Threats from Nervous Hog Farmers

Mark Bittman, whose regular food systems columns in the New York Times are an excellent source of thoughtful commentary on the ills of industrialized agriculture, commented last month on the odd-couple arrangement brokered by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP). It’s worth noting that on the same day that the UEP and HSUS announced their partnership, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) issued a nervous response rife with scare tactics.

Here is an excerpt from their July 7 statement: “NPPC is gravely concerned that such a one-size-fits-all approach will take away producers’ freedom to operate in a way that’s best for their animals, make it difficult to respond to consumer demands, raise retail meat prices and take away consumer choice, devastate niche producers and, at a time of constrained budgets for agriculture, redirect valuable resources from enhancing food safety and maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture to regulating on-farm production practices for reasons other than public health and welfare.” Read More >

Hen Party: Historic Agreement to Promote Standards in Egg Industry

Today there is good news for the 280 million hens involved in egg production.

United Egg Producers (UEP) has partnered with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), agreeing to work together toward legislation of national standards to be used in egg production. This legislation, if enacted, would make history as the first federal law addressing the treatment of animals on farms, whose need for protection has escalated dramatically with the onset of the CAFO era.

The proposed legislation would raise standards for egg-layers considerably and comprehensively. One of the key actions of the bill would be to phase out conventional housing for hens, also known as “battery cages,” by implementing more humane environments. The legislation would also mandate that egg cartons be clearly labeled regarding production methods (“eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” and “eggs from free-range hens”). Other humane measures would be affected as well, legislating practices involving euthanasia, forced-molting, and ammonia levels in the henhouses. The Humane Society’s press release provides further details. Read More >

Is Smithfield Decision Not to Replace Gestation Crates Ethical?

alan-goldbergAlan Goldberg, Ph.D., is a former commissioner of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production and is a guest blogger today for Livable Future.

The largest pork producer in the world, Smithfield Foods Inc., says it can’t afford to go through with one of its much-ballyhooed animal welfare improvement plans. The company said that it must delay plans to replace its “gestation crates” for pregnant sows with more humane “group housing.” Frankly, the decision comes as no surprise to me. Back in 2007, when the company announced that its 187 Smithfield-owned pig nurseries would be converted within 10 years, the executives refused to admit that the crates were inhumane. Rather, they said their decision was based on consumer preference. If Smithfield were truly concerned about growing consumer awareness and/or preference concerning how animals are raised for food, it would have also required that all of its contract facilities convert within the same 10-year span.

These gestation crates truly are appalling, and some have used the word cruel.  A sow living in a typical industrial facility will spend the majority of her life confined in these metal and concrete stalls that are so small that she can barely lie down, let alone turn around. I won’t belabor how awful gestation crates are – they are awful. Chances are you’ve heard a great deal about them as the Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare organizations campaigned across the country in efforts to legally have them banned.  So far, six states have laws on the books that ban producers from using gestation crates. The European Union was ahead of the curve, requiring farmers to replace all gestation crates by 2013.

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