Foster Farms, Inc. Touts Animal Welfare Audit Report
Foster Farms, Inc., one of the largest poultry slaughterers in the world, has received the highest rating in an animal welfare audit conducted by food quality company Silliker, Inc. Foster Farms is proudly touting the audit results, which the company says covered "the hatchery, growout and catching procedures and transportation practices." Foster Farms is unique among the largest poultry companies because it does not confine birds to cages, but rather to barns. According to the company's press release, "Foster Farms would like to assure consumers that its chickens and turkeys are raised in large poultry barns (without cages) that allow the birds to move around… Keeping our poultry comfortable and well treated is a priority for Foster Farms and ensures excellent health and development."
The Foster Farms press release, however, omits some
relevant information about the audit and the company's
animal handling practices. Silliker, Inc., the auditing
company used by Foster Farms, has historically focused
on food testing, safety, and quality; animal welfare
audits are a new service for the company. Moreover,
Silliker developed its poultry welfare audit with
the help of the National Chicken Council, a US poultry
industry trade group that includes Foster Farms among
its members. Additionally, although Foster Farms refers
to conducting "consistent" animal welfare audits,
it does not indicate the frequency of those audits.
Past undercover investigations of Foster Farms by
California animal activists have shown that the company's
practices are failing to stop cases of negligence
and animal cruelty. For details, see http://www.fosterfacts.net/.
1. "High Rating for Foster Farms," MeatNews.com, 11/29/05
2. Press Release: "Reports Reveal 'Excellent' Company Compliance and a Consistent Track Record of Adhering to Nationally Recognized Guidelines and Humane Practices," Foster Farms, 11/25/05
3. Silliker, Inc. Animal Welfare Audit Guidelines
2. Researchers Say Desire for Cheap Animal Flesh Sets Stage for Host of Problems
Public health researchers and the media are becoming increasingly aware of the relationship of modern animal farming practices to human health problems and animal welfare issues. A new letter appearing in the British Medical Journal says that current international food policy efforts ignore hidden costs including specifically animal health and welfare. The letter is co-authored by a veterinarian based in Canada and a University of London food policy professor who argue for a joint medical and veterinary approach to food policy. According to the authors, "Today, veterinarians help farmers control the diseases and other welfare concerns that intensive farming inadvertently promotes." The authors suggest that while focus remains on food policy is the best time to push for an integrated position that considers food safety, human health, and animal welfare.
1. "Cheap Meat Putting Animals, Humans at Risk," United Press International, 11/28/05
2. "Animal and Human Case for Reforming Current Food Policies," British Medical Journal, 11/26/05
Canada: Slaughterhouse Developments Face Public Opposition
Organized groups of Canadian citizens are working to block the development of new large-scale farms and slaughterhouses throughout the country. In Hamilton, Ontario, groups including Citizens Against Pig Slaughterhouses have been fighting to stop Maple Leaf Foods from purchasing 50 acres to build a new slaughter facility. On November 22, Maple Leaf withdrew its purchase offer, citing community opposition and the government's lack of confidence in its own approval process as the main reasons. Some members of the local government were skeptical of Maple Leaf because of what they call poor communication with officials and the public. The company now says it will consider expanding one of its existing operations or seeking development land elsewhere. Another slaughterhouse under development, this one in Calgary, Alberta, recently had to change locations after facing strong opposition from the community. However, the cow slaughter facility is still expected to open in early 2006 after relocating several hundred meters away, outside the city.
1. "Maple Leaf Moves On," Stoney Creek News, 11/25/05
2. Press Release: "Maple Leaf Withdraws its Offer to Purchase Hamilton Property," Maple Leaf Foods, 11/22/05
3. "Beef Processing Facility on Track," MeatNews.com, 11/23/05
Pig Welfare: Lawsuit to Ban Crates in California; Considering Natural Behaviors
LAWSUIT: Farm Sanctuary is challenging the use of pig gestation crates using a California law that requires confined animals to have enough room to exercise. The group is suing one of California's largest farmed pig breeding companies, arguing that the use of small gestation crates for pregnant and nursing sows violates the law. According to a Farm Sanctuary spokesperson, "The crates are used because the pigs can be fed at the front and hosed down at the back. The animals are used like tools of production, like piglet producing machines."
NATURAL BEHAVIORS: Pig welfare is a concern in both individual and group housing, according to Dr. Tina Widowski from the University of Guelph (Canada). Group housing may lead to "production limiting behavioral problems" such as "belly nosing or belly sucking," ear biting, tail biting, and vulva biting among sows. Dr. Widowski says these are the result of pigs not having any stimuli in the confinement area, and she advises farmers to take into account pigs' natural behaviors when dealing with problems perceived to be aggression. According to the professor, "Think about what (a pig) would be doing in that stage of its life in the natural setting and think of how those natural tendencies are constrained or changed by how we're managing pigs in production settings."
1. "Group Files Lawsuit for Alleged Animal Abuse," ABC Local NEWS, 11/27/05
2. Press Release: "Groundbreaking Court Case Challenges
Factory Farming Animal Confinement in California,"
Farm Sanctuary, 10/19/2005
3. "Swine Producers Encouraged to Consider Natural
Behavior when Addressing Behavioral Problems in the
Barn," Farmscape (Episode 1981) -by Bruce Cochrane,
Farmed Animal Statistics: World Pig Slaughter and Consumption
The US Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) provides regular updates on the slaughter, consumption, and international trade of farmed animals and animal products. The most recent FAS report covers world markets and trade for farmed animals, including historic and forecasted "production" and consumption data. The full report (link below) includes a global overview and summaries of the slaughter and consumption of pigs, chickens, cows, and turkeys. Below we focus on statistics regarding the global slaughter and consumption of pigs, which China dominates with its large human population.
Pig Slaughter or "Production"
From FAS: "Accounting for 76% of the major producers'
increase forecast in 2006, China will drive pork production
for those countries 3% higher in 2006 to just over
95 million tons. China will continue to dominate as
the world leader with nearly 51 million tons of pork
production. Increases in pork production will occur
in the European Union and Russia in 2006. Brazilian
pork production will increase just over 3% to slightly
more than 2.8 million tons in 2006 as the FMD-impacted
region of Mato Grosso do Sul is not a major pork producing
|Country (000s of
|People's Republic of China
From FAS: "Pork consumption in the major consuming
countries is expected to grow about 3% in 2006 and
again China accounts for the largest portion (76%)
of forecasted growth. One of the few countries in
which a decline in consumption is anticipated in 2006
is Japan. While the decline in Japanese pork consumption
is minor, less than 2%, it demonstrates the market
is readjusting. In 2004, mainly due to import bans
on U.S. beef due to BSE and Asian poultry due to AI,
Japan experienced unusually high levels of demand
for pork. As Japan adjusts to supply shocks to the
beef and poultry sectors, pork consumption is forecast
to return to more historic levels."
|Country (000s of
|People's Republic of China
1. "Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade," US Foreign Agricultural Service, Nov-2005
PDF file (527k): http://www.fas.usda.gov/dlp/circular/2005/05-11LP/dlp05_11LP.pdf
2. "World Pork Trade Overview - November 2005," PigSite / FAS, 11/28/05
6. Other Items of Interest
"Bird Flu and Chicken Factory
Farms: Profit Bonanza for US Agribusiness," Center
for Research on Globalization, 11/28/05
An article published by the Canada-based Centre for Research on Globalization says that world health officials are misdirecting their attention with respect to avian influenza. According to the author, "Look to the… chicken factory farms around the world as a more likely source for emerging Bird Flu viruses, not to small peasant chicken farmers." He also alleges that large US poultry slaughter companies and others are actually using the potential avian influenza pandemic to their financial advantage.
EDITORIAL: "Farm Animal Treatment Must be
Government Priority," HSUS by Paul Shapiro, 11/25/05
Animal activist and employee of the Humane Society of the United States Paul Shapiro is calling upon state and federal governments to enact laws to protect farmed animals. He notes that many US states currently do not have laws that ensure humane treatment of farmed animals, despite growing concern about animal welfare from the public. As a result, Shapiro says, "Factory farms have shown little mercy to animals, many of whom are treated in ways that would warrant criminal charges if they were dogs or cats."
EDITORIAL: "Multi-Species Meat Products Give
the Meat Industry Something Else for Which to be Thankful,"
Meatnews.com by Dom Castaldo, 11/23/05
Industry commentator Dom Castaldo, PhD, notes that the US meat industry is in an excellent position, with "plenty of animals to process and a growing number of mouths to feed." He also lauds industry "innovations" such as deep-frying slaughtered turkeys which was introduced last year. According to Castaldo, this year's fad is a product called "turducken," which is "a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey."
"New Zealand Dairy to Invest In Chinese Milk
Group Sanlu," Wall Street Journal, 11/30/05
Large international dairy companies are taking financial stakes in Chinese companies to tap into a rapidly growing domestic market for dairy products. Group Danone of France owns a nearly 12% stake in a Shanghai dairy company, while Fonterra of New Zealand most recently purchased a 40% stake in China's Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group. The number of partnerships and joint ventures is expected to continue as China's consumer dairy market develops further.