Tag Archives: poultry

Consumer groups petition fast-food chains to reduce antibiotic use

Consumer health and food safety groups this week called on 16 fast-food restaurants to stop the unnecessary use of antibiotics in their meat and poultry supply.

Medical experts say the overuse of antibiotics in livestock poses a public health threat by increasing the spread of deadly drug-resistant bacteria.

The 16 restaurants petitioned by the organizations received “F” grades for failing to take steps to end the misuse of medical important antibiotics in the Chain Reaction scorecard, a report published by the Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Friends of the Earth, NRDC and Food Animals Concerns Trust.

A statement from the coalition this week says Burger King received an F and, despite an announcement in December to make certain changes regarding antibiotics in the chicken supply chain, still lags far behind McDonald’s.

McDonald’s has removed medically important antibiotics from its chicken supply chain, but Burger King has committed to removing only limited group of antibiotics classified as “critically important” to human medicine, by the end of 2017.

“The global increase in antibiotic-resistant infections is a public health disaster, and it is essential that our biggest restaurant chains do their part to address this growing problem right away,” said Cameron Harsh of the Center for Food Safety.

The petition effort is the latest in a series of campaigns intended to pressure such companies as KFC, Olive Garden, Chili’s and Starbucks to help protect public health and animal welfare by committing to meat and poultry raised without routine antibiotics.

The performance of these companies contrasts sharply with nine of the largest chains — including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Chipotle and Panera, which received passing grades in the report.

“KFC and the other restaurants that received failing grades are making our antibiotics crisis worse,” said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy division of Consumer Reports. “Antibiotics should only be used to treat disease, not wasted on healthy animals or to compensate for filthy conditions on factory farms. It’s time for restaurants to help protect public health by demanding that their suppliers end the irresponsible use of these important medications.”

“When consumers eat a chicken sandwich they shouldn’t have to worry that doing so is potentially undermining antibiotics. They should just enjoy the sandwich,” said Matthew Wellington, field director of the antibiotics program for U.S. PIRG. “More major chains like KFC need to act on antibiotics. We simply cannot afford to lose the foundations of modern medicine.”

Consumer advocacy and food safety groups say that in the absence of mandatory government regulations on agricultural uses of antibiotics in the United States, restaurants should demonstrate their commitment to public health by ending the misuse of antibiotics in their meat and poultry supply chains.

Some background on the issue…

Most meat served by U.S. chain restaurants comes from animals raised in factory farms. The animals often are fed antibiotics to prevent diseases that occur in crowded, unsanitary living conditions and also to promote faster growth.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regularly dosing animals with antibiotics contributes to rising cases of infections in humans that are resistant to important medicines.

The spread of resistant pathogens means that infections are harder to treat, require longer hospitalizations, and pose greater risk of death. World Health Organization reports that “antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today.”

Wisconsin records 1st outbreak of dangerous bird-flu strain

A dangerous bird-flu strain that has already hit numerous turkey farms in the Midwest has now been identified in a Wisconsin chicken flock, marking the first case of the virus in a commercial chicken farm in the U.S. and its first appearance in Wisconsin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on April 13.

Authorities stressed there was no risk to public health and no danger to the food supply from the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain, which was first detected in the region in Minnesota early last month. Animal health officials have long said the virus is dangerous to all commercial poultry. The only surprise of it turning up in chickens is that it took so long, said Raechelle Cline, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin’s agriculture department.

The USDA said tests confirmed that a flock of about 200,000 chickens in Jefferson County, in southeastern Wisconsin, has been infected. About 20,000 chickens have already died from the disease, and the remaining 180,000 will be killed to help prevent the disease from spreading, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The disease has cost turkey producers more than 1.2 million birds across the Midwest — including more than 900,000 in Minnesota, the nation’s No. 1 turkey-producing state. Still, that only accounts for about 0.5 percent of the 235 million turkeys produced nationally in 2014. The disease has also struck farms in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota and North Dakota since early March. The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association on Monday estimated the dollar value of turkeys lost in the state at $15.7 million.

Although the affected Wisconsin farm produces eggs, the broiler chicken industry, which produces chickens for meat, also has been bracing for the virus since it was detected in the Pacific Northwest late last year, said Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council. He noted that the chicken industry is much larger than the turkey industry, with Americans eating about 83 pounds of chickens annually compared with about 16 pounds of turkey.

“We’re certainly remaining on double-heightened alert,” he said, noting that most broiler production is in southeastern and mid-Atlantic states where the virus hasn’t appeared.

Scientists suspect the disease is being spread by migratory waterfowl, but that hasn’t been proven. They’re also trying to determine how the disease has been getting inside poultry barns despite strict biosecurity measures designed to keep it out.

H5N2 turned up on several chicken farms in British Columbia, Canada, late last year, and this month in Ontario. It also has been detected in some backyard flocks, but the Wisconsin case is the first detected in a U.S. commercial chicken operation, said Joelle Hayden, a USDA spokeswoman.

Wisconsin, which typically ranks around 18th among U.S. states in chicken production, exported poultry products worth $4.7 million in 2014.

No human cases have been found in the U.S. But as a precaution, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is reaching out to workers who may have been exposed. Surveillance and testing also are underway at nearby farms.

About 40 countries have blocked imports of turkey or chicken products to varying degrees from the affected states, but many of those countries weren’t big customers. And some major importers, such as Mexico, are scaling back their bans to specific counties.

The outbreaks have cost the industry a small fraction of its annual production, and they’re not expected to affect retail prices much.

Humane Society: Hens scalded alive at Minnesota slaughter plant

An undercover investigation at a “spent” egg-laying hen slaughter plant in Butterfield, Minnesota, revealed inhumane treatment of animals and potentially illegal cruelty, according to The Humane Society of the United States.

The animal welfare group conducted the investigation at Butterfield Foods and then released video and other results of the investigation and reported possible illegal activity to authorities, followed by release to the news media on Jan. 5.

A news release said the investigation was the first undercover operation at a “spent-hen” slaughter plant in the country.

Spent hens are egg-laying birds no longer considered commercially profitable. The hens are used for cheap meat after a lifelong confinement producing eggs in “battery cages.” The meat is often so low-grade and unsafe that many battery cage facilities cannot even sell it for human consumption. Hens and other poultry are not covered by the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, even though chickens and turkeys represent nine out of 10 animals slaughtered for food in the United States.   

The HSUS, in its investigation, documented:

• Many birds each day were scalded alive, forced upside down into tanks of scorching hot water in which they drown. In just one 30-minute period, the HSUS investigator witnessed approximately 45 such animals. This possible violation of Minnesota’s anti-cruelty code has been reported to local authorities.

• Hens arrived in trucks packed so tightly they could barely move. Birds had broken bones, others were dead on arrival, and some were so covered in feces they looked black. If a truck could not be emptied by the end of a processing day, the remaining hens continued to suffer on the trucks until the next day.

• Hens were removed from crates and shackled upside down while alive and fully conscious. Removal began with workers jabbing metal hooks into the densely packed transport cages to rip hens out of the cages by their legs.

• Birds were ineffectively stunned and inhumanely killed. After being shackled, the line of upside-down birds moved through an electrified trough of water designed to stun them—though that outcome was not necessarily reached. Many hens tried to right themselves, while others were hung too high; these birds missed the water entirely and arrived to the next station—the neck cutter—fully aware.

• Sick and injured birds thrown against the wall or tossed in the trash.

“Egg-laying hens suffer tremendously, locked in cramped cages their whole lives only to then be inhumanely slaughtered when their productivity wanes,” said Paul Shapiro, HSUS vice president of farm animal protection, in a news release. “Consumers can help reduce the suffering of animals in factory farms by eating less chicken, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture can help poultry by requiring slaughter plants to switch to higher-welfare systems such as controlled atmosphere killing.”

The HSUS has information to support the claim that some major egg producers in Minnesota do not even meet the voluntary space allotment standard established by the United Egg Producers, the national trade association of the egg industry. That voluntary standard, widely considered to be inhumane because it immobilizes birds, may cover about 75 percent of laying hens in cage confinement. Some major producers in Minnesota keep hens in 48- or 54-inch space allotments, which amounts to extraordinary deprivation and suffering for the birds. 

“Laying hens in Minnesota are suffering from birth to death, and every step of the process is filled with misery for so many millions of these birds,” added Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS.

On the Web…

A video from The Humane Society of the United States: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eM-JsyyfSmE 

Wisconsin group exposes factory-farms and mislabeled ‘organic’ foods

A Wisconsin-based farm policy and research group is pursuing formal complaints against 14 industrial livestock operations that are producing dairy, eggs and meat being wrongfully marketed as “organic.”

The group, the Cornucopia Institute, said it took action after years of inaction by the USDA and contracted for aerial photography over factory farms in nine states over eight months.

The group, in its report released on Dec. 11, said it documented “a systemic pattern of corporate agribusiness interests operating industrial-scale confinement livestock facilities providing no legitimate grazing, or even access to the outdoors, as required by federal organic regulations.”

Representatives of several companies took issue with Cornucopia’s claims, saying the report contained inaccuracies and false accusations.

Mark A. Kastel, a senior farm policy analyst with the group, said, “The federal organic regulations make it very clear that all organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and that ruminants, like dairy cows, must have access to pasture. The vast majority of these massive, industrial-scale facilities, some managing 10,000-20,000 head of cattle, and upwards of 1 million laying hens, had 100 percent of their animals confined in giant buildings or feedlots.”

Kastel and Cornucopia emphasized that family-scale farmers who helped grow the organic movement in the 1980s did so, in part, because agribusiness consolidation and control of the food supply was squeezing profit margins and forcing farmers off the land.

Consumers made organics a rapidly growing market sector by supporting farmers and processors willing to produce food to a different standard in terms of environmental stewardship, humane animal husbandry and economic fairness for farmers.

“Shoppers, who passionately support the ideals and values represented by the organic label, understandably feel betrayed when they see photos of these massive concentrated animal feeding operations masquerading as organic,” Kastel said.

Cornucopia has created organic brand scorecards for consumers.

“Many of our dairy farmer-members have animals they truly care for, that have names, not numbers,” Kastel said.

Cornucopia filed its first legal complaints against industrial operations in 2004 and, as a result, the largest dairy supplying the Horizon/Whitewave label was decertified and the USDA placed sanctions against Aurora Dairy, which produces private-label organic milk for Walmart, Costco, Target and other retailers.

Cornucopia remains concerned with other producers and suppliers.

“The inaction by the USDA places thousands of ethical family-scale farmers, who are competing with a couple of dozen giant dairies, at a competitive disadvantage,” said Kevin Engelbert, a New York-based dairyman, milking 140 cows who, along with his family, was the first certified organic dairy producer in the United States.

He added, “Allowing … illegal dairies to continue to operate is a travesty and significantly undercuts the supply-demand dynamic that should be rewarding farmers in the marketplace and providing a decent living for our families.”

In the chicken industry, the USDA has allowed corporate agribusiness to confine as many as 100,000 laying hens in a building, sometimes exceeding a million birds on a “farm,” and substituting a tiny screened porch for true access to the outdoors.

The organics loophole, “porched-poultry,” was first allowed in 2002 in a case involving The Country Hen, a Massachusetts egg producer, to confine tens of thousands of birds in a barn with an attached porch that might, at best, hold 5 percent of the birds in the main building.

Seattle mayor pardons tofu turkeys

As Thanksgiving approaches, Tofurkys in Seattle can breathe easy, even if real turkeys can’t.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has pardoned a soybean-based roast, The Seattle Times reported this week.

Spokesman Jason Kelly says Murray posed with the tofu turkey at City Hall to draw attention to hunger in the community.

The Tofurky was donated to Rainier Valley Food Bank.

Kelly acknowledged that Seattle’s reputation in the rest of the country is “a little bit ‘granola'” and that Murray was poking fun at himself.

Communications director Jeff Reading said that the mayor has no plan to pardon any of Seattle’s urban turkeys “either the literal or figurative variety.”

The maker of Tofurky, Turtle Island Foods, is based in Hood River, Oregon, and produces several tofu or tempeh-based products.

On the Web…

http://murray.seattle.gov/mayor-murray-pardons-tofurky-and-challenges-city-council-to-food-drive/#sthash.rbQbn7Fi.dpbs