May29

A Rebuttal to Claims Against Modern Egg Farming

(The following was submitted to Food Safety News) Today’s opinion article (May 26, 2018) by Roy Costa RS, MS entitled “Rose Acres Farms: Another Bad Actor, or a Deeper Problem” deserves a rebuttal from the nation’s egg farmers. 

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/05/rose-acre-farms-another-bad-actor-or-a-deeper-problem/%23.WwmmNkgvzIU&;source=gmail&ust=1527681966110000&usg=AFQjCNE0GCDvzWF6S8PBgUJsPTSDcpDC0w" style="color:rgb(17, 85, 204)">http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/05/rose-acre-farms-another-bad-actor-or-a-deeper-problem/#.WwmmNkgvzIU

 

Mr. Costa served as an expert witness for Marler Clark when the 2010 Quality Egg Salmonella enteritidis outbreak occurred. Egg farmers today are providing a safe, wholesome egg for consumers while caring for the chicken and environment, so the title of his article suggesting a “deeper problem” is being challenged in this rebuttal.

 

When Mr. Costa stated there is an environmental impact, was he implying an impact on the air?  The only reference to air was made in his opening statement that “industrial egg production stinks”. We see these “environmental claims” against not just egg production, but all of animal agriculture. Let’s analyze what large scale animal farms contribute to air pollution, specifically greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Animal agriculture for meat, dairy and eggs contribute only a small part of the U.S. GHG emission totals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 only 2.8% of GHG emissions came from animal agriculture and manure management. This contrasts to the emissions from electricity generation at 34%, transportation 26% and Industrial emissions at 12%.  Since 1990, animal agriculture's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions has remained nearly constant. This is amazing considering increases in egg production of nearly 30%, meat production of 50%, and milk production of 16%. The fact that GHG emissions from U.S. animal agriculture have remained relatively constant while meat, milk and egg production has increased dramatically results from large scale animal agriculture operations that have worked to improve feed efficiencies, better manure management strategies and efficient use of cropland. Eggs consumed by the nation’s consumers have increased 13% during the last decade. Yet the U.S. egg production has significantly decreased its environmental footprint in the past 50 years, according to A Comparative Assessment of the Environmental Footprint of the U.S. Egg Industry in 1960 and 2010.  That report noted that the total environmental footprint in 2010 for egg production was 54% - 63% lower than the environmental footprint in 1960.

 

There’s a reference by Mr. Costa to “important humanitarian issues concerning the care of the animals.” As an expert witness for Marler Clark, does this extend to granting Mr. Costa expertise in animal welfare? Five decades ago, egg farmers moved away from producing eggs from chickens running around on the ground to placing them in cages.  The reason was to improve the liveability of the chicken. Mortality in conventional cages is half that of cage-free environments.

Cage-free increases the stress on chickens due to the establishment of a “pecking order” among the chickens.  This behavior is to determine the social standing of the individual hens through “pecking” each other.  The individual chicken lower in the social order is pecked the most.  When chickens are housed in conventional cages with 6 chickens, the establishment of this pecking order is minimized compared to thousands of chickens in a cage-free environment. The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a two-year study of different production systems, did not conclude that cage-free was the optimum system, but instead noted the mortality is nearly double that of caged systems.

In response to social pressures for production method changes led some egg farmers to invest in larger colony cages with enhancements such as perches and nest boxes. The result was this type of system led to more broken breast bones.  Keel (breast) bone breakage was recently reported highest in the cage-free system over conventional cages.  A clear indication that cage-free systems are not more humane than conventional cages. Dr. Maja Makagon, Assistant Professor of Applied Animal Behavior at University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science, reported the increased bone breakage from collisions with perches in cage-free systems.

 

Dr. Ivan Alvarado, DVM with Merck Global Business delivered an interesting presentation at the Minneapolis Convention Center on March 14, 2018 discussing external parasites in cage-free farms.  83% of European cage-free egg farms are already infested with poultry red mites. This harmful mite is extremely costly to the poultry industry with annual European industry losses at EUR360 million (US$446.54 million). Red mites are not a problem in conventional cages. All 27 member nations in the EU are about 40% cage-free compared to 16% in the U.S. Dr. Alvarado said an effective drug for Red Mites is Fluranaler and is in use in the EU.  It has not yet received approval in the U.S.  Subjecting poultry to parasites without the benefit of approved medication is inhumane. 

Food safety is also implied to be compromised in conventional caged systems. In the Journal Food Control published a study June 17, 2014 entitled "Microbiological Contamination of Shell Eggs Produced in Conventional and Free-Range Housing Systems"  The conclusions show why cages became the preferred method of producing eggs.  "Battery caged hens (conventional cages) are standing on wire slats that allow feces to fall to a manure collection system beneath the hens.  Conversely, free-range hens (cage-free) laid their eggs in nest boxes on shavings and the eggs remained in contact with hens, shavings and fecal material until they are collected.  The longer contact time with free-range hens, shavings and feces would explain the higher enterobacteriaceae counts on free-range eggs as compared to battery caged eggs."

 

Penn State researchers in September 2016 published their research findings that eggs from small flocks of chickens are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis as eggs sold in grocery stores, which typically come from larger flocks of caged layers.

Now consider the benefits of large scale commercial farms.  Researchers at the Egg Industry Center in Ames, IA found that today’s hens are living longer due to better health, better nutrition and better living environments. These researchers studied U.S. egg production over a 50-year period, from 1960 to 2010. Today’s egg farmers are producing more eggs in 2010 than 50 years earlier. Using 1960 technology to produce the 2010 egg supply would have required 78 million more hens, 1.3 million more acres of corn and 1.8 million more acres of soybeans. In comparison to 1960 technology, today’s egg farmers are able to feed 72% more people. In combining all of animal agriculture, today's American farmer feeds about 144 people worldwide. Approximately 85 percent of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for crop production. Grazing animals on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food. Meat, milk and eggs are an essential part of a balanced diet because they are nutrient dense and are considered complete proteins, meaning that they contain all nine of the essential amino acids needed by humans. A 2006 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report estimated total GHG emissions resulting from animal agriculture around the world and this may be reasons for claims. We must remember that applying global percentages from agriculture to the U.S. are misleading because the vast majority of global GHG emissions attributed to livestock production result from deforestation and converting rain forests and other lands to grow crops or pasture. Such changes do not occur in the U.S., which has seen an increase in the total acreage of forested land over the last several decades even while total agricultural production has increased.

 

Your readers need to hear the farmers’ side of these issues and I thank you for reproducing my opinion.

Ken Klippen, BS, MS

Apr19

Rep. King's Bill is in the Farm Bill

The House Agriculture Committee passed a farm bill April 18th on a party-line vote afternoon (see story below National Egg Farmers Support Rep. King's HR4879).  It was a contentious vote due to some changes in the SNAP nutrition title (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The really good news is the committee adopted Rep. Steve King, R-IA, to prevent states from regulating how foods are grown or processed in other states. His bill "Protecting the Interstate Commerce Act" (PICA) was introduced specifically to target the California egg bill and other states following them. Rep. King proudly announced “We can’t let every state decide what’s going on in the other states or we refuse to accept their products." Rep. King heard from the National Egg Farmers who have been frustrated by California’s animal housing requirements with additional impediments expected in another upcoming ballet initiative. The committee rejected, 12-33, a substitute to King's amendment by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-CA (Denham opposed King's bill last time) that would have required USDA to report on existing state laws that affect the production, sale and labeling of agricultural products. 

 

Apr11

National Egg Farmers Testify Before Rhode Island Legislators on Cage-Free Chickens Bill

Rhode Island House Environment and Natural Resources Committee

Consideration of H 7456 Relating to Animals and Animal Husbandry –Unlawful Confinement of a Covered Animal (Egg Laying Chickens)

Testimony by Ken Klippen, President, National Association of Egg Farmers

April 5, 2018

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening in opposing H 7456 for two reasons; food safety and animal welfare. While the bill addresses unlawful confinement, it also mandates that chickens producing eggs have floor space consistent with the 2016 United Egg Producers Guidelines for Cage-Free Production.

 

FOOD SAFETY:

 

The US Animal Health Association October 17, 2017 Report stated: Ascarids (round worms) are increasingly being found in cage-free operations with the concern being the possibility of a consumer finding an egg with a roundworm contained inside. Most all cage-free egg producers have had such an occurrence.” Below is a picture showing round worms in the internal organ of an egg laying chicken as well as in an egg itself. Chickens pick up roundworms when they come into contact with infected feces on the ground.

In the Journal Food Control published a study June 17, 2014 entitled "Microbiological Contamination of Shell Eggs Produced in Conventional and Free-Range Housing Systems"  The conclusions show why cages became the preferred method of producing eggs. "Battery caged hens (conventional cages) are standing on wire slats that allow feces to fall to a manure collection system beneath the hens.  Conversely, free-range hens (cage-free) laid their eggs in nest boxes on shavings and the eggs remained in contact with hens, shavings and fecal material until they are collected.  The longer contact time with free-range hens, shavings and feces would explain the higher enterobacteriaceae counts (pathogenic bacteria) on free-range eggs as compared to battery caged eggs."

 

Penn State researchers in September 2016 published their research findings that eggs from small flocks of chickens are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis as eggs sold in grocery stores, which typically come from larger flocks of caged layers.

HUMANE

Cage-free increases the stress on chickens due to the establishment of a “pecking order” among the chickens.  This behavior is to determine the social standing of the individual hens through “pecking” each other.  The individual chicken lower in the social order is pecked the most.  When chickens are housed in conventional cages with 6 chickens, the establishment of this pecking order is minimized compared to thousands of chickens in a cage-free environment. The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a two-year study of different production systems, did not conclude that cage-free was the optimum system, but instead noted the mortality is nearly double that of caged systems.

The type of system proposed in the legislation will lead to more broken breast bones. Keel (breast) bone breakage reported highest in the aviary (cage-free) system over conventional cages.  A clear indication that cage-free systems are not more humane than conventional cages. Dr. Maja Makagon, Assistant Professor of Applied Animal Behavior at University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science, reported the increased bone breakage from collisions with perches in cage-free systems.

 

Dr. Ivan Alvarado, DVM with Merck Global Business delivered an interesting presentation at the Minneapolis Convention Center on March 14, 2018 discussing external parasites in cage-free farms. 83% of European cage-free egg farms are already infested with poultry red mites. This harmful mite is extremely costly to the poultry industry with annual European industry losses at EUR360 million (US$446.54 million). Red mites are not a problem in conventional cages. All 27 member nations in the EU are about 40% cage-free compared to 16% in the U.S. Dr. Alvarado said an effective drug for Red Mites is Fluranaler and is in use in the EU. It has not yet received approval in the U.S. Subjecting poultry to parasites without the benefit of approved medication is inhumane.

It is for these reasons we are opposed to H 7456 which mandates all eggs sold come from these cage-free systems of production.

Thank you.

 

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