Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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July 13, 2005 -- Number 27, Volume 5

1. Tissue Engineering Study Says Animal Flesh Can be Grown in Labs

An article in the latest edition Tissue Engineering discusses the feasibility of producing "cultured meat" in laboratories as an alternative to raising and slaughtering farmed animals. (The full text is available online, see link below). Authored by a team of international researchers, the article describes two possible methods of generating edible animal flesh based on tissue engineering. The first method is described as a "scaffold-based" technique that involves layering sheets of engineered tissue to replicate various types of processed meat products. The second, more complex method involves culturing progenitor (parent) cells on small beads in a nutrient-rich medium. Cultured meat has been produced on a small scale by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to maintain food supplies during longer space flights. Three research teams have examined the subject closely in the past.

The current article's authors cite several potential benefits to finding an affordable way to produce in vitro meat: "With cultured meat, the ratio of saturated to polyunsaturated fatty acids could be better controlled; the incidence of foodborne disease could be significantly reduced; and resources could be used more efficiently, as biological structures required for locomotion and reproduction would not have to be grown or supported." According to one physicist quoted separately, 21% of the carbon dioxide produced by humans is attributable to our consumption of animals. The article also notes that cultured meat may help reduce human dependency on farmed animals, providing a more humane alternative to breeding, raising, and slaughtering billions of animals for food. The authors' "back-of-the-envelope calculations" suggest that the world's demand for animal flesh could be generated from a single cell. However, the technology faces several potential hurdles, including affordability of the process and acceptability among meat consumers.

1. "In-Vitro Cultured Meat Production," Tissue Engineering, May 2005
Full article (PDF file, 54k):

2. "Paper Says Edible Meat Can be Grown in a Lab on Industrial Scale," University of Maryland, 7/6/05

3. "Burgers from a Lab? US Study Says it's Possible," Reuters, 7/6/05

2. ASU, IA Students Campaign for Cage-Free Eggs on Campus

Student groups at Arizona State University and the University of Iowa have initiated campaigns to persuade their schools to carry exclusively "cage-free" hens' eggs. The groups are supported by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which has a focused program to encourage retailers, schools, and food service companies to use exclusively cage-free eggs. Thus far, the HSUS campaign has convinced six schools to commit to purchasing only cage-free eggs, including the University of Arizona, American University, George Washington University, University of Connecticut, Marist College, and Vassar College. Some universities are concerned about the cost of cage-free eggs, however, noting that such eggs typically sell at a significant premium. Part of the reason for the higher cost is that cage-free eggs remain a niche market; currently only 5% of the annual US supply of 6 billion eggs is produced from un-caged birds. According to one cage-free egg farmer, the larger egg companies are "very late to the cage-free party (and) are doing it for all the wrong reasons," suggesting the interest is profit and not humane or sustainable farming.

1. "Group Squawks Over Eggs at ASU," East Valley Tribune, 7/9/05

2. "Student Group Asks UI to Buy 'Non-Caged' Eggs," Iowa City Press-Citizen, 7/8/05

3. Slaughterhouses Face Animal Cruelty Charges from Citizens, Local Governments

Slaughterhouses are coming under fire from animal activists, former employees, and in some cases the government for animal cruelty and regulatory violations. In Missouri (US), local citizens videotaped an egg farm dumping live chickens into a dumpster after insufficiently gassing them. The hens were killed because they were deemed too old to produce eggs economically, and the dumping of live, conscious birds was recorded over a two-day period. One of the company's managers admitted that the subcontractors in charge of killing the hens "weren't exercising enough patience," but was also quick to point out that the process has been corrected. Ironically, the farm's parent company, Moark, has applied for permits to expand its existing facilities and build new farms in the area to keep about 2.6 million hens. The company has met with strong opposition when planning to build facilities in other states, and it remains to be seen what impact the new video will have. The local Sheriff's office reviewed the video and said it will pursue an investigation of animal cruelty.

Another major poultry company, Tyson Foods, was the subject of an investigation earlier this year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (See FAW 5-21, item #1). Former Tyson Foods employee Virgil Butler, who has become an outspoken opponent of the mass confinement and slaughter of chickens, recently reviewed the investigation video footage. Butler's editorial comments appear in the weekly newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner. Butler, once described by his former employer as the "best chicken killer in Arkansas," reports that upon seeing the video, he can tell that Tyson's "killing machine was acting up and severely mutilating those birds." In a point-by-point critique of Tyson's processes, Butler also notes he would normally train a person for three weeks to do the job that Tyson allegedly gave to an untrained employee.

1. "Detective to Check Moark," Jopling Globe, 7/12/05

2. EDITORIAL: "Tyson Foods under Fire for Inhumane Slaughter of Chickens and Cover-Up," The Agribusiness Examiner, 7/5/05

4. Private Animal ID Efforts Precede USDA's Proposed Mandatory System

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a mandatory system to trace the location and movements of farmed animals, including cows, pigs, and chickens, by 2009. The proposal is part of the planned National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which is meant to increase accountability among farmers and track diseases within 48 hours of an outbreak (See FAW 5-18, item #3). While there is wide support for tracking overall, there is disagreement regarding whether the USDA should manage the system or private companies and industry groups. Several groups have already introduced or are currently developing their own tracking systems. Most recently, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) announced plans to have a system operating by January 2006 and said it hopes to sign up 80% of its members within the first few years. In a response to the draft USDA plan, one NCBA official questioned the need for a mandatory system and suggested that the USDA adopt the NCBA system rather than develop its own.

1. "US Group Sees Private Animal ID System by January," Reuters, 7/705 ( website)

2. "Tracing US Livestock May Get Jump Start," SF Gate / Associated Press, 7/7/05

3. "Animal ID Commission Selects Technology Partner," NCBA Release, 7/7/05 (See first link for NCBA comments)

5. Disease Update: UN's Avian Influenza "Blueprint"; U.S. BSE Tests Continue

INFLUENZA: As the highly pathogenic H5N1 variant of avian influenza continues to kill birds by the millions and humans by the hundreds in Southeast Asia, the United Nations (UN) has released a plan to slow or stop a possible pandemic. The plan was developed by a consortium of health experts and calls for a focus on "small-scale and backyard farms" due to what they believe is a higher risk of human infection at these locations. The plan includes four recommendations, summarized as: 1) Education of farmers; 2) Segregation of different bird species; 3) Compensation for reporting outbreaks; and 4) Vaccination in high-risk areas. The issue of confining large numbers of birds to small spaces was also addressed. According to the UN's Chief Veterinary Officer, "We agreed that it is vital to urgently change or even end a number of farming practices that are dangerous to humans. These include the way chickens, ducks and pigs are raised in close proximity to each other."

BSE: Following the discovery of a BSE-infected cow who died and was tested in November 2004, the USDA has completed rapid screening tests on 67 of the animal's herd mates and offspring at a farm in Texas. All of the tests returned negative results. However, according to the USDA, the same was true of the original November 2004 when only a rapid screening test was used. Only later, after more rigorous testing, was the animal correctly shown to have been infected with BSE. A quarantine placed on the Texas farm has been lifted and the industry is lauding the efficacy of the US Department of Agriculture's testing procedures. Nonetheless, 9 countries have put bans on US beef products following the June 24 announcement of the US's second confirmed case of BSE.

1. "UN Releases 'Blueprint' for Fight Against Bird Flu in Asia," AXcess News, 7/6/05

2. "Feds Want to Test Former Herd Mates of Infected Cow," Sacramento Bee, 7/11/05

6. Other Items of Interest

"Dairy Industry Treads Cautiously on Cloned Cows," Aberdeen News / AP, 7/10/05
The International Dairy Foods Association, contrary to many industry groups, has commented that the FDA's proposed lift of the ban on using cloned animals for human food might be a mistake. The group's spokesperson says that cloned animals in the food supply are a concern for consumers, which is substantiated by a Gallup poll revealing that 66% of US adults feel that cloning animals is "morally wrong."

"LMA Introduces Internet Auctions,", 7/11/05
The US-based Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) has introduced a way for its members to extend farmed animal auctions using the internet. The new website,, currently appears to have about eight auction houses participating, but users must be registered to view the sales. Details for each auction, including start time, location, and contact information, are available to unregistered users, a departure from the usual secrecy that surrounds auctions of farmed animals. (Registration)

"ARS Research Turns Poultry Waste into Toxin-grabbing Char," USDA / ARS, 7/7/05
Researchers with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have found a way to burn poultry manure so that it can be used to treat wastewater. When heated to at least 1300 degrees (Fahrenheit) in an oxygen-deprived atmosphere, chicken and turkey litter becomes very porous and also chemically attracts metals such as copper and zinc. The technology is being billed as a means of reducing the overwhelming amount of waste generated by animal farms and also producing additional income for farmers.

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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.