Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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July 6, 2005 -- Number 26, Volume 5

1. 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

2. 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. "," 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 (HSUS website)

4. "Deaths of 42,000 Chickens Raise Issue," The Oregonian, 7/5/05 ( website)

5. "Fire Kills 20,000 Chickens in Coop on Northampton County Farm," / 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,", 7/4/05 (Registration)

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):

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," 7/4/05 (

5. 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 hurt anything."

1. "Ban on Downer Cows Will Remain," Newsday / Associated Press, 6/30/05,0,4756990.story

2. "DeLauro Calls for USDA, FDA to Coordinate Attack on BSE,", 6/30/2005 (Registration)

3. "Cattle Futures, Cattlemen Calm After Latest Case," The Dallas Morning News, 7/2/05

6. 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 Program.

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

7. 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,", 6/29/05
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 labeling (COOL). (Registration)

"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,", 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 Service, 7/1/05
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.

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Compiled and edited by Hedy Litke and Che Green, 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.