Friday, October 9, 2009

Who Makes Decisions About Animal Welfare?

Consider this excellent musing on the formation of public policy, and try to think about it in terms of animal welfare. Who decides how eggs or pork will be produced? Who decides whether cattle will enter a feedlot? Who decides whether animals will be raised at all for food?

Pleasant Comments About United Egg Producers

Last week I attended a Media Field Day held by the United Egg Producers. The idea was to have the media tour cage and cage-free egg farms and then attend information sessions features speakers by UEP affiliates, such as economic consultants hired by the UEP and the UEP Scientific Panel.

I have been studying egg production for over two years intensely, so I was excited at the prospect of being able to actually see the farms. I had been trying all summer but no farm would let me visit. Both the cage and cage-free facilities were almost exactly what I expected, with the cage-free being more impressive than I thought it would be.

The information sessions were straight-forward and honest. When describing and defending the cage system, one of the scientists blatantly described the disadvantages, describing how the cage restricts behavioral needs of the animal. The point is that while the UEP affiliates were indeed lobbying for the UEP, they were honest and forthright. I applaud them for this, and I wonder how straightforward their opposition would be?

I am sincerely appreciative to the UEP, so in return, in this post I am going to make some pleasant comments about the UEP. These comments are statements that I sincerely believe, where I am purposely leaving out any comment that is in opposition to UEP. For readers who think I am being too soft, I urge you to remember that the purpose of this posting was to be honest but soft. Here goes...this is Bailey being as pro-UEP as he can be...

Bailey's Pleasant Comments Regarding the United Egg Producers

The United Egg Producers (UEP) are truly placed in a difficult position. They have been producing cage eggs for decades, and there is little doubt that cage eggs are what consumer prefer (at the currently prices in which they are sold). UEP producers sell both cage and cage-free eggs, and cage eggs dominate the market with cage-free being little more than an interesting novelty. While the UEP has a customer base that clearly prefer cage eggs, they are being placed under considerable pressure by certain groups to cease cage egg production, and convert fully to cage-free eggs. In short, they are being forced by interest groups that represent a small minority of consumers to cease selling the very product that their consumers desire. I do not envy the UEP and the setting they must operate.

It is also worth pointing out that the UEP has a number of very prestigious animal scientists, who tell the UEP that cage production is humane. Let me repeat this. Although powerful animal groups are seeking to ban cage egg production, some of the most prestigious and knowledgeable people in the world in the area of farm animal welfare blatantly assert that cage production is humane.

Thus, we have a situation where egg customers primarily desire cage eggs, and some of the foremost experts believe that cage egg production is humane. How is the UEP expected to do anything other than fight animal advocacy groups who attempt to ban cage egg production? When animal scientists are telling them that cage egg production is humane, how is UEP supposed to do anything other than argue that the animal advocacy groups "true" agenda is to rid the world of animal food production?

Finally, given the fact that the vast majority of consumers want cage eggs and the fact that many animal scientists assert that cage egg production is humane, should cage eggs be banned based on the research of two agricultural economists named Bailey Norwood and Jayson Lusk? If one book called Ham and Eggonomics argues that "educated" consumers actually desire cage eggs over cage-free eggs and argues that cage-free eggs are "more humane", is one book enough to outweigh all these other considerations?

I can honestly say that while I hope our upcoming book does well, I do not desire for it to receive the undeserved acclaim and allegiance that certain books about food today receive.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Egg Farm Video

I've been suggesting to the United Egg Producers that they upload videos of cage and cage-free production for some time. They have arrived! They have some very nice videos showing clearly what the farms look like so that readers can contrast UEP videos, which will show the best side of egg production, to videos from animal rights groups, which will show worst side of egg production. Those videos are injected in parts of the Feedstuffs Foodlink video below.

Egg Housing Transition Study

Feedstuffs recently ran a story about an economic study detailing the impacts of a nationwide shift from cage to cage-free egg production. Last week I attended a presentation by the economic firm conducting the study, and can say that they generally did a good job with the analysis. A narrative of the results is shown below.

However, there is one area in which the analysis could be improved. The study, conducted by Promar International, detailed the costs of a nationwide switch to cage-free production, but they ignored the benefits. My research (detailed in an academic working paper and a forthcoming book) provides a good deal of evidence suggesting that consumers as a whole prefer cage-free egg production, and when educated about egg production, the value they place on cage-free eggs over cage eggs is greater than the cost premium. Put differently, we find that although cage-free eggs do cost more to produce, educated consumers are more than willing to pay this cost.

There are many more complicated issues to consider, and I am not trying to persuade readers to support a nationwide ban (I do not support/oppose anything). What I am saying is that a study that analyzes the cost of a policy without considering the benefits will always be somewhat misleading.

Excerpt from Promar Study...
Such a transition would increase the cost of eggs for consumers 25% or more, would increase the cost of eggs for government nutrition programs $169 million per year and could increase egg imports from virtually zero now to 7 billion eggs per year, according to the study, commissioned by the United Egg Producers (UEP) and conducted by Promar International, an economic consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

The Pollan-Singer Travesty

If you keep up with food and agricultural news (and gossip) you will likely agree that Michael Pollan is everywhere. From The Omnivore's Dilemma to Food, Inc. he is providing fodder for debates about how food is produced. Some worship him as the prophet who discovered a capitalistic conspiracy, and some consider him an enemy to truth. Like him or not, we all know him, and his books and movies are talked about by large numbers of people.

As an economist I am not a Pollan fan because he exploits the natural tendencies of some people to oppose capitalism for false reasons. Although the U.S. provides people with the potential to have the most healthy, inexpensive, and delicious diet of any human society, some people choose to neglect the healthy part. A business can only produce what the consumer wants, so businesses provide unhealthy food for people who want unhealthy food. Pollan then blames our health problems on the companies, not the consumer. I have tried to read Pollan's books but find the narratives either illogical or sensationalized. Because I feel one can only become less informed by reading Pollan, I have not finished any of his books and do not allow my students to read his books for Honors credit.

The book that I love is one no one is talking about: The Way We Eat by Peter Singer. Animal welfare is undoubtedly the most important issue in agriculture. In The Way We Eat, Singer provides an accurate, logical, and thorough depiction of how animals are raised for food. He dwells on the bad parts, failing to mention the many ways in which animals like cattle are raised humanely, but that is not his job. His job is to bring attention to problems in livestock agriculture, and he does it without logical fallacies, sensationalizing, or by misleading the reader. As someone who has worked on farms and studied the issue, I can say that his book is factual enough to be the centerpiece of a debate.

(Note: I'm not saying I agree completely with Singer on everything or that I support any particular animal rights or animal welfare agenda...I'm merely saying that Singer's book is logical and researched enough to serve as a narrative to debate around, and that the implications of farm animal welfare are important enough that the topic deserves much attention)

If animal welfarists and animal rightists are correct, we are imposing incredibly cruelty upon farm animals daily. Are they correct? That is what we should be debating--not whether corporate agriculture is making us sick. So why does Pollan get all the attention while Singer is relegated to the small minority of animal rightists readers?

The reason is simple: people care largely about themselves (e.g. obesity) and they like blaming other people for their troubles, and Pollan delivers this need. Singer wants us to consider the suffering of other sentient beings and to take responsibility for our role in whatever suffering exists. If our society desires to become a more compassionate and ethical people the first step is to cast aside all works by Michael Pollan and begin studying and reading The Way We Eat. That, at least, is my plea to every American who cares about ethics and who cares about food. Farm animal welfare is the most pressing agriculture issue, and we have only begun to have a real dialogue. Put down Pollan, pick up Singer, and join the Ham and Eggonomics discussion on the state of farm animal welfare!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Broiler Production Background

Hello AGEC 1114 Students! Below is a good video on the broiler industry.

Or, if you don't want to like the broiler industry, try this video.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thoughtful Comments From A Reader

I often make analogies between the rearing of animals and rearing of children, arguing that just as we do not prohibit the rearing of children despite the fact that some will be abused, we should not eliminate animal food production based on the fact there are producers who abuse their animals. One reader left a very thoughtful response which I thought was worth considering, so I pasted it below. Enjoy!

With any analogy there are maybe 2 or 3 likes and 41 differences. I don’t want to be the pesky commenter that picks out every difference, but I want to comment on your child-raising/animal-rearing comparison to make a point about your conclusion here and in other postings.

You’re probably correct that most consumers who watch investigatory farm footage assume that the spotlighted farms are bad apples (if for no other reason than to absolve their consumption choices). But that is a faulty assumption. I think you would agree that the great majority of animal suffering in animal agriculture – particularly in CAFOs, but also in smaller operations – results not from callousness or careless management, but simply from built-in production models designed to minimize cost and maximize productivity (e.g., chickens cannot be optimally grown without selective breeding that causes extensive welfare issues). Most welfare issues thus emerge from production systems and are often irremovable without systematic reform (e.g., no matter how well a battery-cage facility is managed, hens will lack the space to engage in many natural behaviors).

So unless a CAFO investigation video depicts problems that can be directly linked to individual actions independent of system-wide features, it is only fair to assume that the problems are (roughly) representative of operations of comparable magnitude and design (which as Anthony clarifies are not the majority of farms, but account for the majority of animal production).

But then can we say that CAFOs are the bad apples and are exceptional to smaller operations? They are indeed extreme examples, but even smaller farms generally commodify animals into sellable products, in the sense that farming practices are designed to optimize efficiency of animal production within certain parameters. For instance, in this pig operation, which is idyllic as they come, farmers still cut corners that hurt animal welfare:

Child raising, in contrast, is not an economic institution and children are victims of individual abusers not systems of production. With child abuse, culpability lies squarely with the parents. By contrast, in the face of systematic mistreatment of farm animals, consumers must accept that such systems are driven by their demand and must accept personal responsibility. That is why, while it makes little sense to swear off child-bearing in reaction to child abuse, it is reasonable to swear off animal products in reaction to the intrinsic economy of raising animals for food, at least in non-subsistence agriculture.

Generally, I am a huge fan of your writings for your thoroughness, nuance, and impatience with bias. That said, I think you are too quick to dismiss veganism as extreme or unreasonable without closely examining its merits.

Overview of Egg Industry for AGEC 1114 Students

This blog entry contains an overview of the egg industry for my AGEC 1114, Introduction to Agricultural Economics, class.

Overview of the Egg Industry

The breed of chickens used for egg production is an entirely different breed used for egg production. The egg production process starts at the hatchery, where hens and roosters breed naturally in a cage-free environment. Male chicks cannot lay eggs and they are not profitable to grow for meat, so they are killed soon after birth. The slaughter process can be viewed here. The female chicks are then sent to an egg farm, where 95% will be raised in a cage facility and the remainder are raised in a cage-free or free-range setting. (Show videos of cage and cage-free production, the UEP would not let me post them of free-range production available here).

Before the 1950's egg production took place on rather small, free-range farms. The hens were given access to the outside partially because the feed formulations in those days (animal nutrition was a nascent science at the time) were lacking in certain nutrients. The hens had to have sunlight for Vitamin D and to forage for nutrients lacking in the feed. Over time scientists learned how to formulate feed containing all the hens' nutritional needs. They also learned that it was less expensive to raise hens permanently indoors. By providing a constant, comfortable temperature, protecting the animal from predators, reducing the animals' movements so that they don't burn much energy, and and other technological advancements the industry reduced the cost of production. Between 1950-today those who did not transition to these factory farms had to go out-of-business because their costs were too high. The low production cost also led to a greater supply of eggs, and lower prices. These hens are egg factories; they will start laying at 17 weeks of age and until they are spent (slaughtered, harvested, whatever word you like) at 115 weeks of age. During this period she will lay more than 500 eggs.

The welfare of hens has received much attention lately. Let us discuss the pros and cons of the various available egg production systems.

Cage System - the hens are housed in a small, barren cage with five other hens for their entire lives. Their biological needs are met in that the house provides them with a comfortable environment, protects them from predators, and the cage protects them from aggression by other birds. Still, they must have their beaks trimmed at an early age to reduce aggression and injury from fighting birds (the trimming causes significant pain, but when done properly the pain is not permanent). The disadvantage is that birds undeniably have biological needs. They strongly desire to walk and move around. Yet the cage only provides 67 square inches per bird when the bird needs 75 square inches just to stand comfortably (and much, much more to flap their wings). The hens desire to utilize perches, forage for food, dustbathe, scratch in the dirt, and lay eggs in nests, but all of these needs are denied in the cage system.

Cage-Free System - the hens are housed in a large flock (greater than 20,000 birds) without a cage. The birds have two to three times the space per hen than in a cage system. To meet their biological needs they are given an area to scratch in the dirt for food, perches, and nests. The disadvantage of the cage system is that the large flock size encourages aggression. Birds regularly injure and cannibalize one another. For example, the mortality rate in a cage-free environment is 7-15% compared to 3% in a cage system. Beak trimming is performed to reduce injury and mortality, but mortality is still higher in the cage-free system compared to the cage system.

Free-Range System - birds in a free-range system typically have all of their needs met and are happy birds, were it not for predators. Some farms have lose 25% of their birds or more to predators.

Economics, Efficiency, and the Environment - the cage system is the less expensive system because it requires less inputs for each egg produced. This means that less water, pesticides, corn, and the like are used to produce an egg. Those who are concerned about the environment sometimes tout the efficiency of the cage system because it produces less environmental pollution than cage-free eggs.

Public Debates - in the last ten years the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has begun a campaign to ban cage egg production. For example, they arranged a petition to allow a ballot initiative in California which essentially asked taxpayers if they wanted to ban cage egg production. It passed with a large majority of Californians. A similar effort may pass in Michigan, but through the legislature and without a referendum. The HSUS is undoubtedly trying to ban cage egg production everywhere they can. The egg industry, represented by the United Egg Producers (UEP) argues that cage egg production is humane and that the real agenda of the HSUS is to ban the eating of animal products. The directors of HSUS are typically vegan and can be considered animal rights activists. However, the HSUS membership is largely comprised of meat-eaters and the HSUS board is filled by both vegans and meat-eaters.

Cage-Free Egg Production - a market for cage-free egg production does exist, but only comprises 5% of egg production. Part of the reason is that the premiums charged to consumers at the grocery store is often three times more than the higher cost of cage-free production. If grocery stores charged a price more consistent with the cost of production the market for cage-free production would be much larger. The current environment is one where the UEP and HSUS are battling over whether cage egg production is banned, but one in which there is very little effort on anyone's part to actively promote cage-free production. That is, the battle is being waged on whether we force consumers to consume cage-free eggs, not a battle for market share between cage and cage-free egg production.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Selective Carnivore

In this post, Tyler Cowen describes the relationship between animal welfare and shifting consumption among meat, dairy, and the like. His analysis is very similar to Chapter 8 of my upcoming book where I model the link between dairy, poultry, beef, veal, and egg consumption and animal welfare. My model agrees with Cowen in that replacing beef with milk and cheese may lead to a reduction in animal welfare. I even find that replacing cage eggs with cage-free eggs could also reduce animal welfare. I believe I'm more optimistic about the lives of dairy cows than Tyler, despite the recent undercover PETA video.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ag Economist in Locovre Movie

Below is an article describing the appearance of an agricultural economist in a movie describing the local food movement. Discussion of local foods should be grouped according to whether it occurs because people like the local food better or because they think they are providing benefits to their local community. The former simply represents a shift in preferences, while the latter represents a subsidy that can only make the community as a whole poorer.

CORVALLIS, Ore. - An agricultural economist at Oregon State University has hit the silver screen in a new documentary that examines and promotes the local food movement and that will show in Portland starting on Friday. In the film "Ingredients<>," Larry Lev discusses the benefits and costs of buying food from local producers. He says that although some local products may cost more than food transported from large-scale commercial operations, the extra expense can be worth it. The taste can be superior, and the money shoppers spend stays in the area and contributes to the vitality of the community, he says. By shopping locally, people are also keeping agricultural land from being developed and they're establishing close relationships with farmers and fellow consumers, he adds.

"In the end, it comes down to choices. Price is one aspect that consumers take into account, but it's not the only one and often not the most important one," says Lev, who was filmed on campus.

Lev, who has worked at OSU for 25 years, specializes in agricultural marketing and alternative food systems. He also works with colleagues in the OSU Extension Service's Small Farms Program to develop and strengthen farmers' markets. He was asked to appear in the documentary because he had worked with one of the members of the film crew on various projects, including workshops to match chefs with farmers.

"Larry gave us a lot of great information to work with," said the film's producer and cinematographer, Brian Kimmel, who lives in Portland. "The most important thing he did was describe how this whole economics system works with the local food movement. A lot of the people are looking at this and saying, 'Yes, this is something we want but it's too expensive.' Larry's experience shows otherwise. It was great to have Larry to fall back on and say, 'This does make sense and here's how.'"

"Ingredients," which premiered in Germany and won a Silver Sierra Award in the documentary category at this year's Yosemite Film Festival, shows the farmers and chefs around the country who are revitalizing the connection between food and the land. It features diversified farms of the Willamette and Hudson River valleys, the urban food deserts of Harlem, and the kitchen of Alice Waters.

In addition to Lev, other Oregonians featured in the film include: Portland chefs Greg Higgins and Pascal Sauton; Anthony and Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston; John Eveland of Gathering Together Farm in Philomath; Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed, also in Philomath; farmer Laura Masterson of 47th Avenue Farm in Portland; John Neumeister of Cattail Creek Lamb in Junction City; farmers Sheldon Marcuvitz and Carole Laity of Your Kitchen Garden in Canby; Shari Sirkin of Dancing Roots Farm in Troutdale; and former Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad.

To buy a DVD or find out how to organize a screening of the film in your community, go to the "Ingredients: A Documentary Film" Web site<>.

HT: Henry Bahn

Feedstuffs Editorial

In an editorial titled Animal Welfare Cannot Break Down the authors argue that violations of animal welfare standards has to stop (a phrase they repeat many times) immediately because, "it leaves the consuming public with a bad taste in its mouth for dairy, meat and poultry products."

Perhaps, but I think the average person is a bit more sophisticated that this, and will make their decisions based on what they think the average farm looks like, not the unusual farm that happens to get caught doing bad things on tape.

Every day thousands of children are abused in myriad ways by evil parents, friends, family members, and such. Yet we do not prohibit the raising of children for these reasons. We know that if we allow people to have children that some will be abused, just as we know that if we raise animals for food (or keep animals as pets) some will be abused.

But then, these videos may alter what consumers believe to be the "average" farm. The authors acknowledge this when they say, "breakdowns, to consumers now, represent standard operating procedure."

Happy Dairy Cows

This nice video takes you on a tour of a dairy farm and the importance placed on farm animal welfare. I don't believe the profit-motive is a necessary condition for humane animal production, but that it depends on the particular animal species. Dairy, beef, and chicken production are, in my opinion, industries that generally provide acceptable animal welfare. My definition of "acceptable" is that the animals have a life worth living, even if their lives could be improved. Because their lives are mostly pleasant, one could consider it ethical to consume beef, dairy, and chicken products. But don't take it from me. Research the farms yourself.

Farewell To Gestation Stalls in Michigan

My Feedstuffs news alerts told me that Michigan is expected to pass a law banning gestation crates. The events leading up to this are similar to the Colorado story: HSUS threatens a referendum, livestock producers don't want the negative publicity that would bring, both groups negotiate a long time horizon (10 years) to implement the ban in order to minimize the economic burden, and legislation banning the crates ensues. Battery cages and veal crates will also be banned.

What is the impact of the ban? My research suggests that the cost of pork production will rise $0.0533 per lb of retail pork. The demand side of the ban is more difficult to identify, and ultimately ambiguous. Jayson Lusk and I have conducted hundreds of real-pork auctions across the country and have found that consumers, on average, will pay up to $0.14 more for each lb of retail pork that is raised in group pens, which is the alternative to gestation crates. Thus, at first glance, the ban would provide a net benefit of $0.0867 for society as a whole.

However, one cannot simply say that demand for pork will increase. The gestation crate ban could change consumers' perceptions of pork, and ultimately decrease the total ban for pork. It is true that consumers on average prefer pork produced without gestation crates, but the information that a ban provides could produce a pork demand that is lower or higher than the current demand. That is, consumers prefer that gestation crates not be used, but after learning that gestation crates were used in the first place may begin to think hog production is inhumane. Or, they may conclude that hog production is humane and becoming even more humane. We simply don't know.

The ultimate impact of the gestation crate ban is thus ambiguous. However, my best guess is that, with this type of legislation, pork demand will be unaltered, consumers will be largely unaware of the improvement, and, and hog producers will make less money.

Of course, that analysis pretends that Michigan is a closed economy. In reality the gestation stall ban allows the importation of pork produced under any means. Consumers will undoubtedly choose the cheaper pork produced in other states, and so the impact of the legislation on farm animals will depend on whether the Michigan farmers can stay in business. If they remain in business, then the animals will be raised on what is presumably a more humane farm. Michigan farmers will pay the higher production costs themselves. Consumers will not pay a dime more. If they go out of business, roughly the same amount of pork will be produced, but out-of-state; and the only impact the law will have is to drive Michigan farmers out-of-business.

Other people have some interesting views on gestation crates...
  • Trent Loos and other producers and animal scientists (I only use Loos' name because he is rather famous) believe that banning gestation crates will not improve animal welfare, and may lower welfare.
  • Gary Francione (just Google the name if you don't know him) often asserts that every time you improve animal welfare the farmers' costs actually go down. In this case, hog producers would be surprised to find that their costs are lower than when they used the crates.
  • The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) would probably argue that banning gestation crates is fine, but we should really be going much further and producing more pork under the Animal Welfare Approved label. Personally, I concur with the AWI.

About Foie Gras

A recent article on the interesting blog Food & Think (a blog worth adding to your reader, by the way) concerned Foie-Gras and a book being written about the issue. I had always assumed Foie-Gras to be a pretty cruel food, but the author states....

Unlike on some Canadian and French farms, the ducks in this country are kept in group pens rather than individual cages during the 3- to 4-week gavage period, and, from the evidence Caro presents, the force-feeding doesn’t seem to harm the birds or cause them terrible distress.

surprised me. Force-feeding not causing the birds distress? Sounds a bit suspect, but I'm open to the idea. I know that I have heard people claim other industries (e.g. cattle) to be a cruel production process, but from my extensive experience and research in the area find it to be otherwise, so perhaps Foie-Gras is better than its reputation? Is it better than hog production, for example?

Which would an animal prefer, living in a group pen but being force-fed or leaving in an individual cage barely larger than the animals' body and not being force-fed? I know what you're thinking -you'd rather have better choices than these two! Understandable :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How Real Bloggers Work

I've always wondered how "real" bloggers stay on top of everything so well. For example, Troy Hardick at Advocates for Agriculture seems to find every single article related to agriculture that exists, and finds it before anyone else can.

I was curious, so I asked Troy how he does it. In addition to establishing a network of followers who forward him articles, he has up to 50 Google Alerts established. Staying on top of 50 Google Alerts is much work, so be sure not to take your favorite blogs for granted.

Ham and Eggonomics, by the way, is not a "real" blog, and I am no "real" blogger, but am amateur.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Gary Francione Podcast

Gary Francione now has a podcast that has issued several shows already. Another podcast that I have not listened to but looks interesting is NZ Vegan. Both are podcasts from the abolitionist movement.

A podcast that occasionally addresses the farm animal welfare issue from a different perspective is Loos Tales for Feedstuffs by Trent Loos. Loos Tales may sound like it is an industry construct but Mr. Loos is perfectly sincere and would be doing the exact same thing without his sponsors. I know Mr. Loos, and he has already spent a personal fortune spreading his message.

All three podcasts are from knowledgeable individuals whose passion I'm sure will be felt by the listener. All podcasts are recommended.

The Term "Franchises" - A Silly Idea

In previous posts I have labeled movements on all side of the farm animal welfare issue as franchises, in an attempt to articulate the public choice theory aspect of any movement, but have now decided it was silly. As a researcher I like to experiment, which means you cannot pay attention to everything I say!

Follow-Up on Hen Mortality Posting

Sara Shields recently provided a superb post on the issue of mortality in cage and cage-free systems. I have argued that cage-free systems have higher mortality rates which pose a significant welfare problem. My take is that cage-free systems are better for the bird, but the mortality problem causes me to sympathize with those who argue otherwise. So, the question is, did Dr. Shields' posting, which showed low mortality rates are possible in a cage-free system, change my mind?

I have never doubted that cage-free systems can have low mortality if cost is of no concern. One could take a cage-free facility, reduce the flock size to five birds, and would have the highest animal welfare possible, but the eggs would be thousands of dollars each. The question concerns whether low mortality is possible in a cage-free system that produces eggs at a reasonable cost. Note that I am not requiring that the cost of production be equivalent to cage eggs or even the current cage-free egg price. Let us say that my definition of "reasonable" is $5 per dozen or lower. I sought the references Dr. Shields cited to determine if any of those met this criteria.

Stonegate Organic Columbian Blacktail Eggs - At current exchange rates their free-range eggs sell for $2.91 per dozen, which is actually quite inexpensive. We know from Sara's sources that cannibalism and pecking is not a problem on the farm, but they are free-range birds and we don't know if mortality rates are affected by predators. Readers of a previous post will note that in the presence of predators mortality rates can be as high as 25%. Can mortality rates and costs be simultaneously held to a reasonably low level? The verdict for these eggs are ambiguous.

Other Farms - the other sources did list the overall mortality rate, and it was very low. However they did not list their costs or prices, so it could be they are achieving low mortality but only at very high costs. Heaven's Farm have a mortality rate under 2% while only providing the birds with 86 square inches of housing area per hen and 172 square inches of "liveable" area (which I think includes the housing area). Compared to 67 square inches per bird in a cage system and 200 square inches for bird in some cage-free systems, that's a good deal of space but not a far stretch from traditional cage-free methods.

My verdict is as follows. Dr. Shield's posting gave me greater confidence that mortality can be low in a cage-free system, especially once technology begins to address the mortality problem with greater intensity. I also have greater confidence that humane egg production is possible while keeping the price of eggs under $5.00 per dozen. However, I still have a number of questions, and do not consider my "confidence" to be "certainty."

Use of Word "Franchise"

I often refer to all movements within the farm animal welfare debate as a franchise. I hope it does not offend anyone, as that is not the intent. Being an economist I am always searching for economic principles underlying behavior, including behavior of individuals within an idealogical movement.

Livestock farmers find a sincere meaning in life through their work, which is why many farm despite its unprofitability. Their social network consists of other farmers, and when they are attacked by groups they will ban together and reinforce their social norms to preserve the meaning they find in life. So when they discuss farm animal welfare they are doing more than just stating their perceptions. They are protecting an institution that is important personally and financially to them. They are protecting their franchise. This is they will sometimes make statements they know to be false, like when they assert that sows in confinement facilities have pleasant lives and have no desire to be raised under the Animal Welfare Approved label. They don't believe this (they just can't really believe this), they are protecting their franchise.

The same goes for animal advocacy groups. These are individuals dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals, and for many it is their life-calling. Just as a business franchise must be in tune with its consumers' attitudes animal advocacy groups must take into account how its members will react to something and must protect the movement at all costs. This is why you hear so few animal advocates speak out against the ban on horse slaughter, despite the fact that there must be many, many, who understand it has led to horrible consequences for horses.

Ham and Eggonomics is also a franchise. I know that I am susceptible to influences other than truth. I extract much meaning in life by believing that I am providing consumers with the objective information they need to understand the farm animal welfare debate. Yet I belong to a college that sees itself as a consultant to the livestock industry, and I also know that only animal advocates read my blog. Despite my sincere efforts, I know that this affects what I say. Because I cannot honestly eliminate the influence, I try to be open about it. Because I know every other group is also influenced by these forces, I often refer to movements as a franchise.

When I refer to a movement as a franchise, do not consider it an insult. It is only an assertion that a movements consists of people, and people can only be human.

Establishing Animal Liberation

A recent article helps clarify what is meant by "animal liberation." The lives of wild and domestic animals are directly affected by the choice humans make, so they can't be "liberated" from human decisions. However, as the quote from article below shows, some do interpret animal rights and liberation to imply that humans must purposely design an environment so that it appears to be absent of human influence.

The American Legal Defense Fund wants the right of wild animals to natural habitat and a self-sustaining population enshrined as well as the right of farm animals to an environment that “satisfies their basic physical and psychological needs” and, the right of all animals to “have their interests represented in court and safeguarded by the law of the land.”


Column: Are animals entitled to the same respect and rights as humans?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Terminology in the Abolitionist Franchise

The Abolitionist Franchise (AF) within the farm animal welfare debate frequently uses the analogy between slavery and farming. It is common for the AF to argue that all arguments in favor of meat-eating can be extended to supporting slavery also.

My question is: does the fact that farm animals are largely dependent upon their property status for existence matter? When the slaves were freed, being equal to whites, they were truly liberated and were able to thrive as a population and a culture. If the property status of animals is banned, we will go from a world where large numbers of animals are raised on farms to a world where a few number of animals are raised as pets. In the case of farming, "liberation" is virtual extinction. This virtual-extinction be good or bad, depending on your perceptions of on-farm suffering of animals.

I prefer it when animal advocates who favor abolition clearly state that they have no problem with the virtual-extinction of all farm animals because I understand their argument. If one believes that it is impossible to simultaneously own an animal and treat it well, then the AF has a strong ethical argument. Even if one does not agree with that belief, the argument is coherent and understandable.

But when people ignore the virtual-extinction factor when arguing for abolition, I become confused about exactly what they are arguing. This blog has recently made some new friends who appear to be from the Abolitionist Franchise. I invite these new friends to offer their thoughts.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Michigan Events

The House in Michigan recently passed this bill, which basically says that livestock cannot (most of the time) be prevented from


Isn't it amazing that these requirements are so controversial?

However, the Michigan House is pursuing this bill, which would create an Animal Care Advisory Council consisting of two vets, two farmers, one researcher, one animal advocate, one food industry representative, one retail industry representative, and one restaurant lobby representative. Their job is to make animal care recommendations to be used in a certification process, though I don't see anything about it being mandatory.

Ohio State Animal Welfare Symposium

If you are in Ohio on October 16 and want to here interesting people discuss farm animal welfare issues, you should check this out.

Comments on Dr. Lusk's Guest Post

For readers who perused the guest post by Jayson Lusk, he is my colleague at OK State and the co-author of our upcoming book on farm animal welfare. I appreciate Jayson's thoughts, and have enjoyed out intellectual adventures sorting through the farm animal welfare debate.

One thing I like about Jayson's thoughts is that he views ethical dilemmas by the outcomes of various actions. People have different approaches to moral philosophy. Some like rights-based approaches that are heavy on terminology but weak on consequences, but I prefer the simple layout of utilitarianism. Perhaps it is my own intellectual defect, but I have trouble making ethical decisions using any method other than utilitarianism. When I deviate from utilitarianism, I generally find myself just trying to justify my prior beliefs.

Though my previous post regarding how I treat my dog and pigs was not related to ethics, the issue of whether it is "ethical" to eat certain meats is an interesting issue. The way I view the dilemma of whether to eat pork is as follows.

(1) If I eat factory farmed pork, a certain number of hogs will exist and will experience misery or merriment of the amount __________.
(2) If I eat pork produced under more humane means, a certain number of hogs will exist and will experience misery or merriment of the amount __________.
(3) If I don't eat pork, a certain number of hogs will not be brought into existence and will not experience misery or merriment of the amount __________.

Those are generally my only three options. Regardless of whether I use the phrase "moral community" within my thought process the outcomes are the same, so what should we fill in for the blanks? That, to me, is the great debate. If you look at Chapter 8 you will actually see a rarity for me: the expression of my beliefs and preferences. In this chapter I state that I think eating beef leads to the best outcome for animals but that refraining from pork leads to the best outcome, and these professions are based on my perception about the misery/merriment that cattle and hogs experience.

I would like to add to Jayson's post where he states...

What line of logic or code or ethics can reconcile the supposed “moral schizophrenia” Francione finds distasteful?Bailey does not expect the same thing from his dog and a pig. Does that make him a speciest? I do not expect to receive shoes from my baker or bread from my cobbler, but does that make me a speciest or an “occupationalist?” I expect and receive different things from different people. But I do not mandate people to give the fruits of their labor. In a market based economy, people freely trade the results of their productive abilities and we accept them because they satisfy our wants and needs.

...that those belonging to the Abolitionist Franchise also treat animals differently according to their species, but contend that their suffering should receive equal consideration.

Voluntary Exchange and Morality of Eating Meat

Guest Post by Jayson Lusk

I read with great interest Bailey’s recent post, where he attempted to resolve the supposed contradiction present in the actions of pet owners and meat eaters. Bailey’s answer was that no contradiction exists because he uses his dog and a pig for two different purposes – because they supply different needs they are treated in different ways. Two commenters rapidly replied by indicating that Bailey was a speciesist and by pointing out that justifications for uses of beings based on their purposes could very well justify some gruesome activities that no one would condone.

I agree, in part, with the comments but see a glimmer of truth in what Bailey had to say. Here is my take.

What line of logic or code or ethics can reconcile the supposed “moral schizophrenia” Francione finds distasteful? Bailey does not expect the same thing from his dog and a pig. Does that make him a speciest? I do not expect to receive shoes from my baker or bread from my cobbler, but does that make me a speciest or an “occupationalist?” I expect and receive different things from different people. But I do not mandate people to give the fruits of their labor. In a market based economy, people freely trade the results of their productive abilities and we accept them because they satisfy our wants and needs.

Here is an ethical and moral rule: Each man (and animal) is entitled to their own life and to the results of their labor, and no other man may infringe upon those without consent.

I have no right to a baker’s bread and he has no right to my income. The baker gives me bread voluntarily because he expects something in return: part of my paycheck. The same goes for the cobbler. They satisfy different needs for me, but that is of no concern to them – only that I am willing to give them something they want in order to engaged in a mutually beneficial and voluntary exchange.

Now, Bailey engages in an exchange with his dog. His dog is provided with comfortable housing, ample food, and nightly walks. And, I hope Bailey doesn’t mind me saying, but his dog was also provided with four very expensive leg surgeries. What does the dog give in return? Companionship and entertainment. Bailey and his dog engage in mutually beneficial and voluntary exchanges that enhance both lives.

What about the pig? The pig is provided shelter, food, water, comfortable temperature, and protection from predators. What does Bailey get in return? Ultimately, the pig’s life – its meat. But, wait a minute – this is hardly a voluntary exchange – did the hog engage in a trade that was of its own free will of its own consent? Hard to say. The hog owed its very existence to the fact that Bailey, and others like him, want to eat pork. Is the hog willing to trade a short and uneventful existence for the sake of life itself? Would the hog trade ample food and shelter and a certain but short life in the factory farm for the random and capricious conditions of the wild?

We simply don’t know. The cognitive capacities of the hog prohibit a definitive answer to whether they are willing to engage in the exchange. But here is my presumption: that the hog is indeed willing – that if they could say, they would chose life in a factory farm to no life at all, and that they exchange this meager existence in return for their meat. No doubt an animal rights proponent would argue that I have no right to make this presumption, but the activist is simply exchanging my presumption for theirs: that the hog would rather willingly never exist than live on a factory farm. Both positions are based on presumptions that cannot be validated. But, the truth is this: farm animals can never be placed in a situation where their lives are solely determined by their own actions – their lives are invariably affected by the decisions of humans. Dealing with farm animals will always entail some degree of paternalism and presumption about what is in their interest.

Without schizophrenia or moral confusion, I eat meat and condone the keeping of pets. Such actions are morally defensible based on a conception of mutually beneficial trade, and on the presumption that farm animals would voluntarily exchange the product of their efforts (e.g. milk, eggs, and eventually their life) for what they are paid in return (e.g., ample feed and water, protection from predators and weather, and in all likelihood their very existence).

P.S. Such reasoning does not condone hunting. Many hunters have given nothing to a wild animal in exchange for their life, and thus the presumption of mutually beneficial exchange does not hold.

Thank You to United Egg Producers

For over two years I have studied farm animal welfare issues in the egg industry intensely, but despite great efforts have never been given the opportunity to visit a cage and cage-free farm. Despite personal phone calls to a number of farms, they all turned me down.

However, the United Egg Producers (UEP) is recently holding an event for the media where they will provide them with tours of cage and cage-free facilities. They considered Ham and Eggonomics to be a type of media, and invited me.

I want to publicly thank UEP for this invitation. They are even allowing me to take videos and pictures, which I will post on the blog.

Thank you UEP, I promise to give you a fair hearing, and I promise not to be bias to sell more books or to increase my franchise in the animal welfare debate.

Rushing To Judge

Readers interested in how easy it is for us to be quick to usher judgments should see the comments to the posting Francione on Moral Schizophrenia.

Suppose that I stated that the benefits of human slavery in the U.S. were largely delivered to the consumers of cotton products, and not slave-owning farms. That is a simple result of competitive markets explaining how the world works, but does not make any ethical judgments about slavery itself. Would readers then leave comments suggesting that I argued it is ethical to own slaves? Based on the comments to Francione on Moral Schizophrenia, yes, they would.

Can I not explain human behavior without being accused of condoning those behaviors? Come on people...if you stay in attack mode like that all the time how will you make new friends :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Understanding Mortality Rates of Laying Hens

by Sara Shields

The issue of hen mortality in cage-free egg production is a recurring theme in this blog and in the wider debate over the use of battery cage confinement systems for laying hens. High mortality is an obvious indicator of poor welfare. It is important to note, however, that mortality can vary substantially between hen flocks, and that some cage-free systems have very healthy flocks that do not suffer substantial death losses. These systems can serve as models for the rest of the industry, since mortality is not inherent to any particular system, cage or cage-free, but rather to how well the system is managed.

It is also important to put the problem into historical perspective. Prior to about 1930, flocks were small. Many diseases, such as coccidiosis, respiratory diseases, and salmonellosis[1,2] became more problematic with the commercialization of poultry production, when flock sizes increased and there was a growing effort to raise more birds on less land.[3,4] When the industrialization of poultry production began, the average mortality rate of chickens jumped from 5-6% to 20%.[5] Although high mortality rates were a significant problem, economic incentives led the industry to seek strategies for mitigating these losses.

For the egg industry, one remedy was to move laying hens into cages, where wire floors separated the chickens from their manure. While this may have helped reduce intestinal disease and parasites, intensive confinement restricted the hens to small, barren cages that offer no opportunity to display important natural behavior, impinging on physical health due to lack of exercise and resulting in a very poor quality of life (for more information, click here).

It is also critical to note that the improved flock health status seen today is not due solely to cage confinement, but also to vaccine development, better hygiene practices such as “all in, all out” policies,[6] disease eradication programs,[7] and genetic selection for disease resistance.[8] These factors will continue to be important as egg production systems evolve to meet societal animal welfare concerns.

Role of Hen Genetic Strain

Another key concept in understanding hen mortality rates is the interaction between the genetic background of the hen and her environment. Hens must be genetically adapted to their surroundings in order to thrive, and studies and practical experience are beginning to show that a large portion of mortality in cage-free production can be explained by differences in the genetic strain of hen used in the system.

Laying hens are bred almost entirely by a select few international companies. Until recently, since most egg production took place in battery cages, breeding goals were aimed at producing hens who could produce many eggs in cages. Since cage-free egg production is becoming an international trend (in part a result of legal reforms in the EU and California), however, breeding companies are beginning to select hens on the basis of their performance and survival in cage-free environments. [9]

To illustrate the importance of hen genetic background, we can look to the experience in Denmark, where hens were not moved into cages until 1980. When cages were first introduced to the country, one of the common breeds used was the Danish Skalborg hen. The Skalborg hen had been genetically adapted to the floor systems in use at the time, and this was reflected in the mortality rate when the housing environment changed. In breed comparison tests initiated during this time, it was discovered that the mortality of the Skalborg hen was five times higher in cages compared to floor pens. [10]

In 2005, the World’s Poultry Science Journal published a study in which the authors reviewed every English, French, and German study that reported hen mortality rates in aviary and cage housing systems since 1980. This study eliminated much of the previous bias in the scientific literature by including only studies that used the same hen strain, age, and beak trim status in both cages and aviaries. Only 14 studies met these criteria, a telling result in itself. When these factors were accounted for in the statistical analysis, the mortality rate did not differ between cages and aviaries (multi-tiered cage-free systems). This means that, in previous studies showing a higher mortality rate in aviary systems, the apparent difference was due to factors other than the housing system. [11] One very important factor was the choice of hen strain and, in some studies that report differences in mortality, the type of production system is confounded with the strain of hen used in that system.

In many studies, brown egg-laying strains tended to experience higher mortality rates, primarily as a consequence of injurious pecking. [12,13,14] Because these birds have been popular in cage-free production, however, these studies can give the impression that the system itself is the cause of the increased mortality when, in fact, the hen strain or an interaction between the hen strain and her environment, is the major factor of importance.

In some segments of organic production, where brown hybrid hens have historically dominated, white hybrid hens are now becoming more popular, mainly due to their more agreeable temperament. A Swedish survey found that, where farmers have experienced severe outbreaks of cannibalism, they are changing the hens in their systems from brown to white hybrids. [15] To meet potential consumer demand for cage-free brown eggs, however, it is also possible to breed brown strain hens specifically for cage-free production (see the Stonegate example below). [16]

Role of Management

An important prerequisite to good management is the attitude of the producer. Scientists have noted that, “Attitudes of those in charge of management and husbandry are likely to be a major determinant of animal welfare.” [17] Alternative systems undoubtedly require more skills and experience, [18] and are thus more sensitive to poor management. [19] Currently, differences in management can contribute to inconsistency among cage-free farms, with some performing well and others experiencing difficulties. Thus, while mortality can be high, it is also highly variable between farms, [20,21,22] with some being highly successful. Where mortality is excessive, steps should be taken to correct the problem. Poultry producers have shown the ability to be innovative in the past, overcoming obstacles with the use of enhanced biosecurity measures and aided by advances in veterinary science and genetics, as previously mentioned. It seems likely that as demand for cage-free eggs increases, producers will once again need to show innovation.

In organic production, it has been demonstrated that, as farmers gain experience, feather pecking damage is reduced. One such study found that farmers who understood the behavioral biology of their chickens, including their origin in a forested environment, have adapted their management, provided enhanced outdoor areas and paid greater attention to the early rearing experience of their laying hens. Successful control of feather pecking in this study was dependent on the motivation and devotion of the farmer. In other words, the attitude of the producer matters. [23]

There are many important management steps that producers can take to control mortality rates. For example, some steps to reduce injurious pecking—in addition to choosing the right hen strain—include dimming the lights, [24] delaying the age at which hens lay their first egg, [25] providing early access to perches, [26,27] and providing attractive foraging substrates. [28,29,30] At stocking densities that provide more than 1000cm2/hen, the provision of additional space to facilitate the use of perches, nest boxes, foraging materials and access to feed and water may also reduce the likelihood of cannibalism. [31] The primary methods of controlling coccidiosis are with vaccine and coccidiostats added to feed. In barn systems, the use of raised slatted floors (as is common in breeding flocks, which are almost always housed on the floor), can prevent infection with parasites. [32] Small, free-range producers can use mobile housing to prevent the build-up of parasites around the hen house, [33] pasture rotation, and lowered stocking density. [34] A complete discussion of management factors is beyond the scope of this blog post, but interested readers can find additional information on keeping free-range flocks healthy and safe on the web sites of the Soil Association ( or the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (

Low-Mortality Cage-Free Farms

Low-mortality cage-free farms can be found in instances where corporations and producers have worked together to find solutions. For example, Stonegate supplies eggs to Waitrose, a leading supermarket chain in the United Kingdom. Stonegate has developed its own line of hens, Columbian Blacktails, who are birds with hardy characteristics that make them more suitable to free-range production. Beak trimming is not permitted, yet the genetic background of these birds makes them “almost totally free of feather pecking and cannibalism.” [35] Stonegate is the United Kingdom’s second largest egg producer and packer, [36] demonstrating that welfare improvements can take place on a large scale. The Columbian Blacktails fit the environment—they are genetically adapted to free-range production.

There are many other examples of low-mortality cage-free egg production operations. For example, in Switzerland, the FiBL research institute uses a subdivided barn system with rotational access to four outdoor paddocks. One paddock is in use at a time, giving the other three a chance to rest, which reduces the parasite load. Overhead netting protects free-range hens from birds of prey. The flock, a mix of brown and white strains, is subdivided into groups of 500 birds. The environment is enriched with perches, dustbaths, nest boxes and plenty of space. The birds are not beak trimmed, yet they have a mortality rate of less than 2%.[37]

Himmelsfarm (Heaven's Farm) in The Netherlands has three barns with around 32,000 H&N Brown Nick birds. They use a Vencomatic aviary system. The mortality rate after 51 weeks was less than 2%.[38]

The Meyers farm in Lincolnshire, England is a free-range farm using Lohmann Tradition birds. After making adjustments to their refurbished barn, the mortality rate at 48 weeks was just 1.5% in their flock of over 4,000 birds. [39]

There are also examples of low-mortality cage-free production in the scientific literature spanning several decades. For example, in a 1986 study conducted by researchers at Scottish Farm Buildings Investigation Unit and the North of Scotland College of Agriculture, ISA Brown birds were used in a comparison between battery cages and a perchery system. The cumulative mortality in the perchery was 1.36% from 20-44 weeks while it was 2.47% in the comparison group housed in battery cages. [40]

A 2009 University of British Columbia study reported mortality rates of beak-trimmed Lohmann White, Lohmann Brown, and H&N White birds. Half of the birds of each strain were confined in cages and half were kept in floor pens with a perch and a nest box. Birds reared in floor pens were given access to perches beginning at two weeks of age and were vaccinated against coccidiosis. Mortality during the laying period was 3.33% for the Lohmann White birds in the floor pens and 10.8% in cages. Similarly, for the Lohmann Brown birds it was 1.67% in the floor pens and 15.8% in cages, and for the H&N White birds mortality figures were 5.71% on the floor and 13.3% in cages, although mortality was higher during the rearing period for Lohman Brown and H&N White strains on the floor. [41]

These examples show that mortality is not inherently high in cage-free egg production. Experienced producers who are truly committed to improving the welfare of their birds have found viable methods for controlling mortality.

The egg industry is not static. It continues to evolve and reinvent itself in response to consumer demand. Changing the face of egg production is not only a matter of consumer concern, however, as meeting the welfare needs of the animals is an ethical imperative. The cooperative efforts of producers working together with retailers, scientists, consumers, and advocacy groups could bring about needed improvements quickly. While it may take some time for North American producers to make cage-free systems perform optimally, the longer we wait to make the transition, the longer hens in battery cages suffer.


1 Appleby MC, Mench JA, and Hughes BO. 2004. Poultry Behaviour and Welfare (Wallingford, U.K.: CABI International, pp.177-9).

2 Van Roekel H. 1955. Respiratory disease of poultry. In: Brandly CA and Jungherr EL (eds.), Advances in Veterinary Science (New York, NY: Academic Press Inc., Publishers, pp. 64-105).

3 Smith P and Daniel C. 1975. The Chicken Book (Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company, p. 258).

4 Hurd LM. 1930. Practical Poultry Farming (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, p. 294).

5 Smith P and Daniel C. 1975. The Chicken Book (Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company, p. 258).

6 Appleby MC, Mench JA, and Hughes BO. 2004. Poultry Behaviour and Welfare (Wallingford, U.K.: CABI International, pp.177-9).

7 Hitchner SB. 2004. History of biological control of poultry diseases in the U.S.A. Avian Diseases 48:1-8.

8 Beaumont C, Dambrine G, Chaussé AM, and Flock D. 2003. Selection for disease resistance: conventional breeding for resistance to bacteria and viruses. In: Muir WM and Aggrey SE (eds.), Poultry Genetics, Breeding and Biotechnology (Wallingford, U.K.: CABI Publishing, pp. 357-84.

9 O’Sullivan NP. 2009. Genomics, physiology, and well-being: Layer industry

breeder’s perspective. In: Abstracts of the 98th Annual Meeting of the Poultry Science Association (Raleigh, North Carolina, p.2).

10 Sorensen P. 2001. Breeding strategies in poultry for genetic adaptation to the organic environment. In: Hovi M and Baars T (eds.), Breeding and feeding for animal health and welfare in organic livestock systems, Proceedings of the Fourth NAHWOA Workshop (Wageningen, The Netherlands: Network for Animal Health and Welfare in Organic Agriculture, pp 51-61).

11 Aerni V, Brinkhof MWG, Wechsler B, Oester H, and Fröhlich E. 2005. Productivity and mortality of laying hens in aviaries: a systematic review. World’s Poultry Science Journal 61(1):130-42.

12 Häne M, Huber-Eicher B, and Fröhlich E. 2000. Survey of laying hen husbandry in Switzerland. World’s Poultry Science Journal 56:22-31.

13 Blokhuis HJ, Niekerk TFv, Bessei W, et al. 2007. The LayWel project: welfare implications of changes in production systems for laying hens. World’s Poultry Science Journal 63(1):101-14.

14 Berg C. 2001. Health and Welfare in Organic Poultry Production. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica. Suppl. 95:37-45.

15 Berg C. 2001. Health and Welfare in Organic Poultry Production. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica. Suppl. 95:37-45.

16 Ova Achievement. Undated. Waitrose. Accessed September 17, 2009.

17 Appleby MC and Hughes BO. 1991. Welfare of laying hens in cages and alternative systems: environmental, physical and behavioural aspects. World’s Poultry Science Journal 47(2):109-28.

18 Häne M, Huber-Eicher B, and Fröhlich E. 2000. Survey of laying hen husbandry in Switzerland. World’s Poultry Science Journal 56:22-31.

19 Appleby MC and Hughes BO. 1991. Welfare of laying hens in cages and alternative systems: environmental, physical and behavioural aspects. World’s Poultry Science Journal 47(2):109-28.

20 Tauson R. 2002. Furnished cages and aviaries: production and health. World’s Poultry Science Journal 58:49-63.

21 Whay RH, Main DCJ, Green LE, Heaven G, Howell H, Morgan M, Pearson A, and Webster AJF. 2007. Assessment of the behaviour and welfare of laying hens on free-range units. Veterinary Record 161:119-28.

22 Berg C. 2001. Health and Welfare in Organic Poultry Production. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica. Suppl. 95:37-45.

23 Bestman MWP. 2001. The role of management and housing in the prevention of feather pecking in laying hens. In: Hovi M and Bouilhol M (eds.), Human Animal Relationship: Stockmanship and Housing in Organic Livestock Systems. Proceedings of the Third NAHWOA Workshop (Clermont-Ferrand, France: Network for Animal Health and Welfare in Organic Agriculture, University of Reading, pp.77-88). Accessed September 17, 2009.

24 Kjaer JB and Vestergaard KS. 1999. Development of feather-pecking in relation to light intensity. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 62:243-54.

25 Newberry RC. 2003. Cannibalism. In: Perry GC (ed.), Welfare of the Laying Hen, Poultry Science Symposium Series, 27 (Wallingford, U.K.: CABI Publishing, pp. 239-58).

26 Gunnarsson S, Keeling LJ, Svedberg J. 1999. Effect of rearing factors on the prevalence of floor eggs, cloacal cannibalism and feather pecking in commercial flocks of loose housed laying hens. British Poultry Science 40:12-8.

27 Newberry RC. 2003. Cannibalism. In: Perry GC (ed.), Welfare of the Laying Hen, Poultry Science Symposium Series, 27 (Wallingford, U.K.: CABI Publishing, pp. 239-58).

28 Huber-Eicher and Sebo F. 2001. Reducing feather pecking when raising laying hen chicks in aviary systems. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 73:59-68.

29 Johnsen PF, Vestergaard KS, Nørgaard-Nielsen.1998. Influence of early rearing conditions of the development of feather pecking and cannibalism in domestic fowl. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 60:25-41.

30 Aerni V, Brinkhof MWG, Wechsler B, Oester H, and Fröhlich E. 2005. Productivity and mortality of laying hens in aviaries: a systematic review. World’s Poultry Science Journal 61(1):130-42.

31 Newberry RC. 2003. Cannibalism. In: Perry GC (ed.), Welfare of the Laying Hen, Poultry Science Symposium Series, 27 (Wallingford, U.K.: CABI Publishing, pp. 239-58).

32 Bermudez AJ and Stewart-Brown B. 2003. Disease prevention and diagnosis. In: Saif YM (Editor-in-Chief), Diseases of Poultry, 11th Edition (Ames, IA: Iowa State Press, pp.19-55).

33 Bassler A, Ciszuk P, Sjelin K: Management of laying hens in mobile houses – a review of experiences. 1999. In: Hermansen JE, Lund V, and Thuen E (eds.), Proceedings NJF-seminar No 303, Ecological Animal Husbandry in the Nordic Countries (Horsens, Denmark: Danish Research Center for Organic Farming, pp. 45-50). Accessed September 17, 2009.

34 Fanatico A. 2006. Alternative poultry production systems and outdoor access. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Accessed September 10, 2009.

35 Ova Achievement. Undated. Waitrose. Accessed September 17, 2009.

36 Organic Columbian Blacktail eggs –the Stonegate/Waitrose supply chain. Report of an Elm Farm Research Centre Study. 2006. Accessed September 17, 2009.

37 Riddle J. Undated. Alpine Chicken Tour. Accessed September 17, 2009.

38 The Poultry Site. 2009. Layers Get Special Treatment at 'Heavenly' Farm. Accessed September 17, 2009.

39 Back to farming the traditional way. 2002. Lohmann Poultry News, July. Accessed September 17, 2009.

40 McLean KA, Baxter MR, and Michie W. 1986. A comparison of the welfare of laying hens in battery cages and in a perchery. Research and Development in Agriculture 3(2):93-8.

41 Singh R, Cheng KM, and Silversides FG. Production performance and egg quality of four strains of laying hens kept in conventional cages and floor pens. Poultry Science 88:256-64.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Crazy PETA

Here's the latest crazy PETA activity

I have a theory about Ingrid Newkirk, the President of PETA. I think she is the world's greatest and most outrageous prankster. I bet she was making fun of kind-hearted animal rights activists one day and said to a friend, "I'll bet I can make animal rights activists [insert crazy thing here]". Then she actually got away with it. Not only did she pull her prank off, but people started sending her money.

She then made more bets. "I'll bet I can get women to strip naked and sit in cages...I'll bet I can ask Ben and Jerry's to make ice cream from women's breast milk and won't be fired..." She kept winning the bets, and kept making more money.

And a true prankster would never cease until others catch she never has...just a theory :)

Francione on Moral Schizophrenia

Gary Francione has written several interesting pieces on moral schizophrenia, the latest one here. I live this "moral schizophrenia" and most everyone I know does also, and I assure you there is nothing schizophrenic about it. I eat meat from a pig and have a dog as my best friend not because I am confused about anything nor because I am uneducated about the intelligience of pigs or factory farming. The motivation for valuing pigs for food and dogs for companionship stems not from confusion but is a simple, direct product of what the animals are used for.

I treat pigs one way because their "purpose" is to provide me with food and I treat my dog differently because her "purpose" is to provide me with companionship. One may say that I am immoral, but one cannot say that I am in anyway confused. I know exactly what I am doing. People largely base their decisions on how to treat animals not based on a moral philosophy or animals' IQs, but the purpose of the animal.

And regarding the deer and the hunter, if you don't understand why hunters would help a deer, you don't understand a single thing about hunters.

My comments are friendly...keep thinking and writing Gary....

About Cass Sunstein

There has been so much talk lately about Cass Sunstein that I decided to read a few of his papers; namely, I read The Rights of Animals: A Very Short Primer and Animal Rights Without Controversy.

My overall assessment is that Sunstein should not be as controversial as he is, and that he is really more of a victim of circumstance than a victim of his own idealogy. Sunstein is correct that virtually everyone subscribes to some form of animal rights. Americans heartily support anti-cruelty laws, and disdain anyone who tortures animals without justification. While many may mock animal rights activists and scoff at the idea of eliminating the status of property for animals, for all practical purposes animals are not really even property now. You cannot do whatever you like with animals, even if you "own" it, and the anti-cruelty laws limiting your freedom over this "property" are very popular. To some degree, Sunstein argues and I concur, we are all animal rightists.

Sunstein does argue that anti-cruelty laws are not enforced as vigorously as he would like, and proposes that citizens should be able to bring forth lawsuits on behalf of animals to facilitate enforcement, but don't we do so already do so with the environment? Is asking that anti-cruetly statutes be enforced, and that the common exceptions to cruelty be eliminated, really all that extremist?

As Sunstein writes he reveals pieces of himself. Some of these pieces better resemble animal rightists and some better resemble regular Americans. He suggests a ban on hunting might be appropriate if hunting is conducted only for fun, which makes him a bit unusual to most men than I know (they would probably describe him as effiminate) but then he seems to have little problem with raising animals for food or animal experimentation in important areas. Sunstein seemingly dismisses those who feel domestic animals and certain livestock should be in control of their own destiny, as that destiny would often be greater suffering than they realize at the hands of humans, but unfortunately "suggests" that rats may not be justifiably expelled from a house. The subject of "animals as property" is raised but then dismissed as largely irrelevant; a point which I readily agree.

In summary, Sunstein is certainly more concerned with the suffering of animals than the average American, but the intensity of this concern is not extreme. His views appear liberal but a liberality consistent the administration that was elected. Unfortunately his open-mindedness is what exposes him to such scrutiny. A professor is supposed to be open-minded, but that leaves you susceptible to ideas that many in society are not ready for; and when you go to serve a President that open-mindnesses becomes a handicap.

Sunstein is liberal but not an extreme liberal. As conservatives and liberals continue their battle they will search for enemies on either side. Sunstein was just open-minded enough to qualify as a valid enemy of conservatives. If you believe Obama to be a true socialist you will probably feel that Sunstein is a true animal rightist who wants to take away your dog. But if you believe Obama to simply be a normal liberal, then you will find Sunstein to be likewise. Attacks on Sunstein may be unfortunate for him, but he was approved by Congress and has now made animal welfare a more prominent issue.

Utilizing Space in a Cage-Free System

I have seen a few recent narratives in favor of cage systems that argue hens should not be given greater space allotments because, when it is given to them, they do not use it. I recently cited one of these narratives as stating...

While there were no cages, many of the hens were huddled together at one end of the hen
house; so while they had more open space, in practical terms they weren’t using any more
space than the hens in cages.

I once visited a pastured poultry broiler farm and saw the same thing. The little broiler chicks were given lots of room but didn't want the extra room. They all huddled together almost all the time, leaving most of the pasture-tent space empty. Is the same true for layers?
To assess this claim I re-visited some videos of cage-free facilities the UEP kindly sent me. Watching the videos left two impressions on me. First, there were so many hens on the floor of the facilities that there was hardly any extra space that even existed. Second, the hens were mostly uniformly scattered about the space. They did not huddle in a corner, but were comfortably walking around. Thus, these videos counter the aforementioned claim that hens do not want extra space. But then, the UEP is unlikely to film and distribute a video of cage-free hens suffocating each other in the corner of a building :) So while I am dubious of the claim that hens do not welcome and utilize extra space when given to them, I remain open-minded.
Does anyone know of a scientifically documented study of how hens use their time and space in a cage-free system? This issue interests me, and seems important.