Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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AUGUST 4, 2006 -- Number 28, Volume 6


A proposal by the Victoria, Australia state government to require cage space for laying hens be increased to at least 550 sq cm (85 sq in, up 15.5 sq in from the current recommended guideline) would raise the price of eggs 11 cents (U.S.) per dozen to $3.34.
According to the president of the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) egg group, the government estimates the cost of a dozen eggs would rise from $4.03 to about $5.43 if all birds were barn housed, and from $4.83 to about $8.28 if they had to be free-range.

Meanwhile, the Australian government is planning to nationally investigate claims that eggs laid by caged and “barn” hens have been labeled and sold as free-range. Data suggests that the number of free-range hens in the country could only produce about 80% of the eggs that are labeled as such. (Currently, 15% of eggs marketed to consumers are labeled as having come from free-ranging hens.) "There is enough circumstantial evidence to worry everybody, including the RSPCA, because we have an accreditation scheme," said Dr. Hugh Wirth, president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, "Our good name is on the carton."

The VFF has responded by announcing that farmers producing under the HenCare label will be audited to ensure they meet free-range, animal welfare and biosecurity standards. Less than 20% of Australian egg producers hold a license that guarantees quality to the consumer through the Egg Corp Assured Auditing System, which was set up by the industry in November 2004. This includes Pace Farm, the country’s largest single supplier of eggs:

For years, free-range egg producers have alleged that barn and cage eggs produced by big operators have been marketed in free-range cartons. In Britain, there is a system for determining the origins of an egg by examining it under ultraviolet light for cage markings. However, many barn and free-range eggs are laid in wire-framed nesting boxes, making it difficult to discern the type of production system. There is no legal definition of “free range” in Australia. (See also: Various categories of Australian eggs and their associated prices are noted in The Age article listed below and in a Sydney Morning Herald article entitled “Most Egg Labels ‘Mean Nothing,’” available on-line at:

More Space for Hens: Higher Cost for Eggs
World Poultry, July 28, 2006

Battery Eggs Passed off as Free Range
World Poultry, July 31, 2006

Fear Over Egg Fakes
The Age, Jason Dowling, July 30, 2006


In the U.K., the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has launched an investigation into an ad produced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). It claims that a typical salmon pen in the RSPCA’s Freedom Food branding program “contains the volume of an Olympic swimming pool.” A spokesperson for the Salmon Farm Protest Group, which filed the initiating complaint with the ASA, said: “What concerns me is that it is misleading – it uses the image of a swimming pool to fix in people’s minds that the fish have loads of room to swim about in. In reality they are caged, when in nature they are used to swimming thousands of miles in their lifetime…In human terms, if the pool was ‘stocked’ with swimmers at a similar density and of average weight, there would be 313 people in the pool at the same time. That could be in breach of health and safety regulations, and, unlike farmed salmon, humans don’t eat three meals a day and defecate in the water they are swimming in.”

Sunday Herald, Jenifer Johnston, July 30, 2006



There is no government definition in the U.S. for free-range beef. After a failed attempt in 2002, the U.S. Department Agriculture in May proposed a standard for grass-fed beef (which is not necessarily the same as free range). Under the standard, beef with this label must come from cattle who have eaten at least 99% grass from the time of weaning until they go to the slaughterhouse. According to a Washington Post article: "’Eighty percent of calves are born in the spring and weaned in September.’ After that, they graze on grass or mesquite during their roughly 20-to-30-month-long lives. If the proposed USDA standard is finalized, ‘grass-fed’ steers will keep grazing until they go to the slaughterhouse. The others, including many certified organic cattle, will likely spend their last couple of months eating corn, barley or other grain in a feedlot to add the final 250 to 400 pounds before slaughter, when they weigh about 1,200 pounds.”

A public comment period on the “grass-fed” standard is open until August 10; comments may be emailed to

The Washington Post, Sally Squires, August 1, 2006



The recent heat wave more than tripled the usual number of deaths of California’s Inland dairy cows. (See item #3 of last week’s issue.) Additionally, some 700,000 chickens and 160,000 turkeys in the state’s Central Valley were killed by the heat. Western United Dairymen has asked state and federal officials to declare the region a disaster zone, which could result in financial compensation. Industry officials estimate that dairies may have lost more than $1 billion due to animal mortalities and reduced milk output of surviving cows. (California dairy farmers had an estimated $5.4 billion in gross income in 2004.) However, the weather may have been “a blessing in disguise for dairy farmers” with “unprofitable” milk prices increasing as a result of it. Sybrand Vander Dussen, president of the Milk Producers Council, said farmers are to blame for the low prices because they expanded their herds when prices were escalating in 2004 and early 2005.

The Modesto Bee, John Holland, July 29, 2006

The Press-Enterprise, Leslie Berkman, July 31, 2006



Between 35,000 and 40,000 chickens were killed by excessive heat when power, including a generator, was turned off and ventilation ceased for an estimated hour to an hour-and-a-half while firefighters battled a blaze at Rose Acre Farms in Indiana on August 1st. The facility houses more than 1.6 million chickens. “We had to do it for the safety of the firefighters,” said Rose Acre president Marcus Rust, “Human life is more important than an animal’s life, I don’t care what the animal rights people say.”

Post-Tribune with The Associated Press, Tom Wyatt, Aug. 3, 2006


Regarding item #1 in last week’s issue of the digest, “AVMA Rejects Welfare Resolutions,” the resolution (#4) to place animal welfare interests over economic ones, proposed by Farm Sanctuary at this year’s American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) annual meeting, was not rejected or “disapproved” as was reported in the AVMA Annual Convention News:
Instead, the AVMA House of Delegates, which votes on the resolutions, referred it to the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) and a counter resolution (#8) was instead approved (see same link). While the AWC can recommend revisions to resolutions and actions on them, the HOD can ignore the Committee’s advice. For example, although the AWC has always recommended support of the foie gras resolution, the HOD has yet to approve it.

The correct link for the foie gras feature article in the Miami New Times, mentioned in item #1 of last week’s issue of the digest, is:

Thanks to Patty Mark for some of the information used in this issue of the news digest.



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Compiled and edited by Cat Carroll and 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.