Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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March 29, 2006 -- Number 13, Volume 6

1. Editorial Note: Upcoming Transition and Brief Hiatus

Dear Farmed Animal Watch Readers,

Approximately two years since taking over researching and editing responsibilities for Farmed Animal Watch, Hedy Litke and Che Green will be stepping down as the publication's primary contributors. Producing the weekly newsletter has been a pleasure and a privilege for both of us, and we are pleased to say that it will continue with support from all of its current sponsors. Farmed Animal Watch and our companion website,, will be the focus of a new and very capable researching, writing and web development team.

In many ways, Farmed Animal Watch is returning to its roots, with Mary Finelli assuming the primary research responsibilities and coordinating weekly publication. Long-time readers will recall that Mary started Farmed Animal Watch along with Kim Sturla (of Animal Place) in April 2001. Kim will remain in place as the project's managing director, and she and Mary will be joined by Catherine Carroll (of Animal Welfare Institute) and Howard Edelstein. Catherine will be Farmed Animal Watch's primary writer, while Howard will handle publishing the newsletter and website.

We (Hedy and Che) will remain in place through end of month and as needed to help with the transition, and Hedy will continue to be involved once publication resumes. If you would like to contact either of us directly, please use our email addresses below. After a brief transition period, publication of Farmed Animal Watch will resume in the second half of April 2006.

Thanks to everyone for reading, and our best wishes to the new team!

Best regards,

-- Hedy Litke (
-- Che Green (

2. "Cultured Meat" Research Shows Potential Benefits for Animals and Humans

In July 2006, we reported on emerging technologies that produce "cultured meat" as a replacement to farming animals for their flesh and for specific applications (see FAW 5-27). Different teams of tissue engineers have grown cultured flesh in a laboratory using cells from goldfish, mice, and frogs, but much of the current research is focused on chickens, pigs, and cows. In 2001, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) funded research on goldfish by saturating pieces of flesh in "fetal bovine serum" to instigate muscle growth. The project resulted in a 14% gain in muscle mass over a few weeks, but NASA has chosen to end funding for cultured meat research. Most of the methods currently being explored involve starting with animal products, typically stem cells, but the goal is to move away from those sources.

According to one Dutch scientist and leader in the field, "It is ridiculous to make meat using meat products. The whole idea is to reduce the resources that now go into producing the 240 billion kilograms of meat humans around the world eat every year." Another of the lead researchers notes that as cultured meat becomes more viable and popularly acceptable, there may be significant public health and animal welfare benefits. Cultured animal flesh can be produced with low fat content and can be relatively assured of being free of diseases and food-related contaminants. Cultured meat would also mitigate the need for raising animals in typically confined and often cruel conditions, slaughtering them, and dealing with large quantities of animal waste.

1. "Will Consumers have a Beef with Test-Tube Meat?" Globe and Mail, 3/27/06

2. "Scientists Forecast Meat Grown on Kitchen Counter," CBC News, 3/27/06

3. Global Animal Farming to Continue Growing at Slower Rate through 2030

A new report from the Canadian pig farming trade association, Alberta Pork, addresses the future of animal farming relative to world population growth, religious influences, and other factors. According to one industry executive from Brazil, "To accommodate the eight billion people expected on Earth by 2025, the world will have to double food production over current levels in the next 20 years." He notes that two of the three areas expecting the greatest population growth - Africa and Asia - currently account for 73% of global per capita consumption of animal flesh. For pig farmers, this trend may present challenges due to higher growth rates for populations whose religions and cultures dissuade them from eating pigs. The trend also has significant implications for the entire global animal farming industry.

Demand for animal products will continue to grow over the next 25 years (to 2030), but that growth will slow relative to recent decades, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO researchers detailed the future of global meat consumption in the context of agricultural production and food insecurity in a detailed and very informative 2002 report titled "World Agriculture: Towards 2015/2030." The following excerpts describe the FAO's projections regarding numbers of animals farmed and consumed worldwide through 2030.

  • World production of "meat" grew at 2.8% per year from 1979-1999 and at 2.7% per year from 1989-1999. Production growth is projected to slow to 1.9% annually from 1999-2015 and further to 1.5% per year from 2015-2030.
  • Annual meat consumption per person in developing countries as a whole more than doubled between 1964-66 and 1997-99, from only 10.2 kg per year to 25.5 kg - a rise of 2.8 percent a year. The growth was much less (from 10 kg to 15.5 kg) if China and Brazil are excluded. The rise was particularly rapid for poultry, where consumption per person grew more than fivefold. Pig meat consumption also rose strongly, though most of this rise was concentrated in China.
  • Given the slower growth of demand, livestock production will also grow more slowly than in the past. Moreover, increased efficiency in the sector could mean that extra demand can be met by a smaller growth in the number of animals. In absolute terms, however, the number of animals will still need to rise considerably. The projections show an extra 360 million cattle and buffaloes, 560 million extra sheep and goats, and 190 million extra pigs by 2030 - rises of 24, 32 and 22 percent respectively.
  • However, it should prove possible to meet much of the extra demand by increasing productivity rather than animal numbers. There is ample scope for this in developing countries, particularly with regard to cattle productivity. In 1997-99 the yield of beef per animal in developing countries was 163 kg compared with 284 kg in industrialized countries, while average milk yields were 1.1 and 5.9 tonnes per year per cow respectively.
  • Selection and breeding, together with improved feeding regimes, could lead to faster fattening and larger animals. The average carcass weight for cattle, for example, has already risen from 174 kg in 1967-69 to 198 kg 30 years later; by 2030 it could reach 211 kg. The off-take rate should also rise, as animals will be ready for market earlier.
  • The concentration of animals, particularly in urban areas, leads to problems of waste disposal and pollution. Higher animal densities and transport to more distant markets often involve the frustration of natural animal behaviour, bringing distress.

1. "World Agriculture: Towards 2015/2030," UN / Food and Agriculture Organization, 2002

2. "Global Pork Production: Meeting the Challenge in a Changing World," The PigSite / Alberta Pork, 3/27/06

3. Full report (PDF file, 340k):

4. New Campaign Positions Agriculture to Benefit from Alternative Fuels

A new campaign sponsored by US farmers, trade organizations, and some environmental groups seeks to generate 25% of the country's energy needs from "biofuels" and renewable sources by 2025. Specific sources include processed animal and crop waste as well as wind and solar power, which combined currently produce only 4% of the US's energy. The campaign dubbed "25 X '25" includes supporters such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Milk Producers Federation. The concept has also received support from US legislators, including endorsement from a bipartisan group of Senators. Despite this support for the campaign, some critics say that the US farming industry is primarily working to position itself to receive government subsidies for energy production. As other agricultural subsidies decline due to domestic budget constraints and external trade pressures, farmers are seeking other forms of government help. Biofuel production relies most significantly on crop farmers, but animal farms also have a major role and may stand to benefit from the campaign.

1. "Agriculture Interests Push Ambitious Renewable-Energy Goal," Grist, 3/24/06

2. "Why 25x'25 Is Good for Agriculture and Forestry," Energy Future Coalition, March 2006

3. "Group Aims to Increase Domestic Renewable Fuel Industry," / Independent, 3/18/06

5. Farmed Animal Disease Updates: BSE and Avian Influenza

BSE: US researchers have succeeded in using RNA interference to eliminate or "knock down" malformed proteins (prions) that are believed responsible for brain-wasting diseases like Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The trial was limited to a laboratory test using a fetal goat, but the process reportedly reduced the number of "prion proteins" in the animal's brain by 90%. The researchers suggest the RNA technology could have much broader purposes: "Given the ability to manipulate these organisms in this way, I think it will be possible to do more quickly what selective breeders have been doing for a long time -- creating animals with disease resistance and more advantageous properties for agriculture." Separately, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that global cases of BSE have been declining at a rate of about 50% per year for the past three years. According to FAO and the World Animal Health Organization, "In 2005, just 474 animals died of BSE around the world, compared with 878 in 2004 and 1,646 in 2003, and against a peak of several tens of thousands in 1992."

1. "RNA Interference Knocks Down Prion Genes in Livestock," NewsWise, 3/20/06

2. "Mad Cow Disease on the Wane Worldwide," UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 3/23/06

AVIAN INFLUENZA: While much of the mainstream news regarding avian influenza continues to focus on wild birds, an increasing number of reports suggest the root source of a possible pandemic will be farmed poultry. According to the NY Times, more than 200 million domestic poultry have died from avian influenza or been killed due to fears of spreading the disease. Highly pathogenic avian influenza spreads quickly through concentrated groups of birds lacking genetic diversity, such as those on modern chicken farms. Concentrated bird populations serve to incubate the disease, allowing it to change slightly with each rapid transmission and increase the chances of producing a lethal strain. The disease can sometimes kill "tens of thousand of birds in a few days" on farms, but it spreads much slower among genetically diverse wild birds traveling in smaller groups. Moreover, the trade in farmed poultry eggs and especially live chicks suggests another possible source of an avian influenza pandemic. Some policy critics suggest the emphasis on wild birds and backyard flocks, driven in part by commercial farming interests, has slowed response to a possible pandemic.

1. "From the Chickens' Perspective, the Sky Really is Falling," New York Times, 3/28/06 (Registration)

2. "US Prohibits AI Drugs in Poultry," MeatNews, 3/22/06

6. Other Items of Interest

"Animal Welfare Research Presents Abundant Paths to Win-Win Solutions," Animal Agriculture Alliance, 3/22/06
Speaking at an industry-sponsored stakeholder summit, animal agriculture researcher Stanley Curtis (U. of Illinois) discussed the current state of farmed animal welfare research. Curtis commented that such research can benefit both animals and farmers and cited examples such as pig and chicken housing, tail docking of dairy cows, and other issues. Curtis also argues that "productivity" measures such as growth rates and milk yields can be more effective measures of animal stress than behavioral or physiological measures.

"Survey Ranks 'Organic-ness' at Dairies," New York Times, 3/22/06
The US-based Cornucopia Institute completed a non-scientific survey of US dairy farms, using the results to give the highest ranking to only 18 brands of organic milk, among 65 surveyed. The survey was focused on the "care and feeding of the cows" to clarify for consumers the confusing state of organic dairy products. According to the NY Times, "There are producers selling organic products from cows that live with as many as 6,000 other animals and that seldom see pasture, which fits the definition of a factory farm. There are farms where nonorganic cows are brought in as replacements and where antibiotics and hormones are used."

Also see: "Dairy Report and Scorecard," Cornucopia Institute, March 2006

"Research Focuses on Merino Meat Breeding,", 3/24/06
Faced with declining world demand and hence prices for wool produced by merino sheep, Australian farmers are studying ways to increase profits by also using the animals for "meat" production. A group of farmers in South Australia are currently engaged in a 5-year study on the viability of breeding merino sheep for the animals' flesh as well as wool production.

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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.