Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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November 30, 2005 -- Number 45, Volume 5

1. 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

1. "High Rating for Foster Farms,", 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

3. 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,", 11/23/05

4. 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, 11/29/05 (

5. 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 region."

    Country (000s of Metric Tons) 2004 (actual) 2005 (projection) 2006 (forecast)
    People's Republic of China 47,016 48,900 50,900
    European Union 20,851 20,720 20,900
    United States 9,312 9,402 9,591
    Brazil 2,600 2,730 2,825
    Canada 1,936 1,960 1,975
    Russian Federation 1,725 1,785 1,900
    Japan 1,271 1,260 1,240
    Mexico 1,150 1,175 1,200
    Phillipines 1,145 1,100 1,122
    South Korea 1,100 1,050 1,010
    Taiwan 898 910 935
    Others 1,674 1,545 1,569
    TOTAL 90,678 92,537 95,167

Pig Consumption

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 Metric Tons) 2004 (actual) 2005 (projection) 2006 (forecast)
    People's Republic of China 46,725 48,570 50,535
    European Union 19,459 19,310 19,470
    United States 8,817 8,619 8,763
    Russian Federation 2,337 2,434 2,574
    Japan 2,561 2,531 2,485
    Brazil 1,979 1,985 2,100
    Mexico 1,556 1,615 1,640
    South Korea 1,331 1,328 1,351
    Phillipines 1,170 1,130 1,152
    Canada 1,067 1,012 1,033
    Taiwan 959 950 965
    Others 2,276 2,121 2,139
    TOTAL 90,237 91,605 94,207

1. "Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade," US Foreign Agricultural Service, Nov-2005
PDF file (527k):

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," 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. (Subscription)

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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.