By Animal Welfare Approved
| February 28, 2011
Many people are unaware that 80% of all antimicrobial drugs are administered to animals. Unfortunately, this fact shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; the Union of Concerned Scientists provided the same stat ten years ago in the 2001 report, Hogging It: Estimates of Antimicrobial Use in Livestock. Of course, industry has since ignored and/or rejected this figure every chance they’ve had. But despite the best efforts of Agribiz, as this week’s press release from Congresswoman Louise Slaughter reports, the FDA has officially confirmed the 80% figure; check it out. I should note that our friend Ralph Loglisci of the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future contacted the FDA back in December and was given the same numbers (he wrote an excellent post about this, which is absolutely worth reading). Nonetheless, it seems significant that the antibiotics stats have been released to and publicized by a congressperson. Very official, we think – and hopefully capable of capturing the nation’s attention.
| February 23, 2011
Just when you thought the scandal surrounding genetically modified (GM) crops couldn’t get any worse, breaking news of a novel pathogenic microorganism that might be linked to GM agriculture is spreading like wildfire across the internet. While you couldn’t write a better sci-fi script if you tried, this research is potentially of grave concern.
A senior U.S. soil scientist has written to the federal government about a novel microorganism apparently linked to GM crops that may have the potential to cause infertility and spontaneous abortion in farm animals, raising significant concerns about human health. The letter was written to the USDA in light of the then pending decision to approve Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa, which has been genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Yet it appears that no official action was taken to investigate the research before the green light was given for commercial planting.
Alan and Pam Souther of Rocking S Farm in Piney Creek, North Carolina have enjoyed what Alan calls a “lifetime of farming.” Previously the couple had been tobacco farmers, but decreased stability in that market led them to seek out other enterprises. The couple explains their transition as a return to traditional farming techniques: “We decided to look to the past to assure our farm’s future.” Initially focusing on meat sheep with the help of a RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA) grant, the Southers now specialize in Angus Beef. They also run two organic greenhouses and sell produce to area markets.
Grace Meadow Farm specializes in producing AWA-certified eggs from hens living on pasture. Farmers Gay and Carl Gunn strive to produce the most healthy and naturally-produced chicken eggs, using only sustainable and organic practices, and without using antibiotics, growth stimulants, or animal by-products. The chickens at Grace Meadow enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and access to pasture. In return, they supply fresh, pastured eggs which contain twice the amount omega-3 fatty acids and three times as much vitamin E when compared to conventional eggs, with less saturated fat and cholesterol, too.
Michelle Leisen and her husband Chris Cornilsen, along with Michelle’s parents Janet and Corrie Leisen, raise Animal Welfare Approved laying hens (Buff Orpingtons, Plymouth Barred Rock, Black Australorp, Americanas, Silver Laced Wyandotte) at the completely solar powered Leisen Family Farm in Santa Rosa, CA. Michelle has been connected to farm animals since childhood raising lambs, rabbits and dairy cows for 4H and Future Farmers of America. And while the Leisen family has been farming in Sonoma County for 100 years, this is Michelle’s first endeavor into “the chicken department” as she calls it, only raising hens since 2010.
By Animal Welfare Approved
| February 16, 2011
When Richard and Paulette Manning bought their farm in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in 1971, adjacent to the land Richard’s family had been farming since the turn of the century, it had been sitting empty and neglected for 25 years. It took them 15 years of mending fences, building structures, and restoring pastures and ponds before there was any semblance of a farm, but now their 200 acres are home to between 400 and 500 Katahdin sheep that they raise for breeding stock and meat. Katahdin, a breed that has hair rather than wool, are known for their adaptability, mothering ability and suitability for pasture management systems.
| February 10, 2011
As director of the Animal Welfare Approved program, I recently had the opportunity to visit the Arapaho Ranch, in north-central Wyoming. At 580,000 acres, it is the largest USDA certified organic ranch in the U.S. – and one of the most inspiring ranches that I have ever seen. Arapaho Ranch is actually part of its environment, working in harmony with nature, rather than trying to control it.
My visit began at the front of the local high school in the town of Thermopolis, where I met with David Stoner, who manages the Arapaho Ranch on behalf of the Tribal Council of the Northern Arapaho Nation. David is one of those people who can say a huge amount with very few words, and as we drove out to the first pasture it quickly became clear that the Arapaho Tribe had struck gold by appointing him to manage their ranch.
John Chaney got into the beef business as an expansion of what he was already doing – raising a few cattle and training his horses by working them on cattle. An added benefit is high-quality, farm-fresh grass fed beef, which is enjoyed by happy customers and farmers alike. “John is a beef lover,” says his wife, Sarah, adding that his favorite cuts include New York Strip, “or any kind of steak… or any cut of beef for that matter – he can eat beef for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” John never liked what was being done in the commercial beef industry and kept a beef steer or two for himself, family and friends for years. In the mid-90s, he decided to expand, crafting a herd based on Black and Red Angus mixed with Hereford and Charolais for hybrid vigor. His bulls are small, stocky “Lowline” Angus whose offspring finish well on grass. The ranch currently has around 50 momma cows and two brand new bulls selected for improved calving abilities, along with other traits contributing to great meat quality.
Thomas Rose, of Rose Ranch, raises and finishes cattle on grass in High Ridge, which is about 50 miles south-west of St Louis.
Animal Welfare Approved is proud to be a partner on a new project with the world renowned Bristol University Veterinary School, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the Soil Association, all in the United Kingdom. The “AssureWel” project will improve how animal welfare is assessed.
“AssureWel” will assess the outcome of standards, rather than just judging how well a farm complies with standards. We’ll be able to see exactly how well animals do over the course of their lives. Judging compliance of animal welfare standards is simple—an auditor will look to see how much space an animal has, what kind of food they are getting, and the like. But outcome measurements, sometimes described as animal-based measures, look at things like animal behavior and health, as well as at farm records on lameness incidence and mortality. By combining both the outcome of standards and a farm’s compliance with standards, auditors will get the best picture possible of animal welfare.
Using input and outcome measurements, auditors will gain deeper insight into the outcomes and overall quality of life for animals. AWA standards already do this in many areas, but “AssureWel” takes standards auditing to a new level of transparency and fact-based research. Greater use of outcome measurements in welfare programs ensure that scientifically sound judgments can be made to confirm that the animals in the programs attain real welfare benefits.