Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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December 21, 2007 -- Number 35, Volume 7

1. COMPASS GROUP, U.S. HOUSE MOVE TO CAGE-FREE EGGS

The North American component of Compass Group, the world’s largest food service provider, has announced a cage-free shell egg policy. (Shell eggs are eggs used straight from their shell rather than in a processed form.) To be phased in over the next 3 months, the policy will involve some 48 million eggs annually, “reducing the suffering of nearly 200,000 hens,” according to The Humane Society of the U.S. A joint press release notes: “While cage-free does not mean cruelty-free, cage-free hens generally have 250-300 percent more space per bird.” Compass Group will require that its shell egg suppliers adhere to the standards of Humane Farm Animal Care (see item #6 of http://tinyurl.com/wlyg ). “This is a huge undertaking for our company, but we're proud to be making such a significant contribution to the welfare of farm animals,” said a Compass Group spokesperson.

Under a “Green the Capitol” initiative, the cafeteria of the U.S. House of Representatives will undergo a transition on Christmas Eve. In a new contract with Restaurant Associates  (a division of the Compass Group), the cafeteria will begin using cage-free shell eggs and milk from cows who have not been injected with bovine growth hormone (rBGH), in addition to “more environmentally sound” fish, and organic and locally grown food. The House Dining Services web page entitled Corporate Social Responsibility explains: “In the United States, more than 95% of the nearly 300 million laying hens are confined to barren battery cages, unable even to spread their wings or engage in many other natural behaviors, such as nesting, foraging, perching, and dust bathing” (see: http://tinyurl.com/2g9kvv ). The operation serves more than 2.5 million meals yearly. A San Francisco Chronicle article explains that the U.S. Senate food service, wholly owned and operated by the Senate, “is sticking to its fried okra and Styrofoam.” It further notes that “with Senate passage of the farm bill [see: http://tinyurl.com/2xygyp ] last week, Congress has ensured that the United States will retain its status as Junk Food Nation for five more years.”


WORLD’S LARGEST FOOD SERVICE PROVIDER HATCHES A CAGE-FREE EGG POLICY
Compass Group/The Humane Society of the United States press release, Dec.17, 2007
http://www.cgnad.com/default.asp?action=article&ID=508

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
U.S. House of Representatives Dining Services (Restaurant Associates)
http://go.compass-usa.com/house/content/sustainability.asp

PELOSI LEADS THE HOUSE TO GO ORGANIC IN ITS CAFETERIAS
San Francisco Chronicle, Carolyn Lochhead, December 17, 2007
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/17/MNK0TRJCI.DTL

 

2. MORNINGSTAR TO USE A MILLION FEWER EGGS IN 2008

Morningstar Farms, a Kellogg subsidiary and leading U.S. vegetarian food company, announced it will use at least a million fewer eggs in 2008. As a result, “nearly 4,000 fewer laying hens will suffer in factory farms each year,” stated Compassion Over Killing. The animal advocacy organization had joined with Vegan Outreach in a consumer campaign targeting Morningstar. The company also declared: “We are committed to announcing even more new vegan products for our customers." On his blog, Robert Vosburgh, group editor of Supermarket News (“the food industry's leading newsweekly”), wrote: “The company…did the right thing, got great press and perhaps most importantly — demonstrated how a big mainstream company can change with consumer demand and actually, truly, benefit from it.” Referring to animal well-being, he concluded: “Morningstar Farms was smart to acknowledge just how dearly many consumers feel about the matter.”

{Morningstar’s Veggie Creations photo/video gallery at: http://tinyurl.com/2l8nov }


MORNINGSTAR FARMS RESPONDS TO DEMAND FOR EGG-FREE FOODS
Earthtimes (Compassion Over Killing/Vegan Outreach press release), Dec. 12, 2007
http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/news_press_release,241040.shtml 

MORNINGSTAR FARMS AND 4,000 HENS
Refresh, Bob Vosburgh, December 14, 2007
http://whrefresh.com/2007/12/14/morningstar-farms-and-4000-hens/

 

3. PETA CAUSES MONESTARY TO END EGG BUSINESS

South Carolina’s Mepkin Abbey has announced it will phase out its 20,000-hen egg operation following renewed opposition to it by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In February, PETA announced it had covert video of hens crowded in small cages there, and that the suppliers amputated hens’ beaks and killed male chicks. On December 19th the organization announced it planned to organize a boycott. That same day, the Abbey released a statement admitting to no wrongdoing but saying that PETA had made it difficult for the monks to live a quiet life. PETA hopes to work with the monks to remove the hens from the cages as soon as possible.


PETA DRIVES S.C. MONKS OUT OF EGG BUSINESS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Associated Press), December 20, 2007 
http://tinyurl.com/29uh3g

 

4. CO. PORK PRODUCERS COUNCIL TO PHASE OUT GESTATION CRATES

The Colorado Pork Producers Council has announced it will phase out gestation crates for pigs and switch to group housing systems during the next ten years. Nearly 150,000 pigs in the state are confined in crates. Wayne Pacelle, head of The Humane Society of the U.S., praised the plan and urged other agribusinesses to follow suit, including the egg industry which keeps some 3.8 million hens in battery cages there. “We support industry reforms and corporate policies on these practices, but there is no substitute for legal standards that codify the most basic humane treatment of farm animals,” Pacelle stated.

STATEMENT FROM WAYNE PACELLE ON DECISION TO PHASE OUT GESTATION CRATES IN CO
Cattle Network, December 19, 2007
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?contentid=184759

 

5. INDUSTRY PROPOSES LABELS FOR FOOD FROM CLONES

Nearly a year after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drafted a recommendation approving the unrestricted sale of meat and milk from cloned animals and their children (see: http://tinyurl.com/36ds7k ), the country’s two largest cloning companies are proposing a voluntary labeling program. The proposal was prompted by consumer “queasiness” toward consuming meat or milk from cloned animals and by continuing delays in the government approval process. The plan calls for all cloned farmed animals to be registered in a central tracking system. It also requires buyers to sign affidavits agreeing to keep the animals out of the food supply or to segregate meat and milk from them. A large deposit would be required for the purchase of a cloned animal which would only be refunded with documentation that the animal had died and been identified as a clone or kept out of the food chain. The FDA reportedly will only allow the labeling program if it can be assured that all companies producing cloned animals participate in it, and if there is adequate incentive for truthfulness.

Just this week, Congress acted to further delay FDA approval (see also: http://tinyurl.com/3aaurt ). However, the FDA has an opportunity to finalize its approval during the holiday season. Most of the more than 150,000 public comments the FDA has received have opposed it, although food industry-funded surveys have shown a gradual increase in consumer acceptance of food from cloned animals.

'CLONE-FREE' MILK COULD GET LABEL
The Washington Post, Rick Weiss, December 19, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/37qp2e

 

6. ANTIBIOTICS AND LETHAL BACTERIA (MRSA)

“Two stories in the news this year…may point to an imminent breakdown in the way we’re growing food today,” writes Michael Pollan (see: http://tinyurl.com/2xygyp ) in an article in The New York Times Magazine entitledOur Decrepit Food Factories.” One is about the decline of honeybees, who are “so stressed out and their immune systems so compromised that, much like livestock on factory farms, they’ve become vulnerable to whatever new infectious agent happens to come along.” The other is about an antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphylococcus (“staph”) bacteria, MRSA, said to be killing more Americans each year than AIDS (100,000 infections and 19,000 deaths in 2005). A new, more virulent strain is now killing young and otherwise healthy people. Some researchers suspect it may have evolved through the heavy use of antibiotics in intensive farmed animal production systems. Pollan states: “…the crucial fact is that without these pharmaceuticals, meat production practiced on the scale and with the intensity we practice it could not be sustained for months, let alone decades.”

Confinement pig operations in Canada and Europe have been found to be reservoirs of MRSA. Recent studies have found that 20% of the pig farmers tested in Ontario carried the bacteria, and that the source of more than 20% of all MRSA cases in the Netherlands can be traced to an animal reservoir. The common movement of pigs between Canada and the U.S. means that MRSA may also be present on pig farms here. Industry, however, has not been receptive to having the possibility investigated. Pollan writes: “For what if these researchers should find proof that one of the hidden costs of cheap meat is an epidemic of drug-resistant infection among young people? There would be calls to revolutionize the way we produce meat in this country. This is not something that the meat and the pharmaceutical industries or their respective regulatory ‘watchdogs’ — the Department of Agriculture and F.D.A. — are in any rush to see happen.”

Pollan continues: “We’re asking a lot of our bees. We’re asking a lot of our pigs too. That seems to be a hallmark of industrial agriculture: to maximize production and keep food as cheap as possible, it pushes natural systems and organisms to their limit, asking them to function as efficiently as machines…Whenever we try to rearrange natural systems along the lines of a machine or a factory, whether by raising too many pigs in one place or too many almond trees, whatever we may gain in industrial efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience. The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how…”

______

The Pig Site and The Poultry Site, two industry-sponsored sites, both ran an editorial in mid-December stating: “The increasing incidence of a scary antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection and new international evidence tying it to livestock provide two more good reasons why the United States needs to apply the brakes to routine use of antibiotics in animal feed.” Referring to the voluntary restrictions of antibiotics announced by some companies, the editorial contends: “It's time for Congress to make this federal policy and to require federal regulators and health officials to start tracking MRSA.”

On a related note, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently found that U.S. poultry workers are 32 times more likely to carry E. coli bacteria that is resistant to the commonly used antibiotic, gentamicin, than are people outside of the poultry industry. See: http://tinyurl.com/2kc6jz

OUR DECREPIT FOOD FACTORIES
The New York Times, Michael Pollan, December 16, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/magazine/16wwln-lede-t.html

MRSA SPELLS AN END TO LIVESTOCK ANTIBIOTICS
The Pig Site/The Poultry Site, December 17/13, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/29ym2p
http://tinyurl.com/2foxt7

 

7. U.S. INSTITUTIONS INCREASINGLY OFFER VEGETARIAN FOOD

Schools, prisons and other institutions in the U.S. have been responding to the growing demand for vegetarian food, according to a new survey by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). For example, most correctional institutions now offer vegetarian entrees at all meals, the survey found. State facilities in large part began offering meat alternatives in 2000, after an inmate sued the federal prison system. (Non-meat selections were ultimately offered at federal facilities, too.) The American Medical Association and many health care professionals support vegetarian options in schools and food assistance programs. Although some vegetarian products may be more costly, serving plant-based foods may result in long-term health care savings due to numerous health benefits which are spelled out by the American Dietetic Association. “I don't know why more schools and institutions don't offer vegetarian options," said Katherine Tallmadge, a dietetic association spokeswoman.

A MEATY SUBJECT
The Baltimore Sun, Meredith Cohn, December 20, 2007
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/health/bal-to.hs.dining20dec20,0,3503421.story






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Compiled and edited by Mary Finelli, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.