rise
at a faster rate than population growth, reflecting
increased per capita consumption. According to WorldWatch,
"Since the 1970s, meat production has more than doubled
because of higher demand and the introduction of large-scale
production processes." Their report notes that such
large-scale production leads to massive animal confinement
operations with ongoing welfare issues and sometimes
catastrophic environmental consequences.
The institute also cites several "successes" including
the growth of vegetarianism and the popularity of
reducing one's meat consumption, especially in Europe.
Vegan diets, which involve no animal flesh or byproducts
of any sort, are also gaining popularity, including
among US college students. A survey conducted by ARAMARK
Corp. found that 24% of US college students, of 100,000
surveyed, believe that having access to vegan meals
is important to them. (See FAW
#72 (vol. 2)). According to ARAMARK, "As the interest
in vegan offerings increase, more and more universities
are featuring vegan menu items," and the company lists
several universities that are currently integrating
vegan fare. ARAMARK now offers more than 220 vegan
food items through its "Just4U" (TM) Healthy Menu
1. "Meat: Good Stuff?" World Watch Institute, 2005
2. "Vital Signs Report: Firing up the Barbie," World Watch Institute, 2005
3. "Vegan Options More Popular Than Ever on College Campuses," ARAMARK Corp., 6/21/05
Other Items of Interest
"Asia Needs $100 Million to
Fight Birdflu," The Poultry Site / Reuters, 7/4/05
Funds needed to combat Avian Influenza are short by
$70 million with insufficient pledges from the US
and European countries, according to an official with
the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO). The FAO estimates costs to fight the disease
will total $100 million through 2008, and only $30
has currently been pledged for that timeframe (with
additional funds for the following years).
"Cattlemen's Group Launches USA Raised Campaign,"
A beef industry trade group has launched a new label
for retailers, restaurants, and slaughterers to claim
that the animals were "USA raised" before being killed.
The Cattlemen's Competitive Market Project has initiated
the program to promote "source verified beef" and
to indirectly support mandatory country-of-origin
"Consumer Poll: Food Safety Confidence Will
Improve With Mandatory National Animal Identification
System," Schering-Plough Corp., 6/23/05
A study conducted by animal healthcare product company
Schering-Plough Corp. finds that consumer confidence
in the "meat supply" rates a 6.5 out of 10 (based
on 1,000 respondents). The study also found that confidence
in the safety of meat products would rise by more
than 7% if a national animal identification system
(NAIS) were implemented, more if the system were mandatory.
UK: "Soil Association Urges Higher Organic
Chicken Welfare Standards," Just-food.com, 7/5/05
The UK's main trade association for organic products
has made a case to the government for better chicken
welfare, including egg-laying hens and chickens reared
for their flesh. According to the Soil Association's
Director, "Organic consumers are backing high standards
for chicken and eggs... Flocks of 9,000 birds should
not be allowed under the government's organic standards,
as they are not under Soil Association standards."
"U.S. State Export Data," USDA Economic Research
Every year on June 30 the USDA releases state-by-state
estimates of agricultural exports, including summary
tables of states ranked by total exports and specific
"commodities." The data is a potentially valuable
source of information regarding state-level farmed
animal related exports in the US.