Monday, June 29, 2009

Command and Control - Animal Welfare Style

Two states, Michigan and Ohio, are considering legislation to keep animal care and well-being in the hands of the two states rather than the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

The legislation has bipartisan support.

In Michigan, the legislation would establish the Michigan Agriculture Commission and Michigan Agriculture Department the sole authority for regulation of livestock and poultry health and welfare; it would also establish science-based standards for animal care that producers must implement by 2020, establish an animal care advisory council to keep the standards updated and establish a third-party auditing system to make sure the standards are in place.


What is interesting is that the creation of this committee must be ratified in an election.

This is being done to stop HSUS from forcing cage-free methods on egg producers through public referendums. If they wish to achieve their goal: I would advise that the rules do not include a charge to implement "science-based" standards for animal care. Most of the science I have seen suggests cage-free methods are better than cage methods for the animals. In Europe, a "scientific" report states that the cage method is the only method that cannot provide adequate care.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Consumers Need Ham and Eggonomics!

Oh! That was such a vain statement!

A recent study shows that organic and animal advocates dominate the online food debate. When consumers hit the web to search for info, they information they tend to encounter is that from organic and animal rights/welfare people.

There is an increasing presence of the animal industry, much needed, thanks to Trent Loos and Feedstuffs Foodlink.

Yet there is also a need for voices like mine, who sympathize and criticize both sides, and possess no monetary allegiance to anyone except my own conscious.

Hooray for Ham and Eggonomics!.

Broiler Production Video

For those unaware of how chickens destined for meat production are raised, this video is excellent. While egg farms have obstacles to overcome before they can be said to provide their birds with a pleasant life, broiler farms I believe provide high standards of care.

Broiler farms could improve the genetic profile of the birds so that there are less leg injuries, and the feed restrictions of the broiler breeders should be addressed. However, there are simply no financial incentives to do so. Consumers must exert a willingness to pay more for these improvements! If they could just overcome these two problems, I would give the broiler industry very high marks.

Chipotle, more good than bad

Chipotle has long touted its food with integrity slogan, bragging about how their hogs are raised in a more humane environment than factory farms. Trent Loos recently wrote a thought-provoking rebuttal, noting that hogs allowed access to pasture will drink their own urine and those of other pigs, and that chickens with pasture will feed on the carcasses of dead animals.

Trent is right in these regards, but I still prefer the Chipotle philosophy of hog production. I had working on several hog farms before I visited a farm that supplied Chipotle. Before this visit, I had never seen a hog run. I had never seen a hog play in the mud. I had never seen a hog seem to enjoy its life.

There are some drawbacks to giving animals access to outdoors, especially in the case of chickens where predators can easily kill half of the animals. Yet when it comes to hogs, I still prefer Chipotle to modern factory hog farms. I don't think that I am mislead or naive to believe that hogs should be allowed to turn around, walk, and play in the mud. If we are to raise animals for food, at the very least they should be given a life where they experience some positive emotions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ham and Eggonomics Combo

Ham and Eggonomics Combo

(1) The more we explore the more similarities we find in ourselves and animals. About 3-10% of humans are at least partially gay, and it turns out that almost all animal species exhibit same-sex behavior. Nine-spined stickleback, who we would initially think operates by instinct alone, actually have a sophisticated method of learning, based on their observations of their peers relative to their own experience. In short, sometimes, they are rather intelligent.

(2) We aren't doing well enough. One-sixth of humans are undernourished.

(3) It is sad that so many in the world are undernourished, while in the U.S. we have such large surpluses of nutrients that the amount of nitrogen leaving our fields and entering the Gulf of Mexico is the among the largest ever measured.

(4) In my upcoming book on farm animal welfare, I argue that one piece of evidence that animals are sentient is that they communicate in a social setting. It turns out that sagebrush plants communicate in this manner. They warn their peers of danger, and have a sense of self-recognition. Yet, this is not really relevant to the farm animal welfare issue. Protons, neutrons, and electrons also communicate, and so do atoms on opposite sides of the universe. Without a nervous system and a brain, communication is not related to sentience.

(5) Studies keep trying to link obesity to proximity to fast food outlets, while others argue the link is not present. I argue it does not matter. Committees or governments should never attempt to decide where people should live and where McDonalds should locate. Those are decision that should be left to the consumers and the food retailers.

(6) Having a higher purpose in life lowers one's risk of death. What constitutes a higher purpose than growing food? What constitutes a higher purpose than making sure animals raised for food are treated kindly?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Science Behind Hen Welfare

Agricultural industries keep claiming that animal rights groups do not base their ideas on "science". Groups like HSUS, it is said, prefer cage-free egg production due to emotion, but the "science" says cage production is best.

Not so fast, says Ham and Eggonomics. The table below comes from a "scientific" study that ranks cage production last in terms of animal welfare, and cage-free better than cage production. We raise eggs in cages because it is cheaper, not because science shows cages to be better for the hen. Let's argue. Debate is good, but let's be honest.

Source: De Mol, R.M., W.G.P. Schouten, E. Evers, H. Drost, H.W.J. Houwers and A.C. Smits. 2006. “A Computer Model for Welfare Assessment of Poultry Production Systems for Laying Hens.” Netherlands Journal of Agricultural Science. 54:157-168.

HSUS University: Being Squimish 101

The Humane Society of the United States is now offerring bachelor degrees? Yes, they are. Who saw that coming? Is there a class on being squimish at the site of meat?

Over at Advocates for Agriculture, Troy Hadrick comments, Normally, in order to receive a Bachelor of Science degree, you have to learn and utilize real scientific methodology during your studies. This doesn’t really jive with the normal operating procedures of the HSUS. Their emotion filled arguments contain more feeling than fact. I can only imagine what they will teach their students about livestock and food production.

Actually, Troy, "science" tends to lend more support for the agricultural practices HSUS pursues than the practices U.S. industries prefer. See here and here.

Hari Krishnas, Saving Cows, in Virginia

Our world is a diverse place. We kill billions of animals for food each year, and in Virginia a clan of Hari Krishnas are asking for money to run a sanctuary to keep a few cattle alive. Read more.

Vegetarianism: automatically ethical?

The Freakonomics blog is perhaps the most popular blog in the world. This entry discusses vegetarianism as, automatically, an ethical decision, from an environmental standpoint, that we should strive for. The author actually discusses ways for people to commit to being a partial vegetarian, it is apparently that important.

Perhaps vegetarianism is good for the environment. I recognize studies have shown that meat production results in large amounts of greenhouse gases, but that alone tells me nothing. The production of almost anything in large quantities produces greenhouse gases. I have not seen a study that shows greenhouse gases emitted from meat on a per dollar basis is larger than that from other goods. Neither have I seen a study that shows the "other stuff" vegetarians purchase from their smaller food bill and the greenhouse gases it creates does not offset the reduction in emissions from reduced meat consumption.

Until those studies arrive (which they probably won't), it seems to be the maintained assumption that meat is bad for the environment.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Farm Animal Welfare Quote

From Vigrinia Anderson's Creatures of Empire, when discussing the management of livestockin Colonial America...

The management of domestic animals, like the suppression of sin, was too important to be left to the discretion of hard-pressed farmers. As a result, the community assumed responsibility for keeping order on farms just as it did for encouraging good behavior within farmhouses.

Prop 2, the cage-free question, and colony cages

This article provides a discussion of whether Prop 2 in California requires that hens live in a cage-free environment. It is unclear why, if cage-free was the intention of Prop 2, why it wasn't written in the proposition.

The most interesting part of the discussion was a hybrid colony system that Petaluma Sunrise Farms is considering. I found a discussion of this system on the internet as follows.

Colony cages

An interesting modification of the cage system has been developed in Vietnam. These are large colony cages on stilts/legs and made from bamboo with external feeders and drinkers. They hold about 12 or more layers. The eggs roll out of the cages as in battery cages as the floor is on a slope of about 1 cm in 8 cm. The manure can be collected underneath the raised split-bamboo floor. The large cages are in a barn or house. Such a system may be successful in other countries and is a good compromise between the barn and the battery cage system.\

Another source described the system in more detail. This source described a colony cage system as providing only 67 square inches per bird, the same as a battery cage. The difference is that the colony cage holds 26 birds, provides dustbathes and nest boxes, and perches. The "space per bird" does not include the dustbathe and nest box, I hope. Using this description, a colony cage is life a furnished cage, but worse in that the hens have less space per bird. Not surprising, the colony cage is good in some ways, bad in others (e.g. cannibalism).

If the description above adequately describes these "colony cages", I can understand why HSUS is upset. One could easily believe that the hens in colony cages fare only little better than those in battery cages, and due to the larger flock size, maybe worse.

The reason Petaluma Farms is pursuing colony cages is simple: costs.

But Riebli, a partner in Petaluma’s Sunrise Farms, producer of a million eggs a day, estimated that a hybrid colony system would boost his expenses by only 5 to 12 cents a dozen, an amount he maintains he could reasonably expect to recoup from consumers. But he estimated that conversion to a cage-free operation would increase his expenses by 40 to 50 cents a dozen.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Child Liberation Farce

The recent debate about farm animal welfare has opened my eyes to another atrocity emanating from the the human hand. Our human children suffer, terribly, under our control. Their liberation is a must.

Consider a day in the life of an ordinary child, and the manner in which our rules and institutions interfere with children's ability to express their natural behaviors. It is the natural desire of children to stay up late at night and sleep in late, yet parents force children to wake up hours before their biological clock dictates. These innocent young children are then shipped off to school in cramped, cruel school buses which are akin to traveling prison yards. The school bus scene is not pleasant. Some do not have air conditioning, forcing children to scramble over each other for seats beside windows. Moreover, children have a natural pecking order displayed by who sits in the front and who sits in the back. Meek children stuck in the middle are often tormented by those in the back with taunts and wedgies, and unaided by the adult in the front.

Then they reach the school, where the suffering persists. Within any one classroom, it is difficult for all children to stretch their arms without touching another child. Yet they will not stretch their arms, because they are forced to sit quietly and still in their desk for the vast majority of the school day. Remaining sedentary upon hard desks is contrary to children's natural tendency to fidget, run, and play. The many hours spent in school performing acts which a child would never voluntarily elect to perform is, by definition, cruel, and must be stopped.

There are, of course, breaks from the mundane classroom lessons. These breaks are given the euphemism "recess", which take place on dirt lots where large groups of children are allowed to exert physical and mental injury upon one another. The cruelty of children is universally understood. Boys fight other boys, girls spread vulgar rumors about other girls. They all scramble for popularity, but since only a few can be the most popular, the remainder fight to no reward. The impact of this cruelty should not be underestimated. Ask any child psychologist about rates of childhood depression. Ask any newspaper reader whether children commit suicide.

The diet and health care of children is embarrassing. Obesity and depression rates among children are higher than ever, and continue to climb. Whatever statistic you observe (e.g., rates of diabetes) children do not receive the care any sentient being should receive. They are sick, they are fat, and they are sad. Even worse, many children suffer both physical, mental, and sexual abuse of horrific proportion by their family. If undercover investigations could be held in peoples' homes as they are in factory farms, you would see worse atrocities than any PETA video on

What is all of this schooling for? For what purpose are children fed diets largely of corn syrup and processed carbohydrates? If you consider the speeches of our political leaders, it is solely for the purpose of becoming a "productive" citizen who can work in tomorrow's occupations. We need them to produce the goods and services that we will require in our elderly years. So frequently, we refer to the education of young boys and girls, as an "investment"--as it should receive the same pecuniary terminology as a purchase of stocks or bonds. Send you children to school, and you will quickly learn that the Board of Education cares little for whether your child is inspired by Gandhi or touched by a Shakespeare play. What the Board of Education cares about is math and science, the topics necessary for children to become tomorrow's engineers. We need our buildings, our roads, and our computers, so we construct our schools to act as de facto apprenticeships. Children are raised, children are educated, for profit.

Don't worry about those without the skills of an engineer. They can be the engineers' machine. Education is a long-term investment, so until young boys and girls can labor in our factories, they can entertain us in the sports arena. High school football is played in the same spirit as gladiators battled in the Roman arena. Thus, it is not surprising that they are both, essentially, slaves.

If you are touched by this narrative, you must be asking: what can we do? There is only one answer. The answer is not to change the manner in which we raise our children, as a society that raises children for its own selfish purposes engages in exploitation, no matter how "humane" the children may be treated. Moreover, it is doubtful society could ever care for children in a humane fashion when its ultimate purpose is designing its future workers. The motives of parents and educators creates an insurmountable obstacle to providing kind child care. Ingrid Newkirk, the President of PETA, was on to something when she sterilized herself, saying, "I am opposed to having children. Having a purebred human baby is like having a purebred dog; it is nothing but vanity, human vanity."

Sexual abuse, child abuse, high rates of depression, high rates of obesity, all are symptoms of a disease that knows only one cure. Children must be liberated. Abolition is the only solution to child exploitation. If there is one thing I have learned from the animal rights movement it is this: whenever one can construct a list ways in which a sentient being suffers at the hands of another, the bond between the sufferer and the inflicter of suffering must be severed. Any list of bad behaviours should be considered sufficient evidence for bold activism, and does not need to be placed into perspective. Likewise, children deserve to liberated this moment. If that requires the extinction of the human race, so be it.

This narrative is a farce, not a statement of opinion or belief. The content should be used as fodder for dialogue, but any debate as to whether the content is "true" or "false" could be nothing more than a farce itself.

Friday, June 19, 2009

If Animals and Humans Were Equal

Instead of treating animals like humans, what if we treated humans like animals? This Onion News video explores this possibility.

Very, very funny.

Knowing Ingrid Newkirk

When writing my upcoming book, Ham and Eggonomics, I naturally talk about the founder and President of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk.

In a draft of the book I quoted Ingrid, saying that she stated, "a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." A friend at the HSUS reviewed one of the chapters and corrected me on this quote, telling me that I had somewhat taken it out of context. With his help, I was able to get a copy of the original quote from PETA, and what she really stated was, "When it comes to feelings like hunger, pain, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."

That completely changes the quote. Few would agree to the initial, incomplete quote, few would disagree with the actual quote.

Within the article I got to know Newkirk better. She believes that the world would be a better place without humans. The cruelty that I see animals suffer in the wild, she sees pets suffer. To know Ingrid Newkirk is to understand that the manner in which the universe operates, such as how humans behave, disturbs her. She cannot adjust herself to this world where humans have a profound influence. No wonder she seems so, so strange to all of us. No wonder her organization is more of a cult than a charitable organization.

Source: Specter, Michael. April 14, 2003. “The Extremist.” The New Yorker.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Science of Hog Production Systems

So frequently I hear producers urge that animal welfare guidelines be based on "science". If that is the case, the science below suggests gestation crates provide poor animal welfare, and gestation crate bans would improve animal welfare. Just saying :)

Rethinking Pesticides (a little)

Organic food has always seemed silly to me. All of the legitimate research I have found regarding the dangers to pesticides (applied and regulated as it is in the U.S.) suggests that, generally, there are no dangers from pesticides. At most, twenty people per year may die due to pesticide use. All things considered, that twenty is no different from zero.

Yet a recent paper suggests that in Brazil, the costs of acute pesticide poisoning may be as large as 64% of the benefits!

Soares and Porto, Estimating the Social Cost of Pesticide Use..., Ecological Economics, in press.

Selling Cattle

Congress is once again trying to force feedlots to adopt marketing strategies which they do not wish to adopt and which will harm them. Roughly speaking, the bill only allow live-cattle to be sold on a cash basis. If a feedlot wants to enter a contract to sell her cattle in advance, and thus allow her to better plan her marketing and production scheme, she can no longer do so.

Cattle Network rightly points out that...

Yet it is cattlemen who originally asked for forward contract opportunities, cattlemen who founded many beef alliances and cattlemen who initiated agreements with many packers and retailers.

However, a few cattlemen who believe that their trouble in life is due to these contracts are making trouble for everyone.

I think that universities should not be able to hire professors on a contract basis. Professors should be auctioned off each year to the highest bidder. At no time should universities and professors be able to plan in advance where they will work. It only seems fair :)

Veggie Burger Nazis

A lunch lady was suspended for allowing children to substitute other foods in place of veggie burgers, which they did not want to eat. I'm serious, read here.

Local Foods Week

Oklahoma recently claimed this week to be Local Foods Week in Oklahoma. I know that much of the push for local foods is due to a desire for fresh vegetables, and more importantly, that everyone eat fresher vegetables. In some ways it is nice that those who feel themselves more enlightened seek to share their beliefs in the form of encouraging local food.

The problem is that it is impossible for the human creature to mind her own business--absolutely impossible. Once it begins that a man named Jim or a woman named Jane believes her fellow citizens would be happier eating fresher vegetables, they cannot be content merely sharing their thoughts. At some point, they always seek the aid of government to force their views on others--always.

Consider Michael Pollan (who for those who know me, is my arch-enemy of sorts :) ), who in his push for fresh vegetables through local food has stated, And let's require that a certain percentage of that school lunch fund in every school district has to be spent within 100 miles to revive local agriculture." See this posting for more information.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More humane food does cost more

The Animal Welfare Institute (whose animal welfare standards I adore) made the idiotic notion that humanely raised food "can" be cheaper than factory farmed food. All the consumer has to do is buy directly from the farmer. That's all? Shouldn't the inconvenience of buying food from the farmer instead of a convenient grocery store count?

I appluad the AWI's desire to see animals receive better treatment, but never at the expense of truth.

Meat-Free Day

Paul McCartney recently called for a meat-free day to reduce global warming. Read more. I wonder if those who heeded his awesomness' call drove further than normal to eat at a restaurant that served good vegetarian meals? And I wonder if those extra road miles produced more greenhouse gases than the reduction realized from not eating meat?

Without answers to these questions, how do you know whether you are doing any good?

Regardless, Paul McCartney is still awesome.

Your Business Is My Business

My colleague, Jayson Lusk, and I have libertarian tendencies. The idea of government addressing "problems" like global warming scare us because it makes every single action we take create a form of pollution for other people. Now, our business is everyone's business, all the time.

Yet, my reading of the excellent book Creatures of Empire has tempered my aghast. Even when colonies first formed in the U.S., where you might suspect that individuals would have great freedom to make their own decisions without the nosey eye of a neighbor, colonial governments exerted a surprising control over daily life. The governments would even enact measures dictating when you could slaughter your cattle or sheep--YOUR cattle or sheep. They did this because they felt individuals were slaughtering their animals too early, and needed the benevolent intervention of the ruling class.

It is no surprise, then, that today, your business is everyone's business.

Global Warming Simplicity

Some individuals laugh at the idea of humans "controlling" global temperatures, arguing that the complexities involved with the weather makes such notions ridiculous.

However, a recent study has shown that the relationship between carbon and global warming is surprisingly simple, and linear.

Carbon Emissions Linked To Global Warming In Simple Linear Relationship

ScienceDaily (June 11, 2009) — Damon Matthews, a professor in Concordia University's Department of Geography, Planning and the Environment has found a direct relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. Matthews, together with colleagues from Victoria and the U.K., used a combination of global climate models and historical climate data to show that there is a simple linear relationship between total cumulative emissions and global temperature change.

These findings will be published in the next edition of Nature, to be released on June 11, 2009.

Until now, it has been difficult to estimate how much climate will warm in response to a given carbon dioxide emissions scenario because of the complex interactions between human emissions, carbon sinks, atmospheric concentrations and temperature change. Matthews and colleagues show that despite these uncertainties, each emission of carbon dioxide results in the same global temperature increase, regardless of when or over what period of time the emission occurs.

These findings mean that we can now say: if you emit that tonne of carbon dioxide, it will lead to 0.0000000000015 degrees of global temperature change. If we want to restrict global warming to no more than 2 degrees, we must restrict total carbon emissions – from now until forever – to little more than half a trillion tonnes of carbon, or about as much again as we have emitted since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

"Most people understand that carbon dioxide emissions lead to global warming," says Matthews, "but it is much harder to grasp the complexities of what goes on in between these two end points. Our findings allow people to make a robust estimate of their contribution to global warming based simply on total carbon dioxide emissions."

In light of this study and other recent research, Matthews and a group of international climate scientists have written an open letter calling on participants of December's Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to acknowledge the need to limit cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide so as to avoid dangerous climate change.

Drink More Milk...

Young people do not drink enough of it, as the study below indicates. I imagine one could obtain the same nutrients in soymilk, which isn't bad, but isn't near as tasty as milk though.

Young Adults Not Drinking Enough Milk, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (June 16, 2009) — Calcium and dairy products play major roles in health maintenance and the prevention of chronic disease. Because peak bone mass is not achieved until the third decade of life, it is particularly important for young adults to consume adequate amounts of calcium, protein and vitamin D found in dairy products to support health and prevent osteoporosis later in life. In a study in the July/August issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers report that young people actually reduce their intake of calcium and dairy products as they enter their twenties.

Drawing data from Project EAT (Eating Among Teens), a prospective, population-based study designed to examine determinants of dietary intake and weight status, the responses of over 1,500 young adults (45% male) were analyzed by investigators from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. The mean age of participants was 15.9 years at baseline and 20.5 years at follow-up.

During the transition from middle adolescence (high school) to young adulthood (post-high school), females and males respectively reduced their daily calcium intakes by an average of 153 mg and 194 mg. Although 38% of females and 39% of males increased their intake of calcium over 5 years, the majority of the sample reduced their intake of calcium over 5 years. During middle adolescence, more than 72% of females and 55% of males had calcium intakes lower than the recommended level of 1,300 mg/day. Similarly, during young adulthood, 68% of females and 53% of males had calcium intakes lower than the recommended level of 1,000 mg/day.

The researchers found that reports of mealtime milk availability, positive health/nutrition attitudes, taste preference for milk, healthful weight control behaviors and peer support for healthful eating when the participants were teenagers were associated with higher calcium intake in young adulthood. Time spent watching television and lactose intolerance during middle adolescence were associated with lower calcium intake in young adulthood.

Writing in the article, Dr. Nicole I. Larson, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues state, "The findings of this study indicate that future interventions designed to promote improvements in calcium intake should encourage the families of adolescents to serve milk at meals. In addition, interventions targeted to female adolescents should build concern for healthful eating, develop confidence in skills for healthful eating and reduce exposure to television advertisements. Interventions targeted to male adolescents should emphasize opportunities to taste calcium-rich food, the promotion of healthful weight management behaviors and supporting peers to engage in healthful eating behaviors."

Ag & Livestock in Mexico

Yesterday I was discussing the book Creatures of Empire with livestock extension specialist, Dr. Derrell Peel. I noted to Derrell that early colonists considered the raising of livestock to promote civility. Making a profit off an animal required diligent care, so someone able to perform this feat was obviously a diligent worker. Owning livestock was a sign of class.

Derrell noted a similar cultural arrangement in Mexico, where he has traveled and researched extensively. In Mexico, the word "agriculture" does NOT include livestock. Agriculture simply refers to crops. Owning livestock is a sign of class and wealth in Mexico, while farming crops is a sign of poverty. The rich do not raise crops, they raise cattle.

So if you are in Mexico and wish to discuss livestock, the phrase "animal agriculture" or "livestock agriculture" may confuse the listener, and the word "agriculture" does not include farm animals.


Why Journal Articles Suck

Anyone who has read or tried to read scientific journal articles know that, as far as the readibility goes, they suck. One reason is that anytime an author tries to make an article interesting, the editor forces them to alter the article until it finally prosaic. The idea is to make the article sound objective, but this often hides the lack of objectivity, which can be dangerous.

I have written many journal articles, and the thing I hate the most about journal articles is that editors and reviewers enjoy their power, forcing you to alter your writing. The article has your name, but it is no longer yours. That is a travesty.

To demonstrate, see the two paragraphs below that an editor forced me to remove.

St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals. Legend suggests he preached to birds and settled a peace negotiation between the City of Gubbio and a man-eating wolf. Although the saint died in 1226, some Catholics continue his devotion to animals. One Catholic Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma hosts ceremonies where members can bring their pets to be blessed by the priest. When asked whether pets go to heaven, the priest replies, “You betcha,” (Harper, 2008).

At the same time and in the same state where this priest confers a blessing to dogs and cats, state legislatures are devising a referendum that would modify the state constitution to protect citizens’ right to hunt, trap, and fish. While no current barrier exists, observing the power of some animal advocacy organizations, one of the bill’s sponsors explained, “This bill gives our citizens the chance to step up and protect their rights from being stolen by people who have no respect for our traditions and values,” (Pearson, 2008). The juxtaposition of the church service for pets and the referendum to protect animal trapping illustrates the opposing animal attitudes that will continue to provide fodder to the animal welfare debate. The objective of this study is to further explore these attitudes in references to farm animals.

Harper, D. October 5, 2008. “Blessed are the animals.” Tulsa World. Section A2.

Pearson, J. October 5, 2008. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of game.” Tulsa World. Section G1.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Conversation on Factory Farming

The Cattle Network had an interesting discussion of factory farms here. I disagree with the last paragraph, as every publication ranking egg systems and hog systems I have seen places the conventional egg and hog system last in terms of animal welfare. But that's just me, its an excellent discussion.

Unrealistic Goals

I always thought Obama had unrealistic goals. Now Obama sees the America I see.

So, So Certain

Michael Pollan and Robert Kenner have been interviewed about how people would respond to a new ag system, one that they encourage, where food is grown locally using methods from 1950. When asked how people would respond to higher food prices, they responded that people would pay more in food but would pay less in health care. Summing all the costs together, people would pay less.

Really? How do you know? How can you be so certain?

To be fair, the ag industry is just as "certain" about their claims, such as the claim that raising eggs and pork in an environment more conducive to their welfare will necessarily make food much more unhealthy.

So nice it is to be in a profession where I don't have to say anything, unless I really believe it is true!

Food Inc. Trailer

Today I watched a trailer of the new movie Food Inc, which you may watch below. I have only three comments I leave today.

(1) We should not find it surprising that many consumers are turned-off at the sight of "factory farms", even feedlots. Even though I wholly support the feedlot institution, I can understand why someone's initial reaction is disgust. Yes, they seek fame and money through deception, but I see so much of this that I have a hard time becoming emotional.
(2) I also saw with them on ABC News where they were basically arguing we should produce food like we did in 1905. Trent Loos, with wit, suggested they should make their movie like those who made movies in 1905--silent movies!
(3) Finally, at the end of the trailer below they tell you that "corporate agriculture" does not want you to see how food is "really" produced. I have seen everything that corporate ag is supposedly keeping confidential--everything--and it is not scary, it is not harmful. It is the normal progression of a sophisticated human society with a particular penchant for developing new technologies.

Why Special Interest Groups Are Important

Though special interest groups are commonly thought to be corrupt by definition, they serve an important societal role. Take, for instance, the H1NI "swine" flu virus, which has caused large damages to the pork industry (and pork consumers) through the unfortunate labeling of the virus as the "swine" flu.

The pork industry has a lobby, a large one. They have the ability to fund a lobby because they represent an large industry with very, very large sales. This in turn implies that they provide consumers with a very important service. You can't sell billions worth of something without providing billions worth of value.

The swine flu virus did not come directly from swine and does not in any way may pork unsafe or unhealthy to eat. Yet this is what consumers inferred when the media and the government started calling it the swine flu. It did not just hurt the industry, but consumers. When households pass over pork for their next available item based on faulty information, they are harmed.

And who is the most likely person to set the record straight, for themselves and the consumer? The special interest group called the pork lobby!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chickens Huddling Together

Recently I have heard one ag economist and one newspaper affiliated with animal industries imply that hens do not need more space than cage systems allow because they are gregarious animals who like to huddle and touch one another.

This is partially true.  I have visited farms who give their chickens large space allotments, and just looking at it, the greater space can seem like a waste.  Much of it remains unused.  Regardless of how much room they have, the chickens seem to huddle together.  

Yet this should not be taken to imply that chickens care not for greater space than 67 inches per bird.  Birds in the cage system cannot even turn around without bumping into another bird a little. They want more space than that.  Moreover, the space that goes unused is occasoinally used by birds who are running to flee bully birds.  Or, a bird venturing out on its own for a little food.  Just because the space is not used all the time does not mean it is not used or valued.  The older birds become the more room they use.  Most of the older hens I have seen do not huddle together, but spread out somewhat uniformly across space.

Remember back to your playground days.  Did the children spread themselves uniformly out over the playground?  No, they "huddled" together in bunches, but they would not want to be stuffed 25 people inside of an elevator either.

If we are to raise hens in a cage system, let's do it because it produces the cheapest, safest egg possible--which it does.  Let's not lie about it.

Feeding the Hungry

This is an editorial I sent to Feedstuffs today.

Editorial Submitted For Consideration By Feedstuffs

June 12, 2009

Dear Feedstuffs:

The June 6, 2009 edition of Feedstuffs provided praiseworthy coverage of agricultural sustainability issues.  Noting that the world population will grow 50% by 2050, and that the rate of agricultural productivity growth is declining, Feedstuffs asked how “we” will feed this growing population.  Thank you for addressing this important topic, and please allow me to contribute.

How will “we” feed a growing population?  The answer is really quite simple: allow markets the freedom to adjust to a changing world.  As the world grows, the price of agricultural goods and inputs will change, and free markets will respond to those changes with prudence.  Deciding where certain food types should be grown, how they should be grown, where they should be sold, and what consumers should purchase are all important questions.  However, no government, no committee, and no scientist however intelligent have the information necessary to make these decisions wisely.  Markets, however, are adept at such decisions.

Research in agriculture is important, but is no panacea.  Our amazing ability to produce food and our great modern wealth owes much gratitude to the entrepreneurial spirit and reliance on markets.  There is only one factor that would prohibit agriculture from feeding this larger population.  Only if—in our hubris and overestimation of any one group’s abilities—we interfere with the private decisions of food producers and food consumers will agriculture fail to meet this important challenge.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Animal Rightists - They Are Not That Bad

When I first started research the animals rights issue I held the traditional assumption that animal welfarists were concerned with improving the lives of animals while animal rightists were concerned with "freeing" or "abolishing" domestic animals. The more I study, the more I disagree with this traditionally held assessment.

An editorial in Eagle Valley Colorado distinguishing between the two is getting lots of press, see one here in Feedstuffs.  This article, and many others written before it, portend that animal rights groups want to abolish the institution of pet ownership.  Yet, I recently found out that PETA offices are filled with pets that employees bring to work.  Similarly, PETA euthanizes thousands of cats and dogs because they feel it is the preferred alternative to having them suffer for years in a shelter, not because they like killing pets.  Besides, city governments routinely kill thousands of pets, but does that mean all city governments oppose pet ownership?

I am not a member of any of these groups.  I only support them in this posting because, as a professor, the only thing I really do support is truth.  

Creatures of Empire (Part 1)

Americans are known for their meat-eating, especially for their fondness of beef and pork. While we are fascinated with our history in terms of early human colonists, we have neglected the history of early animal colonists. Embarking to the American colonies, the English brought a number of items that reflected their culture, among them livestock.

In her magnificent book Creatures of Empire, Virginia Dejohn Anderson seeks to tell this story. As I journeyed through this book I learned a number of fascinating details about the history of two items I dearly love: my country and my livestock.

It today's society, it is easy to forget the folklores and superstitutions that once abounded in English cultures. While protestant power was keen on surpressing these beliefs, certain animals did have mystical attributes for the ordinary Englishman. They believed that satan might come disguised as a goat, hogs could see the wind, and that owls could portend death. We have all pause if we see a black cat crossing our path, but in early English settlements, they took it seriously.

Early colonists in Maryland had a difficult time clearing stumps from fields, and usually didn't. This made the use of livestock for plowing infeasible, so they became more a source of meat and less a source of labor. The scarce fields and plentiful forests made it more profitable to simply turn animals loose into the forests and let them find their own food. Sheep and goat had a difficult time, and thus cattle, hogs, and chickens became the most popular livestock type. History has a lingering affect; perhaps that is why we eat so little lamb and goat today?

At first I thought that might be a good guess, but then I read later in the book that New England settlements specialized in sheep. Winters were tough, and many were ill-clothed, so they did everything they could to encourage sheep and wool production. They even created laws against the sheering of sheep until they were a certain age, to make sure it had been sheered at least twice.

So, why don't we eat much sheep today? A friend of mine thinks it is Hitler's fault. U.S. soldiers during World War II ate can after can of fatty mutton, and sheep fat is not tasty like beef fat. When they returned victorious to the U.S., they wanted nothing to do with sheep, even if it wasn't mutton. My friend says that if you look at sheep numbers, they take a dive after World War II.

While cattle in Maryland could survive from food in the forests, there was little forage per acre, so smaller animals were more efficient. Not long after the colonial settlements began, Englishmen remarked how much smaller cattle had become. Even until the mid 1900's U.S. cattle were small, and U.S. efforts to grow larger cattle required the importation of "European" cattle: Simmental, Charolais, etc.

more later...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Food Inc.

The new movie Food Inc., which is a Pollan-like take on food, is now showing.  There are sure to be some parts of the movie that are factually correct, though sensationalized.  It will surely show some animals who are suffering and farm animals being kept in cramped, nasty conditions.  There are some problems with our food, there is no doubt.  But if you want to truly understand what these problems are, from what I have read and seen, I would not encourage you to seek that understanding in this movie.  

The hatred of corporations by opposition to modern food production is naive and unenlightened. So is their hatred of food processing and the freedom of personal choice.  I wish there was a simulated world where we could put these individuals in charge just to demonstrate how little they really know and what a mess they would make.

Indeed, years ago Ayn Rand conducted such a simulation in her fiction, as I described a while ago here.

Science and Farm Animal Welfare

In response to an interesting scientific study on the vocal communications of chickens, the blog Advocates for Agriculture comments...

Trying to get sound science back into the animal rights debate will always be difficult. However, when talking about animal welfare, sound science should be ruling the day, but lately it hasn’t. If we want what’s best of our livestock, then decisions about how to raise them should be made based on good information. Anti-agriculture groups realized before we did that emotional arguments will trump rational ones and that has been the key to much of their success. As farmers and ranchers, we need to speak up on this issue and relate to the consumer how important proper animal care is. After all, proper animal welfare should make the animals feel more comfortable, not ourselves.

Farmers may want to pause before urging farm animal welfare to be based on scientific studies of what makes hens happy.  Every study ranking cage systems to alternatives ranks the cage system last--every study.  I asked some prominent U.S. researchers if there have ever been any study ranking egg systems that placed the cage system ahead of the cage-free system, and they replied that no such study exists.

I am not a member of HSUS, so my comments here are only meant to help clarify the debate for interested consumers. Readers can go to the HSUS website and download numerous white papers, which documents the scientific studies that support every argument they make.  No such documentation exists supporting arguments by the industry.  

Let the debate ensue, but let it be honest. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Livestock and the Environment

When discussing the relationship between the environment and livestock, those who support livestock and those who oppose it always talk past each other.  

Opposition to livestock point to the fact that livestock results in large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.  Of course it does!  Almost every activity that produces goods and services results in greenhouse gases.  Most of us eat meat, eggs, and dairy each day, so how could such large amounts of production not lead to pollution?

Advocates of agriculture point to the efficiency of agriculture, and that to produce one unit of anything (e.g., milk, meat, eggs) requires much less inputs (e.g. water, land, grain) than it did in the past.

Environmentalists complain about the many pounds of meat produced, and livestock industries brag about the few inputs used per pound of meat.  These are two very different things.  The livestock industry should be commended for its frugal use of resources, and consumers need to start considering whether an alternative bundle of consumption that entails less animal foods leads to less pollution.  It is not the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that result from meat production that matters, but rather the level of those emissions compared to our next best alternative consumption bundle.

To demonstrate, suppose that I go vegan.  Presumably, my food bill will be lower, and I will spend those food savings on "something else."  While greenhouse gas emissions will fall by going vegan, they will rise from the increase in production of that "something else".  So what emits more greenhouse gases, animal foods or the "something else"?  Without knowing that the "something else" is, we cannot say.

Praising "Animal Welfare Approved"

For the past three years a majority of my waking time has spent studying the farm animal welfare issue.  If I have learned one thing, it is that a consumer who wants to make sure their food is made from animals who lived a pleasant life, they should purchase Animal Welfare Approved food.  Food with this label undergoes a certification process constructed and administered by the Animal Welfare Institute.  Below is an article that, like me, praises the manner in which these animals are raised.

Copyright 2009 Winston-Salem Journal
All Rights Reserved

Winston-Salem Journal (North Carolina)
June 3, 2009 Wednesday 
D; LIVING; Pg. 1
1363 words
Farming with animal welfare
Michael Hastings, Journal Food Editor

Lee and Domisty Menius own Wild Turkey Farms, which uses humane practices for raising pigs and other animals. 2. A sow leads her piglets to a farrowing hut, which is designed to protect piglets from suffocating wile sleeping.

Lee Menius grew up on a farm where animals were raised the conventional way for many years. Now he's trying something different.

Since World War II, his family had bred beef cattle in Rowan County with antibiotics and hormones. Then they sold them to feedlot operations where they would be raised on grain instead of a grass diet.

In the 1990s, Menius and a friend went on some farm tours that showed alternative ways of raising animals.

"The more I looked at it, the more it made sense," Menius said. "Instead of having the environment work against you, you work with the natural cycle."

In 2001, Lee and his wife, Domisty, started moving away from conventional livestock agriculture toward raising animals naturally in pastures, slaughtering them humanely and selling the meat directly to consumers.

"We're doing it because it's the right thing to do," Menius said.

Menius' Wild Turkey Farms now has beef, laying hens and pigs that are all raised in pastures. He got a bit concerned last month when swine flu first made headlines. But he was soon relieved to find that it was a different strain, H1N1, being spread from human-to-human. Even if it weren't, Menius wasn't all that worried, because he feels that he takes good care of his pigs. "We see all our animals twice a day," he said. "If anything looks suspicious, we have veterinarians that we work closely with."

Last year, Menius started participating in a program for his pigs called Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), run by the Animal Welfare Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Washington.

The AWA program is one of several in this country that recognizes farmers and food producers who use humane practices for raising livestock. Others are the American Humane Certified by the American Humane Association and Certified Humane Raised and Handled by Humane Farm Animal Care. Whole Foods Market is set to introduce its own program this year.

These programs promote an alternative to the factory farms that have dominated for 50 years. They typically offer technical advice as well as help with marketing. And they appeal to the growing segment of consumers who want to know where their meat, poultry and eggs come from. And they want to know that the animals were raised in the best possible way. All of them use certification labels that go on packages of meat so consumers know what they are getting.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals recommends all three programs, rating their labels superior to the USDA Organic label. But in a report last year, the society rated the AWA as having the most stringent standards.

AWA has certified 30 farms in North Carolina since the program started in 2006. It has certified about 300 farms nationwide. AWA works only with independent family farms. "We want to work with farmers who can make the decisions and who have full control," said Andrew Gunther, the director of the AWA program.

Though a certain size of farm is not a condition of participation, AWA tends to works with smaller farms that can't afford to pay a fee for auditing and other services.

The AWA is hoping that its label program will help consumers who sometimes are confused by labels. "'Naturally raised' or 'free range' are by affidavit only and there's no legal definition," Gunther said. "It's not fair to consumers. A farmer needs a way to demonstrate or explain why consumers should trust his products."

The centerpiece of AWA's standards has to do with confinement, or the lack of it. AWA insists that animals be raised outdoors in pastures, not in crowded feedlots, cages or crates.

The program has separate standards for different animals, but all of them cover everything from the genetics of the breeds, to the nutrition, weaning, pasture management and slaughter.

Beef cattle standards, for example, prohibit tail docking (cutting off the end of the tail), cloned or genetically engineered animals and growth hormones. Calves must have access to high-quality forage from the age of seven days. Cattle must have continuous access to outside pastures. Pesticides and herbicides are not allowed on cattle grazing areas.

The guidelines also specify that if slaughter is not done on the farm, the slaughterhouses must be inspected and approved by AWA auditors.

Because a lot of livestock has been bred for close confinement indoors, some animals don't have the skeletal or other development needed to thrive outdoors. So the AWA has genetic standards to make sure that farmers use the right breeds for pastures. "We don't allow genetics that are unsuitable for outdoors," Gunther said. Menius is raising Berkshire pigs at Wild Turkey Farms. He also works for N.C. State University in the N.C. Choices program. As technical services coordinator, he works mainly on a project studying the environmental impact of hog farming.

On his farm, Menius' pigs have lots of room in rotating pastures that allow them ample grazing. Boars get to hang out in wooded areas where they can forage for nuts and other vegetation. Pregnant sows get individual farrowing huts that are specially designed with sloping sides to avoid the possibility of a sow accidentally laying on one of its piglets.

Menius said he likes the AWA program because it's rigorous and practical. For instance, AWA generally does not allow nose rings on pigs. This practice is designed to keep pigs from rooting in the ground, because they can tear up a field of grass quickly. But AWA allows Menius to use nose rings because rooting on his farm can cause problems with soil erosion.

"It's a good, balanced program," Menius said.

AWA also helps move farmers in the right direction even when they don't meet AWA standards. For example, AWA gave Menius $8,000 to build a mobile processing unit for his chickens, though his chickens don't meet the genetics standard yet. The unit includes a pneumatic stunner that humanely renders a chicken unconscious before slaughter.

Menius will be able to rent his unit to area farmers who don't have enough chickens to justify a trip to a slaughterhouse but they want to slaughter their chickens in a humane way.

Like many farmers in the AWA program, Menius sells his meat directly to consumers. He sells at three farmers markets, including the Salisbury farmers market. Others may sell directly off the farm, to restaurants or sometimes to small independent grocery stores. Gunther said that farmers in the program get marketing help in the form of press releases, signs for their farms and banners to hang at farmers markets.

AWA also works to help educate farmers and consumers. It hopes to organize a workshop to teach farmers and consumers about the benefits of Menius' mobile poultry processor.

Menius said that humanely treated animals sold directly to consumers at such places as the Salisbury and Davidson County farmers markets allows him and other farmers to get a premium price for a better product.

"To other people, it might be a financial opportunity," he said. "To me, it's the right thing to do. It's the right thing for the environment. It's the right thing for the pig. It's the right thing for us. And because of all that, the marketing just falls into place."

Want to know more?

To learn more about animal-welfare programs for livestock, the farms that supply them and where to get the products, visit these Web sites. and, for the Animal Welfare Institute and the Animal Welfare Approved program. for the Certified Humane Raised and Handled program and Humane Farm Animal Care. for the American Certified Humane program and the American Humane Association. for Wild Turkey Farms, an AWA farm in China Grove. for Cane Creek Farm, an AWA farm in Snow Camp. for S&L Farm, an AWA farm in Louisburg., an egg producer in Nashville, N.C., that is in the Certified Humane Raised and Handled program. for the World Society for the Protection of Animals. The site's Eat Humane section has information on labels. It has charts that compare and contrast standards of animal-welfare labeling programs.

June 4, 2009

Comments of the Ordinary Consumer

A number of surveys have been conducted measuring consumer views on the farm animal welfare issue.  Conventional surveys can elicit responses from a large number of people, but do not allow them to express their own ideas in their own words.  A recent article studied the views of a small number of people: 16 British.  Yet their comments are interesting.  Some of my favorite are given below.

When one person learned the mortality rate in a broiler facility was only 5%, they stated, 
I'd have expected it to be around 30 or 40%, what with all the chickens being so close together in such a warm atmosphere.  This comment reminds us that consumer perceptions of how farm animals are affected by factory farms may not mirror reality.

Consider some others...

It is a shame the chickens don't enjoy a natural life cycle, but I suppose this is necessary if we want cheap meat.

It is about getting a balance between caring for the chickens and not becoming too sentimental.  You've got to accept the reality of intensive farming.

It is too convenient to buy cheap meat for people to be really concerned about how it is produced. 

You know in the back of your mind what's going on, but you can't think about these things all the time.

The authors' summary of some of these comments are as follows.

There was however a realistic awareness that if we want cheap food then the majority of chickens are never going to be afforded an idealistic, natural lifecycle. Participants were capable of understanding that there may be connections between their own purchasing behaviour and the conditions faced by chickens. However, they were also realistic about intensive agriculture and the role it inevitably plays in modern day food production.

Source - Hall, C. and V Sandilands.  2007.  “Public Attitudes to the Welfare of Broiler Chickens.”  Animal Welfare.  16:499-512.

Overestimating the Benefit of Animal Welfare

As societies seek to better understand how it should raise farm animals, economists often look to valuation studies to help make these decisions.  The idea behind valuation is simple.  If people are willing to pay $2 million dollars to make farm animals better off (perhaps through a regulation) and it only costs $1 million, then the regulation is "good."

One recent study measured the willingness of citizens within the EU to forego money to improve the lives of broilers (Moran and McVittie).  Broilers would be made better off by giving them more room, better health monitoring, and the like.  The results indicated that the benefits were two times greater than the costs.  It would seem a slam-dunk: provide chickens a better life.

Yet what the authors do not caution is that the benefits are measured based on what people "say" they would pay.  Every valuation study has some type of bias, and this study suffers from hypothetical bias, which is often very large.  In fact, valuation studies tend to overestimate peoples' true willingness-to-pay for things on average by a factor of three!  
(see List and Gallet)  

Thus, the benefits this study measures is likely to be three times higher than its true value, which would make the benefits of improved animal welfare less than the cost.  It is so very important that benefits of animal welfare, when they are measured, when it is possible, to measure them using actual payments--real money.


Moran, D and A McVittie.  2008.  “Estimation of the Value the Public Places on Regulations to Improve Broiler Welfare.”  Animal Welfare.  17:43-52.

List, J.A. and C.A. Gallet. 2001. “What Experimental Protocol Influence Disparities BetweenActual and Hypothetical Stated Values?”  Environmental and Resource Economics 20 (3):241-54.

Little, J.M. and R. Berrens. 2004. “Explaining Disparities between Actual and Hypothetical Stated Values: Further Investigation using Meta-Analysis.” Economics Bulletin 3 (6):1-12.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Luther Tweeten's Thoughts

Luther Tweeten is one of the greatest agricultural economists alive or dead, and has recently written on the farm animal welfare issue coming to Ohio.

His section Animal Welfare makes it seem as if the scientific community has no idea whether cage-free egg production is better for the birds than cage production.  Yet, while the science in this area will never be without some dubious proposition, I disagree on the degree of uncertainty regarding which production practices are better for birds.

The two scientific publications ranking egg production systems in terms of animal welfare puts cage-free production ahead of cage production, and these are two good articles.


De Mol, R.M., W.G.P. Schouten, E. Evers, H. Drost, H.W.J. Houwers and A.C. Smits.  2006.  “A Computer Model for Welfare Assessment of Poultry Production Systems for Laying Hens.” Netherlands Journal of Agricultural Science.  54:157-168.

LayWel.  2004.  “Welfare Implications of Changes In Production Systems for Laying Hens.”  Specific Targeted Research Project (STReP).  SSPE-CT-2004-502315.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pasture Versus Feedlots

Feedlots and dairies are often criticized due to the barren environment and unnatural animal feed.  In both feedlots and dairies, the lots in which they reside can contain rather large accumulations of their manure, and lack access to pasture.  On the positive side, they receive a high-protein diet of sileage and corn (with hay added for fiber), which they prefer to eat above anything else (including grass).

The feedlots and the pastures have advantages and disadvantages to the cattle, so which do they prefer?  Based on my personal experience and conversations with others, I believe the following.  If you place cattle in the feedlot AND leave a gate open that leads to pasture, they will behave as follows.

The cattle will consume almost all of their food from the feedlot diet, and eat very little grass. The grass they do eat is mainly due to boredome.  While they will enter the feedlot for food, they will rest and chew their cud in the pasture, prefering the clean spacious pasture to the dirty feedlot for resting.

In this scenario cattle had access to both the feedlot and the pasture.  If they had to choose only one, which would it be?  I honestly don't know.

Addressing Bill Maher

Real Time with Bill Maher is an entertaining and educational talk show on HBO.  Maher is passionate about animals and food, and periodically he makes statements that need some addressing.  While I do not always agree with his beliefs, I applaud his interest in food.

On May 30, 2009, Maher interviewed the well-known Michael Pollan, who is well-known for his books The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food.  He is a great story-teller, he really is, and partly because he sensationalizes half-truths in a way that makes the story interesting.

The conversation concerned two items that might need addressing.

(1)  Pollan discussed how he left a twinkie on his book shelf for a year or two and it never rotted.  The twinkie is so bad, he stated, that even the bacteria that makes food rott wanted nothing to do with it.

That is an interesting story, and goes well with the recent popularity of very, very fresh foods, but let us not overlook the importance contribution of food preservation.  Preservation has been a daunting challenge for most of humans' existence, and lack of preservation has been a major cause of nutrient deficiencies.  Besides, just because something is preserved so that bacteria cannot eat it doesn't mean it is bad.  Your tap water is purified by chlorine, which kills bacteria that would otherwise make you sick, but certainly doesn't make you sick.

(2)  Pollan discussed how beef packaging tends to use pictures of cows in a pasture, but cattle are really held in a feedlot, up to their knees in manure and eating an unnatural diet that makes them sick.

Most cattle are indeed sent to a feedlot before they are slaughtered, but they do spend a large part of their life in pasture, and the breeding stock tend to spend all of their lives in pasture. Plus, feedlots are not the vulgar place he describes. Their manure is not cleaned out every day, but feedlots tend to locate in very dry, warm areas that make the manure dry out very quickly, and turn to a dirt-like substance.  The cattle LOVE, their "unnatural" diet, much more than grass.  Although it can make them sick, they are managed in a manner that makes this sickness very rare. While cattle would rather have more room and cleaner ground, they prefer their grain-diet to grass, and consequently might prefer the feedlot to a pasture.


Welcome to Ham and Eggonomics, the blog companion to the upcoming book, Ham and Eggonomics, written by me and Jayson Lusk.

Within the farm animal welfare debate, the opponents tend to talk pass each other, resulting in no serious dialogue.  Animal advocacy groups point to battery cages and gestation stalls to illustrate the cruelty that can accompany factory-farm-style production.  The livestock industry, to illustrate their compassion, point to the cattle industry, usually telling stories of a farmer staying up all night to ensure a calf is delivered safely.  Both sides are telling a truthful story, but their failure to talk about the same topic leaves those on the outside confused.

The purpose of this side is to address comments made by all sides so that individuals who are serious about learning how the food they eat impacts farm animals can make better decisions.