Jul18

National Egg Farmers Sends Press Release on its support for the King Amendment in the Farm Bill.

On July 18th, National Egg Farmers sent to PR Newswire, its press release to address the ongoing campaign against egg farmers and to show the support of the members of the National Egg Farmers for the King amendment in the Farm Bill.  Within 24 hours, 125 postings of the release were made with a potential audience of 81.7 million people. This included news sources in Washington, DC such as the Washington Post, Politico, Congressional Quarterly, Roll Call, AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Farm media receiving the release included Agri-Pulse, Brownfield, Capital Press, Farm Journal, Progressive Farmer and Urner Barry FoodMarket. Below is the link for the release sent to newspapers nationwide with the subtitle “Don’t Be Misinformed – Ask a Farmer about this Important Bill”:

 

 

www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/national-association-of-egg-farmers-urges-support-for-king-amendment-in-farm-bill-in-congress-300682317.html?tc=eml_cleartime

 

The Farm Bill is before Congress every five years and is important to the nation’s farmers.  This year it is very important to National Association of Egg Farmers members, as the House version includes an amendment from Rep. Steve King from Iowa that seeks to uphold the U.S. Constitution commerce clause.

In effect that clause says Congress is to regulate commerce among the states, but certain states are implementing laws regulating how eggs are produced outside the state and then imported into that state. Specifically, they are pressing for removing cages for egg-laying hens.  They claim they are doing it for the welfare of the chicken and the quality of the egg.  They need to ask the farmers.  Farmers today moved to cages for welfare considerations and for egg quality improvements.

In the press release, National Egg Farmers makes the case for modern egg production practices that includes caged layers for reducing mortality, safeguarding hens from broken breast bones, and lessening external parasites particularly red mites. National Egg Farmers also provided the report from The US Animal Health Association October 17, 2017 which 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.” Chickens pick up roundworms when they come into contact with infected feces on the ground. How will consumers react to finding round worms in their eggs asked National Egg Farmers? 

Farmers know how to produce safe, quality eggs while caring for their chickens.  Don’t take that knowledge away by removing consumers’ choices and forcing only cage-free eggs said National Egg Farmers.

Jul12

National Egg Farmers Offers Rebuttal to LA Times Editorial Opposing Farm Bill Amendment

The Los Angeles Times featured an editorial on Sunday, July 8 entitled "The farm bill doesn't need an amendment that helps let chickens be treated cruelly".  http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-king-amendment-farm-bill-20180707-story.htm  This is in reference to Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and his amendment in the Farm Bill that passed the House of Representatives whereby he maintains Congress has the authority to regulate commerce between the states and not the states themselves.  Of course this is a challenge to the California egg law and the new voter intiative that will appear on the November ballot calling for total cage-free eggs to be sold in the state. National Egg Farmers offered a rebuttal explaining that egg farmers nationwide have changed their egg production practices from cage-free to cages to improve the health of the chicken and to provide a quality product for consumers. Here is the proof behind our assertions:

HUMANE- The “pecking order” is the term applied to chickens establishing dominance.  It has lead to higher mortality among cage-free chickens.  Cage-free systems have resulted in more broken breast bones as reported by Dr. Maja Makagon at University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science. Forcing chickens into production systems that increases bone breakage is inhumane. Dr. Ivan Alvarado, DVM with Merck Global Business reported at a poultry conference on the external parasites in cage-free farms. 83% of European cage-free egg farms are already infested with poultry red mites. All 27 member nations in the EU are about 40% cage-free compared to 16% in the U.S.. The approved medication in Europe for this parasite is not approved in the U.S.  Subjecting poultry to parasites without the benefit of approved medication is inhumane. Currently, California is struggling with a major poultry disease (Virulent Newcastle Disease) with 39 outbreaks in backyard (free-range flocks).  Once discovered, these chickens have to be destroyed.  This is not occurring in conventional farming methods using cages. Forcing chickens into production systems where they contract poultry diseases is inhumane.

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.” Chickens pick up roundworms when they come into contact with infected feces on the ground. How will readers of the LA Times react to finding round worms in their eggs? 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 safer eggs. How will readers of the LA Times react when they learn you opted for free-range and increased the likelihood of contracting a pathogen? 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. How will your readers react when they find out?

It is for these reasons National Egg Farmers is urging the LA Times to make known why farmers support the King amendment in the Farm Bill by publishing this opinion.

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

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