November 17, 2011
Global Animal Partnership
The 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Program
I rarely go to Whole Foods Market. I haven’t lived near one, nor worked near one and thus never bother to go. However, things are changing over the next few months and I will soon have access to a Whole Foods Market so I thought it worth looking into. I was quite pleased to find that Whole Foods has partnered with Global Animal Partnership (GAP) to certify Whole Food’s producer’s practices according to their 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Program.
First off, props to Whole Foods. After looking through the 5-Step Program it seems to be an simple and effective means of getting across to the consumer how the animals that they are consuming are treated and cared for. I look forward to purchasing some foodstuffs from them once I have better access.
So on the actual 5 Step plan itself, it seems that once in Whole Foods different foodstuffs will have different labels specifying whether the product is a Step 1, Step 2, … Step 5+ with Step 5+ being the max level of care you can have. In looking at GAP’s website here is a table below that shows how many operations they have for each step; which will probably match the likely hood of finding that particular step in Whole Foods. Meaning, it may be hard to find Step 5 or 5+ but easy to find Steps 3 and 4 for most animals.
From: Global Animal Partnership; click for source.
Also, check out this short video produced by the Global Animal Partnership. They go through all the steps:
- Step 1: No Cages, Crating or Crowding
- Chickens: Be able to spread their wings and preen without touching other birds
- Pigs: No more than 25% of floor is slatted; bedding required; no Tethers or gestation stalls
- Beef Cattle: 50% Vegetative cover on range/pasture; 2/3min life on pasture
- Step 2: Enriched Environment
- Chickens: Cover or Blinds in Housing to isolate themselves
- Pigs: Changed limits on allowed lameness, weaning age, and max transport time
- Beef Cattle: Objects must be provided for grooming/scratching (natural behavior)
- Step 3: Enhanced Outdoor Access
- Chickens: Shade required; continuous outdoor access; indoor foraging area during harsh seasons
- Pigs: Continuous outdoor access; enrichments required that encourage foraging.
- Beef Cattle: No step 3 for Beef Cattle
- Step 4: Pasture Centered
- Chickens: Access to 50% vegetative cover pasture
- Pigs: Access to 25% vegetative pasture during allowable seasons; access to wallows
- Beef Cattle: 3/4min life on pasture;
- Step 5: Animal Centered, no Physical Alterations
- Chickens: 75% vegetative pasture; birds must be able to perch
- Pigs: 50% vegetative pasture; pigs remain with litter mates for entire life
- Beef Cattle: 75% vegetative pasture; no branding/ear notching
- Step 5+: Lives Entire Life on Same Farm
- Chickens: Birds must be bred, hatched and raised on the same farm.
- Pigs: On-farm or local slaughter
- Beef Cattle: On-farm or local slaughter
- Whole Foods Market – 5 Step Animal Welfare Rating Program Brochure (PDF)
- Global Animal Partnership – The 5-Step Program
- Food Link – 5 Step Plan: Veganism, marketing or education?
October 9, 2011
(UEP) United Egg Producers
United Egg Producers Certification
The United Egg Producers (UEP) is large trade association that represents producers. According to their website they currently represent about 90% of all eggs produced in the United States. Their currenty Animal Welfare guidelines however states 80% of all eggs, but most likely that’s just an old number and the guidelines haven’t been updated to reflect their growth in certification.
After reviewing their guidelines, is is my opinion that a UEP Certification is the minimum certification a farm should aspire too. It is also the minimum certification I, as an egg eater, would want to purchase. If an egg factory can’t meet a UEP Certification, these eggs are truly not something worth considering. The UEP Certification program ensures reasonable minimum factors in nearly all aspects of production.
Few things of note on the UEP, they allow beak trimming (which is done to reduce cannibalism and damage done by aggressive behavior). But don’t let that dissuade you from UEP certified eggs, as beak trimming is a boon to any factory that has hens in close proximity. If you want factory hens, you want the most humane debeaking you can get. The UEP states that all beak trimming needs to be done the first time when the chicks are under 10 days old. According to the references available on wikipedia, trimming prior to 10 days allows for healing and lack of pain in beak when they are older. Trimming done after 10 days greatly increases the chance of the Hen having acute, chronic pain for her entire life. So, if you are going to eat eggs from debeaked hens, make sure they are debeaked in accordance with the UEP.
Let it be said however, I am neither encouraging nor approving of debeaking. I prefer my eggs to come from pastured hens, however that is not always possible. And IF I am going to purchase factory hens, they need to be debeaked as to be not debeaked in factory conditions increases violent behavior and cannibalism among the chickens. I prefer non-factory conditions, but given the choice between factory debeaked and factory beaked, I’d go with UEP Certified debeaked.
The UEP seems intent on letting you know that all their guidelines are scientifically reviewed and scientifically proven. Statements like “Science has shown…” are commonly used. I have a disagreement with that as to what they mean by “science”, as even depending on the field of science it can state vastly different findings. Scientifically according to what? What is their baseline? Do they check stress levels of chickens? Egg Production? Do they call in a chicken psychologist? You can’t just say “Science says”, you need to specify what factors you are looking at, especially when it involves animals that can’t tell you their subjective feelings on the matter.
- Debeaking in 10 days.
- Outdoor Access: Does not specify required outdoor access on Cage-Free, but stipulates that if provided it must be kept clean.
- Space Per Hen
- Cage-Free Space: 1.5sqr feet per hen
- Caged Space: 67 to 84 sq inches depending on breed (one Sqr foot equals 144 sqr inches)
- Includes general requirements about access to clean feed, clean water, …
- UEP Certified
- UEP Certified Guidelines
- Wikipedia: United Egg Producers (UEP)
- Wikipedia: Debeaking
May 2, 2011
Certified Humane Logo
Certified Humane Raised and Handled
Certified Humane is a 501c3 Non Profit organization who’s goal is to support the Humane treatment of animals from birth to death. This is an all encompassing certification program that includes feed, housing, & slaughter. They also make the claim that they are the only “animal welfare label requiring the humane treatment of farm animals from birth through slaughter.”
I will post a summary of what a Certified Humane food implies, but if you are curious for more information I encourage you to look at their website. They include a huge amount of information that is not always available on Farming websites.
Another positive about Certified Humane is their public visibility and thus accountability. For every animal-type standard, they list the people that developed the standard. This makes it easy to contact someone if you have a question or disagreement and don’t want to contact Certified Humane directly. It took me maybe 2 minutes to find contact information for the local “R. Newberry PHD, Associate Professor, Washington State University”. On Ms. Newberry, she is listed as an Associate Professor for the “Center for the Study of Animal Well-being”; an applicable contact in my opinion.
One potential downfall to Certified Humane is the generality of many of their standards. Terms like “must be considered” or “appropriate” rather than listing specifics. I do not personally view this as a downfall however, these are general guidelines that give freedom to the farmer to do what he considers best for his animals, as well as freedom for Certified Humane to question the farmer’s standards. Worst case scenario, Certified Humane removes their certification. When freedom is allowed, good things happen. There is no real reason to be horribly strict on many things such as feed types, amounts, or water conditions; as long as those conditions are “considered” and handled “appropriately” for the general animal welfare. Nature is too varied to be kept under strict conditions. And we view that as a good thing.
- Certified Humane has pages of specific rules and guidelines for Beef Cattle, Dairy Cattle, Young Dairy Beef, Broiler Hens, Egg Hens, Goats, Pigs, Sheep and Turkeys.
- In general, they all have the same requirements.
- Freedom to move (decent square footage)
- Freedom to eat and drink (clean sources, no stale food, no contaminated water)
- Healthy environments (specifics listed for pastured and indoor)
- No antibiotics (administered only for “therapeutic reasons” and only by a Veternarian)
- Humane slaughter required
- Certified Humane: Home
- Wikipedia: Certified Humane
- Certified Humane: Animal Standards Listing
February 8, 2011
Standard Terms: Pasture Raised
The term “Pasture Raised” is what the term implies. The animals were raised on pasture, not in cages, not on hay or wooden slats; but on their natural, generally green, pasture. NorthWest Farm Review considers “Pasture Raised” to be as follows:
‘Pasture Raised’ means that all the animals have open access to fresh pasture during daylight hours, suitably protected from predators.
NW Farm Review’s considers Pasture Raised to be one of the best standards a farm can have for it’s animals. Often, due to overgrazing and environment destruction being Pasture Raised also means that pasture access is rotated to allow for re-growth of pasture.
The Term “Grass Fed” can also imply Pasture Raised for cattle, but needs to be specified if the cow was “finished” with grain at the end of its life. Doing so negates many of the health benefits to the end user (meat eater).
- Pastured Poultry FAQ: Pastured Chicken
- Wikipedia: Pasture Raised regarding Cattle
January 11, 2011
USDA Certified Organic
Becoming Certified Organic is neither an easy process nor cheap. Certified Organic food is naturally more expensive than their non-organic counterparts. But for the increase in cost you are guaranteed that the growth and processing of the food have the following:
- Don’t use Most of the conventional Pesticides
- Petroleum based fertilizers
- Sewage-Sludge based fertilizers
- Organic Feed
- Access to Outdoors
- No Antibiotics
- No Growth Hormones
- No Ionizing Radiation
- No Sewage-Sludge
- No Genetic Engineering
Mostly we have an issue with the, again, vague terminology on “Access to Outdoors”. Organic is still a great way to go, but there are better options with regard to animal products. Organic and Pasture Raised would probably be the best combination, but cost-wise it would be a pretty penny. Some farms will pasture-raise their animals and treat them in an organic fashion, but due to the cost of becoming certified organic, may choose not to, and as such those farms should be better than Organics, and maybe even cheaper. That is one quest of NWFarm Review, to find those farms, and buy their delectible items.
Also of importance, the term Organic only means that 95% or more of the ingredients are certified Organic. If you want truly organic foods, make sure to look for the term “100% Organic”.
- USDA: Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms
- USDA: Organic Labeling
- USDA: National Organic Program
January 11, 2011
Poultry: Vegetarian Diet
NWFarm Review sees a Vegetarian Diet for birds as both a curse and a blessing. With regards to low quality poultry and eggs, a vegetarian diet is great. It confirms that the birds are not in close range to other birds, getting in fights, or even pecking at other bird’s carcasses as has been shown through various food documentaries. So when not many choices are available, and cheap eggs is the choice, choose an egg that is labeled as Vegetarian Diet. That should at least verify that it isn’t from one of the mass farms where chicken’s are treated abysmally.
Chicken’s were not meant to feed on an all vegetarian diet. Chickens that are Fully Free Range enjoy a diet of whatever they feel like in the open air, which while probably supplemented by a vegetarian diet, will include bugs and other creatures deemed good to eat. In combination, a Free-Range label and a Vegetarian Diet label is conflicting; at best the Vegetarian Diet label is supposed to mean “supplemented by”, at worst it means “Free-Range” is a few minutes outside in a dry, non-grassy environment where bugs don’t want to live.
January 11, 2011
Standard Terms: Washington State Dept. of Agriculture:
Organic Certification Program
Upon initial review, The WSDA Organic Certification program is a State issued certification based on the USDA Standards. All standards required for USDA Organic Certification are required for WSDA Organic Certification. Thus, any farms or food that is WSDA Certified Organic should be able to be treated (and priced) the same as USDA Certified Organic.