Oct21

Des Moines Register Publishes NAEF Letter

 

Letters to the Editor Des Moines Register:  In the October 14th issue of the Des Moines Register is an excoriating attack on Iowa lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad in “Our Misplaced Priorities” by Rekhu Basu.  

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/rekha-basu/2014/10/15/misplaced-priorities/17283547/

She used the 2010 Salmonella outbreak attributed to Wright County Eggs as her platform, but no Iowa lawmakers or any state or federal agency condoned the mismanagement by Jack and Peter DeCoster at that Congressional hearing in 2010.  I was there at that hearing.  Was Ms. Basu there?  Her criticism was also leveled at the Governor for participating with 5 other state Attorneys General in challenging the California egg law restricting the interstate commerce of eggs.  Governor Branstad is to be commended for his leadership.  Too often political leaders lead from behind after reading the polls.  Governor Branstad, a true leader, showed he leads in the front by knowing the issue and the science behind Iowa’s egg production standards.

 

Ms. Basu wants Iowa to be “championing its commitment to a clean environment and the health of its residents.”  The Iowa egg industry is already doing that in following the FDA’s food safety standards [21 CFR Part 118].  Interestingly, those federal standards say states may not require “standards of quality condition that are different from or in addition to federal requirements.”  Certainly in Ms. Basu’s defense of the California standards [Title 3 Section 1350] are “in addition to.” Governor Branstad was championing the federal standards in support of the Iowa egg industry.

 

So, what are the facts behind the eggs produced in Iowa for which Governor Branstad supports.  Chickens in Iowa’s conventional cages produce more eggs, larger eggs, better grade eggs, and waste less feed than chickens running loose on the farm 1.  Moving from an Iowa 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.                   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.                   Environmental impact
Regarding indoor air quality, the 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.                   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. 

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. 

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.

 

References

Anderson, Kenneth, NC State University, 2010

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

de Boer, Impke, Wageningen University, Netherlands, 2010

www2.sustainableeggcoalition.org.

Oct21

Trying To Reason With LA Times Editor

Dear Ms. Carla Hall of the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

 

In the October 7th issue of the Huffington Post  in the article entitled “Latest Attack on California’s Humane Livestock Standards Struck Down by Judge” you were quoted saying "farmers in Missouri -- and the other states that joined the suit -- will finally get the message that it's time to stop fighting the law and start complying with it."  If it were as simple as that, there would be less angst among the livestock community.  But those of us who know the behavior of chickens flocking together understand the law in California will not lead to increased welfare, but just the opposite.  And the   poorer people, those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [food stamps], will pay the price.

 

No one begrudges California’s right to enact laws governing the production of eggs in their state, but specifying production standards in the other states is taking on the role of determining the commerce of eggs which we feel is a violation of the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3.  California is claiming “food safety” for its added regulations.  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." So what is the real reason?  Food Safety News reported that in 2012, the University of California at Davis estimated that changing the hen housing infrastructure to comply with Proposition 2 was going to cost egg farmers $385 million.  The California Assembly Bill 1437 added three additional sections to the 2008 law.  Under AB 1437, as of January 1, shell eggs for human consumption cannot be legally sold in California unless the involved laying hen was kept in facilities that meet California’s animal care standards.  It’s a requirement to merely “level the playing field so that in-state producers are not disadvantaged.”  That quote was from a California Assembly committee report for AB 1437. In other words, the states argued that California was not acting to make food safer nor animals healthier, but to advance its own purely commercial interests. 

 

California’s new space requirements for chickens may appear to improve welfare, but it doesn’t.

The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a group of animal behavior scientists including a representative from California, noted an increased incidence of wing and leg breakages in the larger enclosures.  Startled chickens will injure themselves more frequently in larger enclosures when they rush away to avoid what has startled them. They pile up in corners, suffer bone breakages and suffocate the ones on the bottom.  Certainly this is a welfare consideration. Consider also 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 of 67 square inches where the number of chickens is minimized, these concerns are also reduced compared to other systems.  Research at NC State University demonstrated 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.  So why did California pick 116 square inches?  There is no science supporting this space requirement.

 

 Now it appears that A.B. 1437 will be enforced January 1.  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.

 

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.  That means an estimated increase of $3.6 million per year just for California consumers.   The Wall Street Journal reported food costs increased 2.2% from a year earlier in August. That was the strongest annual gain in food prices since June 2012. On a monthly, seasonally adjusted basis, food prices have increased in six of the past seven months. One category driving the gains: meat. California will add “eggs” to that price increase impacting the poorer people in communities throughout the state.

 

We know this outreach to you will have little difference in the enforcement of the California law, but our efforts to inform the media is an important step toward informing the consumers in California that starting January 1 will be the start of more changes in our food supplies and prices without the benefits touted by some in the press.

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.

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