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Wendy’s Demands Animal Welfare Reports from Pork Suppliers

Wendy’s Demands Animal Welfare Reports from Pork Suppliers

Pork suppliers will be required to submit quarterly animal welfare reports attesting to the humane treatment of their pigs

In an effort to limit its business to suppliers with humane practices, Wendy's will require quarterly animal welfare reports from its pork suppliers.

Wendy’s has announced that it will require greater accountability from its pork suppliers in the form of quarterly animal welfare reports. Wendy’s, which has previously stated a goal of sourcing pork solely from gestation stall-free pork suppliers, will now require increased transparency from suppliers at all levels of pork production.

Amidst growing public concerns about American food safety, the fast food giant is to be commended for its ongoing commitment to eliminating “a cruel system that’s simply out of step with how people think animals ought to be treated,” said Josh Balk, director of food policy for The Humane Society of the United States.

Wendy’s is one of 60 food companies to participate in the effort to remove the use of sow gestation stalls, which confine animals in tiny crates for most of their lives, from their supply chains. Other companies that have joined in the movement include McDonald’s, Costco, Burger King, Smithfield, and several others.

Currently, Wendy’s audits its pork suppliers at least once a year, while suppliers who must improve their standards are audited at least twice a year. So far, more than 1,200 audits have been conducted, and include reviews of housing, transportation, holding facilities, and humane processing procedures, according to Wendy’s Animal Welfare Program.

Undercover Video Reveals Savage Abuse at a Factory Pig Farm. Again.

Pushed by consumer outrage, the pork industry appears to be slowly moving away from the practice of confining pregnant sows for most of their lives in “gestation crates”: spaces so tight, the unfortunate beasts can’t even turn around. (“Basically, you&rsquore asking a sow to live in an airline seat,” as the animal-welfare expert Temple Grandin puts it.) Several large retailers and food chains, including McDonald&rsquos, Burger King, Wendy&rsquos, Chipotle, Safeway, Kroger, Costco, and Kmart, have pledged to demand that the pork they buy be from crate-free facilities and several gigantic pork processors, including Smithfield and Hormel, have vowed to comply.

But two massive companies&mdashWalmart, which is by far the nation’s largest grocer, and mega-meat processor Tyson&mdashhave stubbornly refused to take a stand on crates, shrugging off considerable pressure. I think that may be about to change.

That’s because undercover investigators from the animal-welfare Mercy For Animals managed to infiltrate the workforce of an Oklahoma facility that supplies hogs to Tyson, which in turn processes them into pork for Walmart. What they found looks like a public-service commercial on the cruelty of gestation crates&mdashwith a nasty dash of baby-pig abuse thrown in. The video documents abuse both routine and spectacular: from the awful confinement of pregnant sows into tiny spaces to men pummeling them with sheets of wood and kicking them. The video isn’t for the squeamish.

Just a few weeks ago, Mercy For Animals got the goods on another facility that supplies pork to Walmart, this one in Minnesota. This particular plant isn’t affiliated with Tyson&mdashbut embarrassingly, its owner, Randy Spronk, is president of an industry trade group called the National Pork Producers Council. When you watch the following video, reflect that Spronk’s company defends the practices depicted on the grounds that they’re standard within the industry, including the bludgeoning to death of sick baby pigs.

Why do I think these latest exposés will sour Tyson and Walmart on sow crates? Recall that pork giant Smithfield was wavering on its commitment to phase out the practice&mdashuntil a 2010 undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States documented horrific sow-crate scenes on it own farms. Like a hard slap in the face, the revelations inspired the company to vow anew to phase out extreme confinement of pregnant pigs.

Tyson has responded to the Oklahoma case by cutting ties to the hog operation in question, The Los Angeles Times reports. “We&rsquore serious about proper animal handling and expect the farmers who supply us to treat animals with care and to be trained and certified in responsible animal care practices,” the company wrote in a statement. As for Walmart, “We think the animal handling in this video [the Oklahoma one] is unacceptable. We agree with Tyson&rsquos decision to terminate the relationship with the farm,” a spokesperson told me.

But taking action against a single supplier might not be enough. There are really two issues here. One is overt violence&mdashthe kicking and pummeling. The other is the inherent cruelty of the crates themselves. On the latter issue, the Walmart spokesperson said, &ldquoWe are currently engaged with pork suppliers, food manufacturers, animal rights organizations, and others to work towards an industry-wide model for raising pork that is not only respectful of farmers and animals, but also meets our customers&rsquo expectations for quality and animal safety.&rdquo

Uh huh. It turns out, I think, that systematic abuse of the creatures that feed us can only flourish when it can be hidden from the public. As Ted Genoways showed in the cover story of the July/August 2013 Mother Jones, that’s exactly why the meat industry has fought so hard to criminalize the investigations of groups like the Humane Society and Mercy for Animals. But at this point, the cat is out of the bag&mdashand soon, I reckon, the sow will be out of the crate.

As Buyers Face Meat Shortages, Vegan Companies Are Stepping Up to the Plate

You may have noticed lately that you can&rsquot get the grocery items that are usually available. You may have overheard people asking exactly how to make tofu taste good. You may have seen an uptick in interest in homemade beans, bread, and vegetable broth as if you&rsquove been transported to an Okie encampment straight out of The Grapes of Wrath, except, you know, on social media. It&rsquos not just in your imagination. In March, sales of vegan meats saw a 280-percent increase compared to the same week in 2019, according to market data company Nielsen. This historic moment may be borne of the desperation of a captive audience more than anything, but it&rsquos a time for vegan advocates to capitalize on the increased demand for animal-free foods nonetheless.

Ramping up vegan production
With unreliable and diminished supply chains, short expiration dates, an amped-up interest in thriftiness, a need to stay healthy during the worldwide health crisis, and perhaps an increased willingness to try new things, we are seeing some of the factors leading people to consider plant-based diets for the first time&mdashwith some who are just dipping their toes into the waters and others fully diving in. Whatever the reasons and no matter how far people are taking it, this growing interest is being felt by vegan businesses, especially those who are selling proteins. They are ramping up production, figuring out new revenue streams, and stepping up boldly to the challenge of meeting the new demand threshold that global circumstances have created.

An unsafe meat supply
These vegan companies have also managed to boost production without increasing the coronavirus spread among their employees and communities, unlike their animal-based counterparts. A critical reason for the reduced meat supply&mdashleading to major chains like Wendy&rsquos running out of hamburgers (perhaps their old &ldquoWhere&rsquos the Beef?&rdquo tagline is more real than ever)&mdashis the slaughterhouses themselves, which have become hot spots of coronavirus spread and infection. With just over 50 slaughterhouses responsible for 98 percent of killing and processing the cows people eat in the United States, a closure of even one location causes a major bottleneck that results in shortages. It is well-documented that the virus has spread like wildfire in these processing plants and slaughterhouses. At this writing, more than 12,500 meatpackers in 80 locations and 26 states have tested positive for COVID-19 and nearly 50 have died. By the time you have read this, it&rsquos almost certainly worse.

Pork chops or death?
Agribusiness monoliths like Smithfield Foods and Cargill have been accused by unions representing slaughterhouse workers of not supplying adequate protective gear, not ensuring proper distance between employees, not providing necessary sanitation stations, pressuring workers to work when sick, and because much of the workforce is made up of undocumented immigrants, many are afraid of deportation. It&rsquos not surprising that analysis has found that coronavirus infection rates in areas around the processing plants are higher than those of 75 percent of other counties in the United States. As Tony Thompson, sheriff of Black Hawk County, Iowa rhetorically asked in a New York Times story that delved into the terrible working conditions at the Tyson meat-packing plants in Waterloo: &ldquoWhich is more important? Your pork chops, or the people that are contracting COVID, the people that are dying from it?&rdquo

Adapting to demand
Despite the risks and safety concerns, President Donald Trump recently invoked the Defense Production Act, issuing an executive order that meat-packing plants remain open. Invoking the act so that &ldquoa continued supply of protein for Americans&rdquo is ensured was not necessary for Chicago-based Upton&rsquos Naturals, an independent company producing multiple lines of vegan meat replacements. While nearly all businesses have been presented with unique challenges and a need to pivot during the pandemic, according to Upton&rsquos marketing manager, Natalie Slater, business is better than ever and they have adapted in exciting new ways. In addition to keeping their in-house café Upton&rsquos Breakroom open and fulfilling take-out orders&mdashbusiness is actually up&mdashthey have been able to keep restaurant staff employed and even hire more at their production facility. &ldquoInitially, our food-service business all but dried up completely, but now we’ve had a huge increase in orders for the private label items we produce for restaurants,&rdquo Slater told VegNews. &ldquoAs that industry adapts to delivery and take out, we see more and more orders coming in. As far as our core business, some of our largest conventional retailers are ordering three times their normal volume. Meal kit subscription boxes are another area where we’ve seen an uptick as more people cook at home.&rdquo

Promoting a better future
Upton&rsquos Naturals is just one example of a business founded on vegan principles doing better than ever during a time of a global crisis, helping to shift things away from the old status quo and toward a much better future&mdashideally, one that won&rsquot contain zoonotic pandemics like the coronavirus. As more and more people think seriously about sustainability, thriftiness, compassionate living, personal health, as well as the health of their communities, now is the time for businesses and advocates alike to blaze a trail and promote a path that is kind to people, the animals, and the planet.

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The letter — to Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Restaurant Brands International (Burger King), Chipotle Mexican Grill, Wendy’s Co. and Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut) — says animal agriculture is one of the world’s highest-emitting sectors without a low-carbon plan, and the investors expect the fast food giants to demand specific plans and metrics from their meat and dairy suppliers and expect an initial response by March 1 on executing such plans.

The letter also suggests damage to the companies’ future profits if they don’t join the Ceres/FAIRR campaign, saying their suppliers’ environmental impacts “are associated with increasingly material reputational, operational and market risks for the companies buying and selling animal protein-based products.”

Count on a long tug of war

Whatever the level of blame thrown at the livestock sector for climate change, the issue surely feeds what will surely be a long, escalating debate.

A recent wave crashing on the shores of agricultural sustainability: the first report of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, an international team of scientists’ worldwide recommendations for healthy and sustainable diets. Posted in January, it is a little like the U.S. Dietary Guidelines (now heading toward a 2020 update). But instead, it is heavily focused on global eating habits that must change to sustain both the Earth’s food production and environment.

The Lancet report does recognize that local and regional cultures, established food systems and environments make livestock a necessity, so future changes must be “carefully considered in each context and within local and regional realities.”

Nonetheless, the report echoes recommendations by other nutrition groups and environmentalists in past years and calls for “doubling in the consumption of . fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, and a greater than 50 percent reduction in . added sugars and red meat (i.e. primarily by reducing excessive consumption in wealthier countries).”

Another analysis addressing human diet needs and food production to 2050 — by University of Illinois agricultural economist Gerald C. Nelson and others — declares experts are too focused on agricultural production and instead should concentrate much more on consumption and access to healthful nutrients, including protein rich foods. With so many millions both starving, on one hand, and obese on the other, this report says, the greatest need is “increasing availability and affordability of nutrient-dense foods and improving dietary diversity.”

Ana Islas Ramos, FAO nutrition specialist in Rome, takes a similar view. Humans’ protein need are greatest as children. She says breast milk takes care of infants’ protein needs, and she described to Agri-Pulse an array of affordable, inexpensive options among whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, vegetables, milk, etc., that would “provide for a healthy child’s dietary needs of protein and most amino acids.”

So, like Nelson, Islas Ramos says, “the main issue is not production of protein dense foods, but access and utilization.” She notes, for example, that one egg contains 6 grams of protein, and says that, for growing children, an egg per day is an “excellent source of highly bioavailable protein, providing already about half of the (daily) dietary protein needs of the child.”

Ag technologists emphasize need for livestock

The CAST outlook report noted earlier comes down sturdily on the essential importance and need for livestock on several counts.

“Nutrient-dense animal-source foods represent the predominant, most affordable source for many essential dietary nutrients,” the report notes. Especially in developing countries, “livestock play an invaluable role in maintaining the health and nutritional status of inhabitants . for whom the supply of high-quality protein is often limited,” the report says.

Much of those protein-dense foods come from grasslands that comprise 70 percent of all world agricultural areas” where food is produced typically “through the grazing of cattle, sheep, goats, water buffalo, and wildlife,” CAST observes, saying that “ruminant animals are best equipped to harvest the solar energy stored” in the forage on those lands.

The paper also explains how grass, hay and much of other farm animals’ feed, doesn’t compete with the human food supply, but are byproducts from grain fields, dairies, distilleries, flour mills, bakeries, seed crushing plants, and more.

So, says CAST: “The suggestion that animal agriculture should be abolished and that the global population could subsist on a vegetarian or vegan diet is a narrow view and . (ignores) consequences.”

Not surprisingly, American livestock sector advocates aren’t impressed with the Lancet report’s recommendations on animal agriculture and see them as overly simplistic and off the mark.

As the CAST report also argues, ranchers and swine and poultry farms have been gradually reducing their environmental impact and carbon footprint in many ways for decades.

On that topic, AAA’s Thompson-Weeman said “calling for less meat consumption . doesn’t really take into account the strides we’ve already made and what can possibly done in the future.”

Hannah Thompson-Weeman, Animal Ag Alliance

Indeed, several top national livestock organizations have completed studies assessing their strides in footprint-shrinking via a range of advances in efficiency, animal growth, nutrition, etc., which, together, spell declines in acres, gallons of water, electrical kilowatts used per unit of food produced. The reports also set yardsticks for future progress.

Cattlemen's Beef Board’s 2014 Beef Industry Sustainability Assessment, a detailed study “to provide a bench mark (to) help all beef operators . find individual means of improving the efficiency and sustainability of their operations,” the Beef Board states.

National Pork Board’s Retrospective Assessment of U.S. Pork Production: 1960 to 2015 (posted in January 2019), which reports these trends across 55 years in impact per hog marketed: 76 percent less land used, 25 percent less water used, 8 percent reduction in carbon footprint, and 7 percent less energy used.

FARM Environmental Stewardship program of the National Milk Producers Federation. Co-ops launched FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) a decade ago, has enrolled more than 37,000 out of 40,000 total U.S. dairy farms and has built a team of 400 professional evaluators to help farmers meet bench mark standards.

Emily Yeiser Stepp, senior FARM director, said the Environmental Stewardship initiative began less than two years ago, and already “about 750 farms have had a FARM Environmental Stewardship evaluation conducted.”

The American Egg Board did likewise for egg farms. “We call it the 50-year study — 2010 compared with 1960,” says Mickey Rubin, executive director of the AEB's Egg Nutrition Center. He reports the industrywide found “egg production in 2010 resulted in about a 71 percent reduction in greenhouse gases . water use was also down significantly . (as was) land use. At the same time, hens are producing 27 percent more eggs and living longer.”

Thompson-Weeman points to the gamut of livestock sustainability studies and asks: “What could those numbers look like when they do new studies in 2050? We could have an even smaller footprint.”

Breeders on sustainability’s front lines

Although organic producers and many other proponents of sustainable agriculture exclude gene editing and transgenic tweaks to livestock and crop genomes from their notions of acceptable tools, biotech advances will likely end up essential to keeping farm animals healthy and livestock operations efficient.

Clint Nesbitt, senior director of science and regulatory affairs, at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), says animal and plant breeders have a huge range of genetic advances in the works, but new disease resistance traits are probably most likely to advance in the decade ahead.

“With the change of climate, disease pressures are going to be a really big deal to try to stay on top of and are an increasing problem for animal production,” Nesbitt said. “Just keeping the animals alive is (going to be) a big factor.”

Growth traits, such as the first-ever one approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the fast-growing AquaBounty salmon, will also advance in the next several years, he thinks, because researchers already know the techniques to make those adjustments, “making a lot more meat with a lot less inputs.” He believes “that’s a big deal, and I think you’ll see similar examples in a variety of animals.”

Researchers are also making biotech tweaks, switching genes on and off and so forth, Nesbitt says, to makes forages, grains and other feeds more digestible for livestock, for example, and to alter fungi and bacteria in the microbiomes of the animal gut to improve digestion to promote animal growth, health, disease resistance and so forth.

Meat from the laboratory edging toward our plates

It’s been five and a half years since the televised tasting of the first laboratory-grown meat muscle — a beef patty — in the Netherlands. Since, countless labs and investors have been gathering to launch this new version of animal muscle product that’s called cell-derived or cell-based meat by most, and clean meat by many of the products’ proponents.

GFI’s Ball says cell-based meat investors’ intent is to “sort of take out the middleman,” the meat animal, in this case, from the pipeline so making meat becomes cheaper and impacts the environment much less than does conventional meat.

Matt Ball, Good Food Institute

“There is an inherent inefficiency in feeding crops to animals,” he said, “because they spend more of their calories on their own metabolism . their brains, their blood, their bone . (and) feathers. Even though the chickens of today grow much faster and with much less feed than when my grandfather was a farmer, they still take more input than they give as output.”

One startup, San Francisco-based New Age Meats, for example, has been holding tastings for its experimental cell-based sausage around the country. And Just, which market’s plant-based products such as Just Mayo, wants to grow its beef from the genetics of a top-line Japanese cattle breed.

Meanwhile, California-based Memphis Meats (MM) sampled its first cell-based meatballs more than three years ago and now says it has beef, duck, and chicken products in development. It announced last August that it had already raised $22 million from investors, including Cargill, Tyson, Bill Gates and others.

Livestock and processing industries have both pressed regulators to decide rules on labeling and processing for this new type of bloodless meat that eschews slaughter.

In the U.S., USDA and the Food and Drug Administration, which are working jointly toward regulating this meat category, held a hearing last October, and Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Carmen Rottenberg said at USDA’s Outlook Forum last week that “we expect to have something out very soon on a general framework” for cell-based meats.

At the same event, Uma Valeti, MM’s chief executive, declared that his company, when regulations are completed, will “be ready to go tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Ball says that, like any new product for mass markets, corporations trying them out on restaurant and supermarket customers will likely absorb losses for a while. “I don’t think the first products are actually going to be cost-competitive they’ll be in high-end restaurants — like, proof-of-concept (products),” he says.

To be successful in the food market, he says, cell-based meat must appeal to average consumers and “be products such as burgers and chicken and the like that are available at competitive prices . where they already shop.”

At the same time, some makers of vegan meat alternatives, such as Nestle’s Garden Gourmet, and Impossible Foods, with its Impossible Burger, have found new success in meat-taste and texture in their products, and such plant-based meat substitutes, already on the market, may end up a better sell with consumers long term than cell-based meats.

But also note that consumers do develop tastes for foods concocted in laboratories. Modern cheese makers, for example, use genetically altered microbial rennet rather than the traditional rennet from calf stomachs to curdle milk for cheese, and vegetarians typically prefer the microbial version.

Meanwhile, for the Impossible Burger itself, researchers isolated heme, an essential molecule in all plants and animals but exceptionally concentrated in meats, thus supplying meaty flavor.

Already, says Ball, “everywhere from White Castle to fancy, high-end restaurants are selling Impossible Burgers.”

Animal cruelty: Why McDonald’s, In-N-Out, Wall Street now say no

In-N-Out, McDonald’s Corp., Jack in the Box, Burger King and other chains quickly cut ties with Central Valley Meat Co. this week after undercover footage from an animal welfare group showed cows at the California slaughterhouse seemingly tortured and otherwise mistreated.

McDonald’s said the percentage of its meat that came from the Central Valley slaughterhouse was in “the low single digits.”

“Upon learning about USDA’s decision to suspend CVM, we took immediate action and suspended supply from this facility, pending further investigation,” the hamburger giant said in a statement. “There are behaviors in the video which appear to be unacceptable and would not adhere to the standards we demand of our suppliers.”

The chain continued, saying it “cares about how our food is sourced and we have a long history of action and commitment to improve the welfare of animals in our supply chain.”

Major food chains are now more eager than ever to abandon suppliers deemed to be cruel to animals. Denny’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and more have pledged this year to wean themselves of pork raised in cramped gestation crates and eggs laid by chickens crowded in cages.

[Updated, 10:30 a.m. Aug. 23: Jack in the Box said its restaurants did not use any beef from Central Valley Meat produced during the alleged violations, according to spokesman Brian Luscomb. But the slaughterhouse was an approved supplier to one of the burger chain’s vendors.

“We have suspended Central Valley Meat Co. from our approved vendor list,” Luscomb said. “The decision is not expected to impact our beef supply.”]

[Updated, 11:50 a.m. Aug. 23: The slaughterhouse was also an indirect supplier to Burger King Corp., according to a statement from Diego Beamonte, vice president of global quality for the chain.

“BKC took immediate action and removed Central Valley Meat Co. from its list of approved raw-material suppliers,” he said. “BKC no longer directly or indirectly purchases any raw materials from the company.”]

Earlier this week, In-N-Out dumped the Central Valley slaughterhouse, saying it “would never condone the inhumane treatment of animals.”

The larger focus on creature comfort may be due to the rise in gruesome images and video of mistreatment, often distributed over ever-widening social medial networks. This week’s footage from advocacy group Compassion Over Killing features cows being electrically shocked, sprayed with hot water or shot in the head and then suffocated by workers standing on their faces.

“No company wants their brand associated with the type of horrible abuse we see regularly documented in the whistle-blowing exposes we continue to see coming out of factory farms and slaughter plants,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States.

But corporate America’s growing aversion to suppliers outed as animal abusers has other sources as well. Consumers are more interested in the provenance of their food – and increasingly prefer meat with a local, organic and humane pedigree.

Citigroup, in a 2008 report, referred to animal cruelty concerns as a “potential headline risk that could tarnish the image of restaurant companies.” That year, research group Technomic found that restaurant patrons consider animal welfare to be the third most important social issue behind health insurance and living wages.

And with food scares rampant (witness the mad cow and pink slime controversies earlier this year), customers are more suspicious of animals that appear to be sick or lame.

The food industry, and especially quick service companies, is making “a very big push” to fight its reputation for lack of transparency, according to Wedbush Securities analyst Nick Setyan.

In some cases, such as Chipotle, touting sourcing strategy “can help your brand and, in turn, your sales,” Setyan said. Hence McDonald’s recent advertisements featuring beef, lettuce and tomato farmers.

“So absolutely, fast-food companies care about this type of negative perception and are increasingly taking steps to address it,” he said.

Brian Coelho, president of Central Valley Meat, released a statement earlier this week.

“Ensuring that the livestock we process are treated humanely is critically important,” according to the statement. “Our company seeks not just to meet federal humane handling regulations, but to exceed them.”

[Updated, 10:10 a.m. Aug. 23: Janet M. Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Meat Institute, cautioned that while the video “appears to contain areas of concern,” the narration “misleads the viewer into believing that these animals are conscious, when they are not.”

“While this video may be raising concerns among some viewers, the meat industry has a demonstrated commitment to handling animals humanely,” Riley said.

She added: “Humane treatment of livestock is ethically appropriate, good for livestock and has the added benefit of producing higher quality meat products. These are facts we recognize and embrace.”]

Burger King promises shift to cage-free pork and eggs

The movement by U.S. food corporations toward more humane treatment of animals experienced a whopper of a shift Wednesday when Burger King announced that all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs by 2017.

The decision by the world's second-biggest fast-food restaurant raises the bar for other companies seeking to appeal to the rising consumer demand for more humanely produced fare.

"So many tens of thousands of animals will now be in better living conditions," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, which has been pushing Burger King and other corporations to consider animal welfare in purchasing policies. "Numerically this is significant because Burger King is such a big purchaser of these products."

The decision by Burger King, which uses hundreds of millions of eggs and tens of millions of pounds of pork annually, could represent a game-change in the egg and pork supply business as a huge new market has opened up for humanely raised food animals. Already 9% of the company's eggs and 20% of its pork are cage-free.

The Miami-based company steadily has been increasing its use of cage-free eggs and pork as the industry has become better able to meet demand, said Jonathan Fitzpatrick, chief brand and operations officer. He said the decision is part of the company's social responsibility policy.

"We believe this decision will allow us to leverage our purchasing power to ensure the appropriate and proper treatment of animals by our vendors and suppliers," he said.

Earlier this year, McDonalds and Wendy's announced that they have asked their pork suppliers to outline their plans for elimination of gestation crates without setting a timetable.

The issue of the treatment of pigs raised for pork has recently developed. This year, Smithfield Farms and Hormel committed to ending the use of gestation crates by 2017.

"This is an issue that just four to five months ago was not on the food industry's radar," said Paul Shapiro, vice president for farm animal protection at HSUS. "Now it's firmly cemented into the mainstream in a way that I think few people would have imagined.

Last month, the pork industry's trade magazine editorialized for an end to the practice saying "on the issue of gestation-sow stalls, at least, it's increasingly apparent that you will lose the battle."

HSUS has been pushing for more than a decade for large-scale purchasers of animal products to ensure that they are raised humanely. The organization owns stock in 52 companies that use animal products so that it can attend shareholder meetings and submit proposals for improved animal welfare policy.

It also has used undercover operations to show the conditions some food animals endure.

Conventionally raised eggs come from hens confined in battery cages that give them roughly the same footprint as an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper. Most pork comes from sows that are confined during their four-month pregnancies in narrow crates.

"For every cage-free egg or piece of bacon from a gestation-free pork system that Burger King sells, animals have been spared lifelong confinement in a cage so small they can barely even move," said Matthew Prescott, the HSUS food policy director.

In 2007 Burger King became the first major fast-food restaurant chain to incorporate animal welfare issues into its purchasing policies when it began sourcing at least some of its pork and eggs from cage-free suppliers. The hens are still housed in a barn, but they have room to roam and perches and nesting boxes.

While some companies have been responding to consumer demand by incorporating some%ages of cage-free eggs into their purchase orders, the landslide passage by voters in 2008 of California's Proposition 2, which will ban chicken cages and gestation crates by 2015, caused buyers and suppliers nationwide to take notice. Since then studies have shown that shoppers are willing to pay more for products they believe are produced to higher animal protection standards.

U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit

At a remote research center on the Nebraska plains, scientists are using surgery and breeding techniques to re-engineer the farm animal to fit the needs of the 21st-century meat industry. The potential benefits are huge: animals that produce more offspring, yield more meat and cost less to raise.

There are, however, some complications.

Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed.

Then there are the lambs. In an effort to develop “easy care” sheep that can survive without costly shelters or shepherds, ewes are giving birth, unaided, in open fields where newborns are killed by predators, harsh weather and starvation.

Last Mother’s Day, at the height of the birthing season, two veterinarians struggled to sort through the weekend’s toll: 25 rag-doll bodies. Five, abandoned by overtaxed mothers, had empty stomachs. Six had signs of pneumonia. Five had been savaged by coyotes.

“It’s horrible,” one veterinarian said, tossing the remains into a barrel to be dumped in a vast excavation called the dead pit.

These experiments are not the work of a meat processor or rogue operation. They are conducted by a taxpayer-financed federal institution called the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, a complex of laboratories and pastures that sprawls over 55 square miles in Clay Center, Neb. Little known outside the world of big agriculture, the center has one overarching mission: helping producers of beef, pork and lamb turn a higher profit as diets shift toward poultry, fish and produce.

Since Congress founded it 50 years ago to consolidate the United States Department of Agriculture’s research on farm animals, the center has worked to make lamb chops bigger, pork loins less fatty, steaks easier to chew. It has fought the spread of disease, fostered food safety and helped American ranchers compete in a global marketplace.

But an investigation by The New York Times shows that these endeavors have come at a steep cost to the center’s animals, which have been subjected to illness, pain and premature death, over many years. The research to increase pig litters began in 1986 the twin calves have been dying at high rates since 1984, and the easy care lambs for 10 years.

As the decades have passed, the center has bucked another powerful trend: a gathering public concern for the well-being of animals that has penetrated even the meat industry, which is starting to embrace the demand for humanely raised products.

It is widely accepted that experimentation on animals, and its benefits for people, will entail some distress and death. The Animal Welfare Act — a watershed federal law enacted in 1966, two years after the center opened — aimed to minimize that suffering, yet left a gaping exemption: farm animals used in research to benefit agriculture.

To close that loophole, more than two dozen companies and universities that experiment on farm animals have sought out independent overseers and joined organizations that scrutinize their research and staff — a step the center has resisted as far back as 1985, when a scientist wrote the director with a warning: “Membership may bring more visibility” to its activities, “which we may not want.”

The center’s parent agency, the Agriculture Department, strictly polices the treatment of animals at slaughterhouses and private laboratories. But it does not closely monitor the center’s use of animals, or even enforce its own rules requiring careful scrutiny of experiments.

As a result, the center — built on the site of a World War II-era ammunition depot a two-hour drive southwest of Omaha, and locked behind a security fence — has become a destination for the kind of high-risk, potentially controversial research that other institutions will not do or are no longer allowed to do.

“They pay tons of attention to increasing animal production, and just a pebble-sized concern to animal welfare,” said James Keen, a scientist and veterinarian who worked at the center for 24 years. “And it probably looks fine to them because they’re not thinking about it, and they’re not being held accountable. But most Americans and even livestock producers would be hard pressed to support some of the things that the center has done.”


Dr. Keen approached The Times a year ago with his concerns about animal mistreatment. The newspaper interviewed two dozen current and former center employees, and reviewed thousands of pages of internal records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

That reporting shows that the center’s drive to make livestock bigger, leaner, more prolific and more profitable can be punishing, creating harmful complications that require more intensive experiments to solve. The leaner pigs that the center helped develop, for example, are so low in fat that one in five females cannot reproduce center scientists have been operating on pigs’ ovaries and brains in an attempt to make the sows more fertile.

Even routine care has fallen short. Of the 580,000 animals the center has housed since 1985, when its most ambitious projects got underway, at least 6,500 have starved. A single, treatable malady — mastitis, a painful infection of the udder — has killed more than 625.

The experiments have not always helped the meat business. Industrywide, about 10 million piglets are crushed by their mothers each year, according to pig-production experts, and studies have pointed to bigger litters as a major contributor. Not only do they generate more and weaker piglets, but the mothers have grown larger because they are kept alive longer to reproduce.

Certainly, the production of meat is a rough enterprise. Yet even against that reality — raising animals to be killed, for profit — the center stands out. Some of its trials have continued long after meat producers balked at the harm they caused animals.

The center’s director, E. John Pollak, declined to be interviewed, but in written responses, Agriculture Department officials said the center abides by federal rules on animal welfare. Many current and former employees vigorously defended the center’s work, saying it has helped improve the lives of animals, and people, around the world.

“We’re just as concerned about the humane treatment of animals as anyone else,” said Sherrill E. Echternkamp, a scientist who retired from the center in 2013. Still, he added: “It’s not a perfect world. We are trying to feed a population that is expanding very rapidly, to nine billion by 2050, and if we are going to feed that population, there are some trade-offs.”

The center, in fact, is used as a classroom for teaching animal care. For about 25 years, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has sent veterinary students into the center from an adjacent building for on-the-job training. Until recently, the university owned all of the animals. But decisions about their use and treatment are made by the center.

Center officials said that while even one death from starvation, exposure or disease “is too much,” the fatalities have been relatively few, given the huge herd. Others, however, find the number of casualties troubling.

“It should have been the best research center in the world, and it’s not,” said Gary P. Rupp, a longtime director of the veterinarian teaching program who retired in 2010 to raise his own cattle. “The death loss was higher than it should have been.”

Into the Wild

The newborn lamb lay alone in the grass, bleating feebly, abandoned by a mother far out of earshot. As dusk neared and cold gusts heralded a hailstorm, it seemed unlikely that the animal would survive the night. It was certain that no one would come to its rescue.

Eat Meat?

Underlying the ongoing search for protein sources that look and taste like meat but are in fact made from, say, yellow peas is the assumption that the industrial food system is broken—that eating animals, the title of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2009 book, is deeply destructive to the planet’s water supply, its air, and its land, which could be put to better and gentler use. And it’s destructive to our ethics and personal code of honor: We hurt ourselves when we eat animals killed for our satisfaction.

I eat meat. However relatively evolved meatless meat may be—and I recently spent a few months researching and sampling the latest iterations—nothing matches the primeval pleasure of gnawing at ribs. Besides, I’m a restaurant critic in two cities, Boston and Atlanta, and eating meat is a professional obligation. Is it time to reexamine my own conscience, as Foer’s book, so airlessly sure of itself, failed to make me do? Several new books made me think so, particularly books that detail the toll that factory farming—of pigs, particularly—takes on the environment and on animals, and on workers and health.

When Barry Estabrook announced the subject of his latest book to his partner, she sighed and asked, “Does this mean I’ll have to give up eating bacon?” His answer was no. Early in Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat, Estabrook’s spare, engagingly narrated book, he introduces a preternaturally intuitive pig so empathetic it could be a low-cost therapist. (Last year I accompanied New Yorker contributor Patricia Marx to tea at The Four Seasons in Boston with a pig she claimed was an emotional support animal, to see how much she could get away with. The answer was a lot. People love pigs, dead and alive.) Few would rush it to the barbecue.

Estabrook covers worker injury and water and air pollution. But his heart is with the animals. Pig Tales is animated by Estabrook’s affection for pigs, and the book makes you eager to find the farmer who can give such a noble animal a better—an outright happy—life. Estabrook is naturally optimistic, finding heartening evidence in the insistence on animal welfare behind the purchasing decisions of Steve Ells, founder and co-CEO of Chipotle, and in consumer demand for more ethically raised animals. He sees a pastoral solution in small-scale artisans—a solution that will let his partner, and the reader, continue to eat bacon.

But can we? Ted Genoways’s investigative report​ing is angry, and he wants you to be angry, too. The inescapable theme of The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food is the appalling stories of workers in a Hormel pig-slaughtering plant in Austin, Minnesota, who are permanently incapacitated, maimed, harassed, and hoodwinked. As Genoways (who writes in this issue of the New Republic about Chinese espionage on American corn seed research) sees it, everyone in the chain is trapped. The meat-factory town sees immigrants take once-protected jobs for lower wages. Unions see companies reconfigure themselves in corporate sleights of hand that enable faceless owners to run half a plant as a non-union shop, denying benefits and insurance to workers all but certain to get injured. Workers dread the day HR will discover they have been working under false papers and deny them workmen’s comp for on-the-job injuries—injuries the book describes in wrenching detail. Farmers are trapped by the increasingly stringent requirements of Hormel for the size and fat distribution of the pigs they buy, unable to pay off the grow-or-die loans.

Genoways doesn’t hunt out bad actors to blame. The production system and capitalism itself are under indictment. His heart is with the workers, who try and unnecessarily fail to keep working without serious injury as Hormel constantly ratchets up line speeds so that an impossible number of pigs per hour are supposed to be hacked and gouged into meat. Well into the book Genoways does get to the well-publicized cases of animal abuse, specifying what two undercover PETA workers filmed at Iowa pig factories and posted around the world. He even has compassion for the “overmatched and undertrained” workers who take out their frustrations on animals, violently.

You get almost as angry at the way corporate demands for ever-faster production lead to animal abuse as you get at the way corporate speed and profit demands lead to worker abuse. And you have to save some anger for the USDA, which sanctions a meat-industry demonstration project that lets greedy corporations determine production-line speeds. But don’t look for helpful remedial suggestions. Genoways isn’t interested in the kinds of eating choices Estabrook thinks can help combat industrial farming. The only way out of the labor and animal abuse he disturbingly reports is to stop buying any industrial meat products—something he knows won’t happen, especially when the Chinese market begins dictating the practices of the American pork industry. China’s doing that already, when it isn’t buying the U.S. pork industry, as it bought Smithfield in 2013. Genoways sees little remedy for a system that is stacked at every turn against the workers, the animals it raises too fast and too intensively with too little help, and even against medium-scale factory owners trying to stay alive.

Estabrook fondly thinks we can vote with our forks. The respect farmers show well-raised animals, preferably animals bred and permitted to have full lives, translates into respect on our part for both the farmers trying to survive and replenish their land and the animals they raise—and, yes, kill—for our pleasure.

Try arguing for humanely raised animals, for the small scale, for restoring economic balance and the power of smallholders to a more communal economy with James McWilliams, an agricultural historian and activist and author of the recent Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals. He’ll just tell you you’re ignoring original sin. McWilliams is scorching and relentless and he hits you where you live. “Small farms that raise animals with dignity,” he writes, “are the good guys, we are told. . Forget that, at the end of the day, they have the same blood on their hands as the factory farmer. . Ignore that all the meat we eat comes from an animal that did not want to be killed.” Even if he gets in his own way by repeating himself so often, he does shake us out of our 1 percent complacency.

The suffering and damage to the earth that drives McWilliams to advocate veganism in his book and his posts on his site The Daily Pitchfork are founding motives for the owners of the two companies I visited while reporting on fake meat: Beyond Meat, which makes chicken strips, “crumbles” that plausibly substitute for ground meat, and a remarkably meaty Beast burger and Hampton Creek, which makes Just Mayo, a shelf-stable, eggless mayonnaise substitute that has caught on for its neutral flavor, low price, and snappy marketing. Both companies assiduously avoid targeting the minuscule vegan market, aiming instead at the masses whose buying power can actually put a dent into the industrial food system to which they present an alternative—they’re not aiming at the socially conscious. The technology that underlies both companies (Hampton Creek calls itself a tech company) appeals, too, to Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, Ev Williams, Biz Stone, and the other Silicon Valley magnates who are investing in these and other companies, which aim to replace what Gates calls the colossally inefficient and antiquated way we produce food.

The 1 percent, like the poor, will always be with us, however wide a net the new alternative-meat companies cast. And they are another Achilles’ heel in the sputtering local-sustainable defense McWilliams derides. It’s true that calls to look your farmer, if not your dinner, in the eye and to know the provenance of every bit of food that crosses your sacred threshold smack of the insufferable assumption that you have the time and the money to go out and befriend them. But take a look at the significant announcements that McDonald’s has made with eggs and gestation crates for pigs, which Burger King, Costco, Kroger, Safeway, Target, Wendy’s, and even Hormel have followed in varying degrees. These came about, as other improvements come about, from the 1 percent who change their buying habits. Many other percentage points follow.

And if I can’t defend my innate elitism, I can defend my tribe. Narratives matter. Books and articles and news reports change behavior. They changed mine. At the start of my magazine career I edited an article about chicken-processing plants and was so sickened that for decades I ate no chicken whose origins I didn’t know you likely made the same choice if you saw Frontline’s “The Trouble With Chicken” this past May. As it happened, I hadn’t had a fast-food burger in a long time before reading Fast Food Nation, but Eric Schlosser certainly persuaded me to never eat commercial ground meat again. Estabrook and Genoways have made me wary of commercial pork and bacon in a way I never was, even if I’d once flown to Iowa to see big- and small-scale pork production and observed the vast difference in creature comforts and resulting flavor.

Progress Made on Overuse of Antibiotics in Chicken Industry, More Work Needed in Retail Sector, and Beef and Pork Industries

As we move into the New Year, we are taking a moment to reflect on the progress and challenges of 2018 in our corporate engagements to end the overuse of antibiotics in animal farming.

The World Health Organization calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” Antibiotic resistance threatens our ability to treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and salmonellosis, among others the result is that previously controllable diseases are becoming more and more fatal. If nothing is done to address this problem, antibiotic resistance could cause 300 million premature deaths and up to $100 trillion in global economic damage by 2050.

One of the biggest contributors to antibiotic resistance is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Factory farming of animals creates overcrowded and unsanitary conditions but, instead of improving animal welfare practices to maintain animal health, many farmers deliver preventative antibiotics to reduce the frequency with which animals fall sick. An estimated 70% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used for animal production, and many of these drugs are being given preventively to animals that do not have a diagnosed illness. When antibiotics are overused in this way, disease-causing bacteria become resistant and those resistant bacteria can easily spread through the environment.

Federal regulations around antibiotics use in farm animals have been continuously criticized by scientists and advocacy groups for falling short of addressing the problem. Initially published in 2013, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidance on antibiotic use in animal agriculture became fully implemented in January of 2017. The guidance provides that companies should not use antibiotics for the purpose of growth promotion and that veterinary oversight be used in the administration of antibiotics. However, a major “loophole” remains: The guidance allows for routine, frequent use of medically important antibiotics if used for the prevention of disease. This use is incredibly common and is where voluntary action from corporations can make the biggest impact.

The problem of antibiotic resistance can be significantly reduced by limiting the market for meat raised with medically important antibiotics. Since 2015, As You Sow has been engaging major meat producers and fast food and restaurant chains to encourage responsibility in the use of antibiotics in companies’ meat operations and meat supply chains.

As You Sow Engagements

When As You Sow began engaging companies on the issue of antibiotics, the sale of antibiotic drugs in the U.S. had reached an all-time high. The animal agriculture industry had just begun to respond . A few pioneering fast food and fast casual dining chains (Chipotle, Panera, Chick-Fil-A) were leading the way in committing to purchase meat raised without unnecessary antibiotics and they were reaping the benefits of their commitments. Early in 2015, McDonald’s created a wave of momentum for fast food companies to meet consumer demands with its announcement that it would serve only chicken raised without medically important antibiotics in the U.S. by the end of 2017 (a goal the company met early, in 2016). As shareholder advocates, we saw this as an important opportunity to move similar companies to make the same shift to protect public health and benefit from the long-term value they would see in beating their competitors to adapt.

Since we filed our first resolution on antibiotics in 2016, which was with Wendy’s, the industry has made significant progress. As of October 2018 , 18 of the top 25 fast food and fast casual chains in the U.S. have established policies to reduce the use of antibiotics in at least one meat category (for most, only in chicken). Most of these companies have committed to reduce or end the use of medically important antibiotics. It is worth noting that far fewer have agreed to completely end their use of all antibiotics (instead relying on drugs only used in animals).

This year, we focused on engaging laggard companies that had yet to establish antibiotics policies for chicken and fostering leadership on antibiotics in beef.

We saw significant progress in the fast food and restaurant sector:

In August, our engagement with Brinker International , parent company of Chili’s and Maggiano’s restaurants, led the company to commit to publishing a policy eliminating chicken raised with medically important antibiotics from its supply chain.

At Denny’s we presented a shareholder resolution in May of 2018 asking the company to establish a policy prohibiting all use of medically important antibiotics in its meat and poultry supply chains the company has been responsive to our engagement and we have decided not to file another resolution for the 2019 season as we understand that the company is making meaningful progress on this issue.

McDonald’s made big news this December with an announcement that established a policy restricting medically important antibiotics in the beef it purchases. Given the magnitude of McDonald’s business (the company is the largest single purchaser of beef in the U.S.), this leading policy will have a significant impact on the beef industry. Further, we expect it will set a standard for other fast food and fast casual chains to follow suit.

In a late stage reversal, the last major producer of chicken has also changed its ways:

Sanderson Farms, Inc., one of the nation’s biggest producers of chicken, has been a hold out on the issue of antibiotics in recent years. We filed shareholder resolutions with the company the past three years. In November of this year, we were pleasantly surprised when Sanderson announced that it would eliminate all use of medically important antibiotics in its operations. This important announcement will help ensure that more restaurants and grocery stores will be selling chicken free of medically important antibiotics.

As our first engagement of its kind, this year we began working with a major retailer:

Following our engagement this year with Costco Wholesale Corporation, in December the Company updated its animal welfare standards to include a commitment to begin monitoring, testing, and enforcing existing FDA guidelines for the responsible use of antibiotics by meat suppliers. While the company failed to create a policy that reduces or disallows the use of medically important antibiotics for the prevention of disease, we see this commitment as a step towards the company taking more accountability for its meat supply chain. We hope this will lead Costco to make better informed and more responsible purchasing decisions in the future and end its sale of meats raised with antibiotics, especially medically important antibiotics. Historically, the retail sector as a whole has been very hands off in influencing supplier practices (with the exception of Whole Foods Market, and perhaps smaller, lesser known retailers). While Costco’s action does not change its own standards for the use of antibiotics in the meats it sells, we support the company’s willingness to get involved in this issue, and hope this is a first step to finally addressing medically important antibiotic use in the meats it sells. In particular, as Costco begins its own chicken production operation this year, we will be looking for the company to quickly commit to prohibiting all use of medically important antibiotics in the chickens raised by farmers with whom it contracts.

Moving into 2019 and beyond, we continue to set big goals. Our vision is to pursue a food system that is good for business, good for the planet, and good for the health and well-being of animals and the public. Beef and pork producers still have yet to meaningfully address the problem of antibiotics resistance in their meat. We need to see that change. In order to protect long-term sustainability, businesses that rely on productive animal agriculture must get ahead of regulations and adapt to the growing consumer demand for safe and responsibly raised meat.

In particular, we will be focused on engaging major fast food, restaurant, and retail companies to set policies for their beef and pork supply chains that disallow the use of medically important antibiotics for the prevention of disease. Given that the vast majority of antibiotics are used in the beef and pork industries, shareholders will continue to demand an end to the unacceptable applications of antibiotics, ultimately halting the public health threat of antibiotic resistance and protecting companies from the reputational, legal, and other risks posed by this urgent issue.

Christy Spees leads As You Sow’s environmental health program, engaging investors and companies to ensure consumer safety from environmental contaminants, especially through agricultural practices.

Wendy’s Demands Animal Welfare Reports from Pork Suppliers - Recipes

We are working alongside progressive producers to help us advance responsible sourcing practices across animal care and welfare, sustainability and traceability in accordance with the Wendy’s Animal Care Standards Program.

Wendy’s only serves pork that is 100% Pork Quality Assurance Plus Certified. By working with certified suppliers and farmers, we ensure our partners have committed to an intensive traceability protocol, supporting our goals to track, trace, monitor and report on animal medical treatment histories.

Pork Quality Assurance Plus relies on experts in agriculture and veterinary medicine to fulfill its mission. Farmer training and on-farm assessments are performed by certified Pork Quality Assurance Plus Advisors.

Since its inception in 1989, the program has expanded to include detailed animal care components as well as environmental protection and worker safety.

Wendy's is proud to be on track toward our commitment to eliminate the use of sow gestation stalls in our North American supply chain by the end of 2022.

In lieu of gestation stalls, our suppliers will adopt group housing:

Group housing provides sows and gilts with the opportunity to socialize and exhibit normal behaviors.

With proper employee training, proper care and nutrition can be managed for all animals within an open system. Use of feed systems such as an electronic sow feeder, Free Access Stalls and partitioned troughs for individually spaced feeder areas allow for every sow or gilt to receive the proper amount of feed and nutrition.

Wendy’s pork supplier partners have taken proactive steps to protect the efficacy of antibiotics deemed important to humans. By abiding by and following the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program, they’ve all agreed to the following steps:

Take appropriate steps to decrease the need for the application of antibiotics

Assess the advantages and disadvantages of all antibiotic use

Use antibiotics only when they will provide measurable benefits

Fully implement practices for responsible use of animal-health products into daily operations

Maintain a working veterinary/client/patient relationship

To further enhance the steps taken as part of the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program and in keeping with our 2030 goal to eliminate the routine use of medically important antibiotics, we are working with progressive suppliers to map, monitor and report on animal medical treatment histories through the Wendy’s Animal Care Standards Program.

Watch the video: Τα μυστικά του κρέατος από τη μαστόρισσα της ππάλας (December 2021).