December 3, 2011
On The Lamb Farm is a relatively young farm (founded in 1998) that produces pasture raised Beef and Lamb. I like this farm, they are a small operation that go after their passions. One of the founds even raises, trains and competes cattle dogs. Price-wise I would say they are average for local, grass fed. Please note, that their products are not grain finished as many grass-fed cattle are.
- Beef (Select cuts, ground or all the way up to Whole Cow)
- Lamb (Whole)
- Practicing Organic
- Pasture Raised (Beef and Lamb)
- Grass Finished
- No Antibiotics or Hormones
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
October 6, 2011
National Food Corporation is a ~55 year old company that has produced eggs from the beginning. While they have a simple and easily navigable website, it lacks some of the information that is desirable for research purposes and I need to contact them for additional information.
They produce eggs and egg products and have been doing so since 1956 but one thing to note is that they generally don’t sell the eggs in an obviously “National Food Corporation” carton. They have a variety of different brands that the eggs are sold under with a small stamp on the back mentioning National Food Corp. See their website – here – for their list of specialty egg brands. They do sell a variety, organic, free-range and Omega-3 fed, as well as their ‘nominal’ brown eggs.
All of National Food Corporations egg products are UEP Certified, which while it does maintain a good minimum set of overall guidelines regarding space, hormone use, diet, medication, … it isn’t top of the line if you are concerned about such things. For those that are, they do produce Free-Range, USDA Organic eggs. Again, as with most Free-Range labeled eggs, they are generally housed in large open buildings with limited access to the outdoors.
I have personally only consumed their Naturally Nested brand eggs ($2.99 for a dozen @ Safeway Sept 2011), and they had surprisingly large yolks. At the time the only yolks I could compare it to where Stieber Farms eggs and on average the Naturally Nested eggs had larger yolks for a similar sized shell. I will have to do another egg comparison in the future.
- Eggs (Omega 3, Brown, Organic, Free Range)
- Misc other Egg Products
- None, look for a Naturally Nested egg review in the future.
September 21, 2011
Niman Ranch currently sells and assists in the distribution for a collection of 676 Farms throughout the country. They started as a beef producer in the 70’s but have since grown into a center for small family farms to sell their products under the Niman Ranch brand.
I commend Niman Ranch for a wonderful website where they truly try to get you to understand their vision of food, as well as offering a collection of videos depicting interviews and actual conditions of poultry, review from restaurants who use their products, … Check out their youtube page as well, they have a collection of ~30 videos posted. The poultry video – located on their website here – is especially good to watch as he takes you through the egg process. It is common knowledge that hens are social, but I never realized just how social they actually are. The video depicts two floors connected to each other that the hens can freely move between. One is the scratching floor which had maybe one hen per 10sqr feet of space, and the floor above which was packed full of hens at about 1 hen per ~2 sqr feet. Not horribly packed as it was a voluntary social gathering rather than a caged 6 sqr inches of space per chicken. But it is immediately impressive that hens prefer that kind of social ‘network’ versus the open spaces below. Either way, we still prefer pastured eggs when we can get them. Quality cageless hens however are a step in the right direction and they are easier able to maximize utilizable space as opposed to pastured hens and thus easier to get on large grocery stores shelves which require high volume.
Niman Ranch isn’t just a producer of high quality meat and eggs however, as a brand that farms throughout the country can sell under, they have their own, high quality standards which include natural behaviors for meat, often pasture raised lamb/beef/pork, all vegetarian feed, no antibiotics, and all the things we at NW Farm Review really appreciate in our food. A separate post is required for their standards and will be posted soon.
Also, back to the earlier mention of their videos. I think this is a novel approach to farming that more farms and farm review sites like NWFarm Review need to take heed of. The Food Revolution won’t be televised but it will be filmed and youtubed. Take a look at this pork video for instance, for some, seeing such cute pigs running around in a natural environment makes them not want to eat pork. Speaking for myself, it makes me want to eat more high quality pork. Only through yours and my purchases of quality products do we shift the market towards sustainability and healthy living for the animals we care about.
There have been some criticisms about Niman Ranch since their merger in 2009 with Natural Food Holdings. Details of that merger and some criticisms can be read here.
- Cage Free, Brown Eggs
- Beef Specific
- May be Organic, Practicing Organic (Farm Dependent)
- Pasture Raised, Grain Finished Beef
- Vegetarian Feed (Random testing done once a month, much is grown on farm)
- Poultry Specific
- No Antibiotics or Hormones
- Stress-Free / Painless Death
- Niman Ranch Standards (Future Standard Link)
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
March 26, 2011
Dog Mountain Farm is less than a decade old but produces a huge variety of vegetables, eggs, meat, herbs and fruits. One of their primary focuses is on the health of their produce (whether animal based or vegetation) and thus the health of the consuming individual.
- Full list of available products on the website here
- Vegetables (you name it they got it)
- Eggs (Chicken, Duck & Goose)
- Practicing Organic
- Pasture Raised
- No Antibiotics or Hormones
- No Herbicides, Pesticides or Commercial Fertilizer