Sep02

Article Submitted to UK's Guardian Newspaper on Animal Welfare Claims

Enjoy Those Eggs From Cage Layers.  They Are the Safest, Most Wholesome, Most Affordable and Most Humane Protein Source

By Ken Klippen, National Association of Egg Farmers, Washington, DC

 

When labels are attached to modern farming practices such as “medieval cruelty” or “moral responsibility to act by avoiding cage eggs” as occurred on 30 August in Chris Rodley’s editorial, “Eating Brunch Right Now, You Might Want to Put Your Fork Down” it’s time to evoke the comments from The Guardian Editor in 1921, C.P. Scott who stated “But facts are sacred”.  Mr. Rodley’s claims are devoid of facts.  In my forty years of professional study and experience in the egg industry and having traveled to six continents to give speeches on animal welfare and view poultry production in other lands, these are the facts: Chickens in conventional cages have significantly better livability than free-range chickens. Chickens in conventional cages produce more eggs, larger eggs, better grade eggs, and waste less feed than free-range 1.  Moving from a conventional cage to a non-cage system increases the likelihood of microbiological contamination of internal contents with Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis or other pathogens, or chemical contamination with dioxins in the soil, pesticides, or heavy metals 2.  Eggs from caged facilities have a 25 per cent smaller carbon footprint (2.2 kg of carbon equivalent per kilo of eggs compared to 2.75 kg of CO2e per kilo of eggs for free-range 3. The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a group of animal welfare specialists in the United States who know and understand poultry production,  recently reviewed 5 areas related to housing hens in addition to the welfare of the chicken and made observations for conventional cages, enriched cages, or aviary (cage-free) systems 4.  Those areas are; 1) health and welfare, 2) environmental impact, 3) economics, 4) food safety, 5) worker health and safety.

 

  1. (1)Health, well-being
    Hens in the aviary and enriched systems had a higher incidence of keel bone deviations and/or fractures than hens in the conventional system.
  2. (2)Environmental impact
    Regarding indoor air quality, the Coalition of scientists stated daily mean ammonia concentrations were less than 15 parts per million in both conventional and enriched cage houses throughout the monitoring period, but higher ammonia concentrations in the aviary house exceeded 25 ppm. Further, particulate matter (PM) concentrations in the aviary house were roughly 8-10 times those in the conventional system.
  3. (3)Economics

Farm costs for eggs were highest for eggs produced in the aviary system, followed by those from enriched housing and then conventional housing. In total it was 36% more expensive to produce eggs in the aviary system than the conventional system, while the enriched system was 13% more expensive than conventional cages. 

  1. (4)Food safety

The forage area of the aviary system and scratch pads of the enriched colonies had the highest levels of total aerobes and coliforms, while eggs from the aviary floor had the highest total aerobes and coliform levels. 

  1. (5)Worker health, safety
    Sampling from personal exposure monitors worn by workers while in the hen houses found that inhalable particle and PM 2.5 concentrations, as well as endotoxins, were significantly higher in the aviary system compared to those in the conventional and enriched systems, which were not statistically different from each other. Worker ergonomics were also considered, with a number of tasks standing out as possible risks. Gathering the eggs birds had laid on the floor in the aviary system was found to be another issue for worker ergonomics as it warranted extreme body positions, including squatting for an extended period of time. Crawling and lying on the floor to collect floor eggs also exposed employees to potential respiratory hazards.

 

Health and well-being of humans is a major concern in the United States.  The 2008 recession here was followed by the largest social welfare program increase in the use of food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) with nearly 48 million Americans or 15 per cent of the population receiving federal assistance help with their food purchases.  The need has improved slightly, but still in a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reporting on a study by the Harvard School of Public Health researchers showed healthy eating by adults declined by 15 per cent largely due to the intake of foods containing trans fats.  This is not an issue in the consumption of high quality protein containing eggs and the 36 per cent increase to produce free-range eggs compared to conventional cage eggs will further drive consumers away from this healthy source of protein.

 

Lastly, I wonder if Mr. Rodley has ever visited Pace Farms, the Australian egg farmer vilified in his 30 August article.  I have known Frank Pace for years and have visited egg farms and egg farmers in Australia to see firsthand the quality of the production practices.  Anyone can take a picture of isolated incidents such as the ones used to vilify Pace Farms and claim this is the norm.  We could take pictures of homeless people in Mr. Rodley’s country and claim this is how people live and eat there, but that would not be factual.  Isolated pictures do not tell the story.  Facts do and hopefully C.P. Scott’s words in 1921 for The Guardian will prevail “But facts are sacred”.

 

 

Ken Klippen is the President of the National Association of Egg Farmers in the United States.  He is the former Vice President and Executive Director of Government Relations for United Egg Producers and United Egg Association in Washington, DC and the former Director General of the International Egg Association in London, England.  He has a Bachelor and Master of Science in Poultry Science and in 2008 started studies as a Ph.D. candidate in Animal Science with a special emphasis in animal welfare.

References

1 Anderson, Kenneth, NC State University, 2010

2 Holt, Peter, USDA/ARS Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit, Athens, GA

3 de Boer, Impke, Wageningen University, Netherlands, 2010

4 www2.sustainableeggcoalition.org.

Aug26

A Dozen Reasons California Will Lose Battle Over AB 1437

 

1.      When California Judge Mueller who heard the California Association of Egg Farmers and HSUS motion to dismiss on August 11, she believed at the onset the plaintiffs (the 6 states bringing the lawsuit against the California egg law) had stated a claim under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but was not convinced at first the six states could sue for a perceived injury to the egg industry alone.  Missouri’s AG stated the issue is not just an injury to the egg industry but to the entire population of the six states because the California egg law imposes California's policy choices on egg farmers in other states while those citizens have no political recourse to change that policy since they can't vote in California.  This is a compelling argument against both motions to dismiss.

 

2.      California has the right to enact laws or regulations governing the production of eggs in their state, but it cannot specify production standards in the other states.  By doing so, California is assuming the role of determining the commerce of eggs which we feel is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.  This too is a compelling argument and the reasons 6 states joined in this lawsuit against A.B. 1437.

 

3.      California Title 3 Section 1350 requires out-of-state egg farmers selling eggs in California to implement that state’s food safety regulations that go beyond the federal regulations under FDA’s food safety standards for eggs [21 CFR Part 118], “Production, Storage, and Transportation of Shell Eggs”. FDA’s food safety standards for eggs says states may not require "standards of quality [or] condition" that are "different from or in addition to" federal requirements. . The key is the "in addition to" requirement meaning that states can't come up with new quality standards that the federal government hasn't spoken to."

 

4.      The California opinion that increased space leads to better welfare may play well in California, but not in the other 49 states.  Consider the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2010 released a report on the welfare implications of various kinds of housing. The report concluded consumers need to balance the hen’s freedom against exposure to potential hazards such as disease vectors and the cannibalism caused by pecking. Certainly cannibalism and pecking are welfare issues, and in conventional cages where the number of chickens is minimized, these concerns are also reduced compared to other systems.  Research at NC State University demonstrating chickens reared in conventional cages had significantly greater numbers of Grade A eggs, significantly greater numbers of total eggs produced, and significantly better feed conversion rates (meaning a lower carbon footprint), and a better immune response (meaning better able to resist disease).  Certainly these are indicators of a healthier chicken and thus better welfare. Research released in June 2014 at Michigan State University examined the impact of stocking density on enriched colony cages. This study shows minimal impact on welfare in a comparison between 72 sq. in. per bird and 144 sq. in. per bird.  

 

5.      History will show that companies or groups who compromise with animal activists by giving in to their demands for production changes will never be completely satisfied with the initial changes.   Consider what some leaders in the animal rights community have stated including:                                                                                                            

“Eating meat is not your personal decision, any more than whether somebody beats their children is their personal decision.” Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary, formerly PETA.

“Meat consumption is just as dangerous to public health as tobacco use.”  Neal Barnard, Physicians Committee on Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

“[about eggs] We want to get rid of the industry.” Miyun Park, GAP, formerly HSUS.  

These are the leaders in the animal rights community.  They don’t want to negotiate a peaceful coexistence with animal agriculture.  They want to eliminate it.

 

6.      The egg industry was divided over the national egg bill.  It also pitted the agricultural groups in Washington, DC (DC Barnyard) against UEP over the National Egg Bill.  Our association took a stand against that bill because it would have put our smaller egg farmers out of business. The farm groups got involved because they could readily see that compromising with HSUS is similar to negotiating with terrorists. 

 7.      The DC Barnyard rallied behind the King amendment (introduced by Rep. Steve King [R-IA] who introduced an amendment upholding the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution in the Farm Bill.  Although it passed the House, the conferees in the Farm Bill striped it out.  All farm groups knew despite protestations by UEP that if one group gave in and passed a national standard for production practices, other industries would be targeted too. 

 8.      Animal agriculture can learn from the experience of others in dealing with terrorists in response to animal rights groups (i.e., animal activists or environmentalists are defined by the FBI as domestic terrorists). So why do companies producing meat, milk, or eggs think giving in on eliminating cages or farrowing crates will placate the animal activists and allow those companies to continue operations? 

 9.      If A.B. 1437 is upheld, California will see a shortage of eggs like never experienced before.  With 39 million consumers in the state and only 19 million laying chickens, the eggs from 20 million chickens that currently are being imported into the state will stop.  Some farmers outside of California are rushing to develop comparable standards, but to assume there won’t be a major disruption in the marketing of eggs in California is naïve.

10.  If an injunction is filed against A.B. 1437, the flow of eggs into California will increase while California egg farmers find themselves in the position of not being able to compete due to Prop 2.  Egg production in California will dry up even faster than its water supply.

 

11. The economic impact of other states shipping eggs into California is significant exceeding $150 million annually.  This can be extracted by the data provided by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Between January 2012-January 2014 Iowa sent 4.9 million cases of eggs. Assuming the average per year would be 2.45 million cases of eggs or 3,266 truckloads at an average sales price of $25,000 per truckload, that's $81.6 million. Minnesota sold 45% of that total from Iowa while Missouri sold 35% of Iowa's total. Illinois sold 10% of Iowa's total. That's the equivalent of $150 million worth of eggs.

 12.  Just as the WTO (World Trade Organization) recently handed a defeat to the U.S. on the Country of Origin Labeling law (COOL), so too NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) will hand a defeat to California when it tries to impose regulations on eggs produced in Mexico destined for exporting to California. Trade agreements trump state and country laws.

Aug29

Egg Farmers Want a Seat at the Nestle Table on Welfare Talks

Dear Ms. Osorio,

Thank you for your response on the reasons Nestle is forming a partnership with the World Animal Protection group (WAP).  The reasons for our objection is this partnership is one-sided and lacks the input from farmers.  We recommend that egg farmers be included in the discussions.

 

We anticipate the recommendations from WAP will be for a movement first to an enhanced colony cage for laying hens and then to totally cage-free.  While this may appear to be more humane, the available science shows there's animal welfare concerns with these housing types for laying hens. A group of animal scientists with specialties in animal welfare are participating in the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES).  This Coalition is nearing completion of a two-flock research study to better understand the sustainability impacts of various types of laying hen housing  including cage-free aviary, enriched cage and conventional cage systems has released preliminary research results. Over the course of three years and two separate flocks, CSES noted that the research assessed five areas of sustainability: (1) animal health and well-being, (2) environmental impact, (3) food affordability, (4) food safety and (5) worker health and safety. A complete overview of the preliminary results is available at www2.sustainableeggcoalition.org.

 

 

 Hens Are Better Off In Conventional Cages

 

The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply reviewed in the 5 areas provided conclusively that hens are better off in conventional caged systems as are the farm workers caring for the hens.  Below are some of the highlights followed by the data demonstrating the advantages of conventional cage systems.

 

* Health, well-being

Hens in the aviary and enriched systems had a higher incidence of keel bone deviations and/or fractures than hens in the conventional system. The coalition said the findings also showed that hens in the conventional and enriched systems had cleaner feathers but worse feather cover than aviary hens. 


* Environmental impact

Regarding indoor air quality, CSES said daily mean ammonia concentrations were less than 15 parts per million in both conventional and enriched cage houses throughout the monitoring period, but higher ammonia concentrations in the aviary house exceeded 25 ppm. Further, particulate matter (PM) concentrations in the aviary house were roughly 8-10 times those in the conventional and enriched cage houses, which were similar. The aviary system also had six to seven times the PM emissions of the other two systems. 

* Economics

 

Farm costs per dozen eggs were highest for eggs produced in the aviary system, followed by those from enriched housing and then conventional housing. In total, and driven largely by higher feed, labor, pullet and capital costs, it was 36% more expensive to produce eggs in the aviary system than the conventional system, while the enriched system was 13% more expensive. 


* Food safety

Through environmental and shell sampling, the prevalence of salmonella and campylobacter was found on collected samples from all three systems, with environmental dust levels influencing shell total aerobes. The forage area of the aviary system and scratch pads of the enriched colonies had the highest levels of total aerobes and coliforms, while eggs from the aviary floor had the highest total aerobes and coliform levels, CSES said. 


* Worker health, safety

Sampling from personal exposure monitors worn by workers while in the hen houses found that inhalable particle and PM 2.5 concentrations, as well as endotoxins, were significantly higher in the aviary system compared to those in the conventional and enriched systems, which were not statistically different from each other. Worker ergonomics were also considered, with a number of tasks standing out as possible risks. According to CSES, gathering the eggs birds had laid on the floor in the aviary system was found to be another issue for worker ergonomics as it warranted extreme body positions, including squatting for an extended period of time. Crawling and lying on the floor to collect floor eggs also exposed employees to potential respiratory hazards. 

 

Egg farmers understand the importance of these statistics of mortality, hen-day and hen-housed egg production, case weight and feed conversion, but when operating costs and capital costs are factored in, today’s modern conventional cage system is providing an affordable table egg that in addition provides a humane, lower environmental impact, safe and wholesome production system.  Again science continues to exonerate conventional cages for producing eggs.

 

1. Hen production performance (19-78 weeks), first flock summary

Production parameter

Conv.

Enriched

Aviary

Ref.*

Cumulative mortality, %

4.7

5.1

11.6

6.8

Avg. hen-day egg production, %

85.9

89.0

88.1

88.2

Eggs per hen housed

352

363

340

360

Case weight, lb./case

46.4

46.9

46.3

48.6

Feed/cwt., lb./100 bd-day

22.8

23.6

23.3

22.4

Water/feed, lb./lb.

2.07

1.73

1.64

Feed conversion, lb./doz. eggs

3.18

3.13

3.28

3.14

Feed conversion, lb. feed/lb. eggs

2.02

1.99

2.12

1.94

Bodyweight at week 78, lb.

3.44

3.42

3.37

3.71

*Lohmann white reference value.

 

2. Operating and capital costs per dozen eggs, $

 

Conv.

Aviary

Enriched

Feed costs

0.395

0.408

0.394

Production labor costs

0.017

0.057

0.047

Pullet cost

0.146

0.196

0.147

Capital cost* (capital outlay x 10% return)

0.042

0.138

0.104

Sum of major cost components

0.600

0.799

0.692

*Preliminary data.

Source for Tables: Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply.

 

We look forward to hearing back from you as to our offer to provide input.

Sincerely,

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