Comprehensive New Report on Farmed Animal Labeling and Marketing Claims
Animal advocacy and rescue group Farm Sanctuary has released a comprehensive new report entitled, "Farm Animal Welfare: An Assessment of Product Labeling Claims, Industry Quality Assurance Guidelines and Third-Party Certification Programs." The report provides a detailed analysis of industry marketing and labeling claims, including the increasingly common use of terms such as "antibiotic-free," "cage-free," "humanely raised," and others. The report also includes an industry-by-industry comparison of animal welfare standards developed by producers against those offered by several third-party certifiers. Such third parties include the US Department of Agriculture's organic certification program, Certified Humane, Free Farmed, and the Animal Welfare Institute. The Farm Sanctuary report covers the following industries: Beef; Dairy; Sheep; Pigs; Chickens (raised for flesh); and Hens.
Farm Sanctuary calls the animal industry's quality assurance guidelines "inadequate" and says that they "codify inhumane farming systems, fail to prevent suffering and distress, and do not allow for the expression of normal animal behavior." The report also states that many labeling and marketing claims used by the industry are subjective and unsubstantiated by any third party. It also discusses certification programs sponsored by animal advocacy groups, but says the impact of those programs on animal welfare has been "minimal." The report notes that, "While some humane certification standards may disallow certain cruel practices, significant deficiencies exist in these as well." According to Farm Sanctuary, at least one humane certifier allows animals to be kept indoors at all times or have their tails or beaks cut off under some circumstances, while another certifier has no means of reviewing and revising its standards.
The Farm Sanctuary report goes into significant detail on all of these programs and includes a list of industry organizations and a comprehensive glossary of farmed animal and related terms. The group has also produced a summary booklet of the report with brief comparisons of programs by industry and is making it available for free to the media and the public. For more information, please see the news release below.
"Farm Sanctuary Releases Report Assessing Farm Animal Welfare Standards
in US," Farm Sanctuary, 9/21/05
Veterinarian Comments on the State of Farmed Pig Welfare
in the U.S.
The public and critics of animal agriculture have shifted the burden of proof regarding pig welfare to farmers, according to John Deen of the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine. Deen writes, "With changes in society (and) an increased concentration of ownership and decision-making in agriculture, the 'trust me' argument has slowly disappeared." He concludes that the industry has two possible responses to the loss of trust, including relying on a regulatory response to some practices of animal agriculture or developing its own formal process to measure pig welfare. Deen suggests that "the delivery of animal care should be transparent as to what efforts are being made to ensure an education of caregivers, a delivery of adequate resources, and a validation that the education and resources are being used correctly and judiciously."
Deen also discusses the "five freedoms," a widely recognized framework for animal welfare originally developed by the UK's Roger Brambell in 1965, and suggests they should be the basis for measuring pig welfare. Deen says that pig farmers are in agreement that the five freedoms must be addressed, but notes that farmers and critics have widely varying interpretations of those freedoms. He also writes that despite increased attention to proper pig handling, problems still exist: "In all farms newborn piglets die due to a lack of inadequate milk availability, weanlings succumb to systematic infections, and gilts are intimidated by older sows." Deen also points out other current pig farming and welfare issues, including the lack of prompt euthanasia for pigs and the "high level" of mortality among sows.
"The Challenges of Delivering and Explaining Pig Welfare," The PigSite, 9/20/05
3. Activists Announce New Investigations of "Animal Care Certified" Egg Farms
Activist group Compassion Over Killing
(COK) conducted an open investigation of three egg
farms in February 2005, including two that are part
of United Egg Producers' "Animal Care Certified" (ACC)
program. COK's investigation of Maryland's largest
egg farms included County Fair Farms, ISE-America,
and Red Bird Egg Farm. The group has produced a series
of videos and photo galleries (available online, see
link below) including graphic images of dead and dying
birds to "expose the misery endured by millions of
the state's egg-laying hens." COK notes that despite
ACC certification for two of the three farms, conditions
at all facilities are "strikingly similar." The latest
COK investigation follows similar open investigations
in past years and helped spawn a lawsuit to stop United
Egg Producers and several egg retailers from using
the ACC label.
In 2003, COK succeeded in getting the US Better Business Bureau to agree that the ACC label is misleading and to refer the matter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for possible legal action. However, the FTC has not yet taken any measures and the label continues to be used on retail egg cartons throughout the country. Nonetheless, COK's campaign is getting some response from retailers, including Giant Foods, which recently announced that it will no longer brand its own eggs with "Animal Care Certified." Giant Foods settled with COK out of court and is said to be reviewing the matter and COK's claims about inhumane conditions on ACC farms before making a final decision. COK's lawsuit against UEP and other retailers will continue, and the group hopes that its efforts will help lead to ending the use of cages for egg-laying hens altogether.
1. "Advocates Challenge Humane-Care Label…," Washington Post, 9/19/05
2. "COK Exposes Maryland Egg Industry," Compassion
Over Killing, Sept-05
4. Farmed Animal Statistics: Global Production of Eggs (and Hen Mortality)
The Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) of the United Nations tracks the global production
of a wide range of agricultural "commodities," including
animals and animal products. Global egg production,
according to FAO data, grew from 37.6 million metric
tons in 1990 to 54.3 million in 1990, an increase
of nearly 45%. The majority of this growth is taking
place in "developing" countries, particularly those
in Asia. In 1990, developed and developing countries
produced roughly equal numbers of eggs, but in 2000
the developed countries accounted for only 34% of
The following table shows a regional index comparing
egg production levels by region for 2000 and 1990.
By far the most growth has occurred in Asia where
production has more than doubled in the past decade.
By comparison, all other regions witnessed relatively
modest growth, and Europe now produces roughly 15%
fewer eggs than in 1990.
|North and Central America
Regarding individual countries, the top producer is
China, which produces more than four times as many
eggs as its nearest competitor, the U.S. The following
table summarizes year 2000 production levels (in metric
tons) for the top ten egg producing countries and
the actual change (also in metric tons) for the 10-year
period beginning in 1990.
On a related note, an FAO document intended for producers
and marketers of eggs provides a comprehensive guide
to hen housing and egg production systems. The bulletin
includes a list of factors that may impact egg production,
including the mortality of birds at various stages
of production. According to FAO, "the average mortality
rate of a flock is from 20 to 25 percent per year."
Following are the FAO's estimates of hen mortality
at each major stage of production.
On a related note, an FAO document intended for producers and marketers of eggs provides a comprehensive guide to hen housing and egg production systems. The bulletin includes a list of factors that may impact egg production, including the mortality of birds at various stages of production. According to FAO, "the average mortality rate of a flock is from 20 to 25 percent per year." Following are the FAO's estimates of hen mortality at each major stage of production.
- Small chicks (up to eight weeks
of age): about 4 percent
- Growers (between eight and 20
weeks of age): about 15 percent
- Layers (between 20 and 72 weeks
of age): about 12 percent
1. "World Egg and Poultry Meat: Production, Trade, and Supply," FAO Report, 2003
PDF File (361k): http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/subjects/documents/eggs/Egg-Poultry-Production.pdf
2. "Egg Marketing: A Guide for the Production and
Sale of Eggs," FAO Bulletin, 2003
PDF File (1.2mb): http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/subjects/documents/eggs/eggs_en.pdf
5. Other Items of Interest
"U.S. Senate Rings the Death Knell on Horse Slaughter," 9/20/05
On September 20, the US Senate voted 68-29 to pass an amendment that would end federal funding for horse slaughter for one year if agreed to by a full congressional committee. The US House of Representatives passed a similar bill in June that also banned the export of horses for slaughter in other countries. Senators Robert Byrd and John Ensign introduced the bill and gave explicit testimony in favor the legislation, describing conditions for horses during transport and slaughter.
New Zealand: "Pregnant Cows Dying in Transit, Vets Say," Stuff-CO.NZ, 9/16/05
The head of New Zealand's Veterinary Association is warning animal transporters to ensure the welfare of pregnant cows being used to produce fetal blood for the pharmaceutical industry. He says, "We have been advised that some of these cows are calving en route to slaughter premises and that's totally unacceptable." The NZ government has issued a bulletin to its member veterinarians to help ensure that pregnant cows are transported early enough in the pregnancy to reduce the risk of calving in transit.
"Pork Production Continues Boom in Iowa," Meatingplace.com, 9/20/05
According to Meatingplace.com, the number of permits issued for pig farms in Iowa has increased by 59% in 2005 compared to a year ago. "Nearly all" of the permits are for operations of more than 2,500 pigs, leading many to criticize the growth of factory-style pig farming in the state, and its consequences.
"Dairy has $47 Billion Economic Impact in California," Dairy Herd News, 9/12/05
A study commissioned by the California Milk Advisory Board found that for every dollar of milk revenue, eight dollars of "economic activity" are generated by the industry. The study estimates the total economic contribution of the state's dairy industry at $47 billion and predicts continued growth. By 2015, the report says that California milk production will increase by 27% and the state's cheese production will grow by 42%.
"Public Health Risk from Avian Influenza Viruses," Avian Diseases, 9/14/05
A new article in the journal Avian Diseases offers a rare comprehensive description of the current status of avian influenza. The article provides a history of human influenza outbreaks and a detailed analysis of the potential for avian to influenza to lead to a human pandemic. Contrary to much of the press lately regarding avian influenza, the article's authors write, "in fact most evidence indicates a difficult adaptation process for this virus into the human population."