Food is not always something that you put in your mouth and eat!

Posts tagged ‘Food Safety’

Advocate or Activist, what’s the difference?

In a recent community meeting, I was asked if I’m an activist or an advocate.  My immediate answer was that I’m an advocate.  Afterwards I pondered my answer because the word activist has always been less than desirable to me.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve often been called an activist and it was a description used to dismiss my work as being “radical”.  I believe the word was used in the context as being an insult and it invoked a picture of being a radical or militant person.

I think that most of us can agree that radical or militant behavior is less than desirable and is dismissed by many, putting the actions down to someone who is fanatical.  Radical or militant is often associated with violence an extreme and undesirable direction to follow.  I certainly don’t condone it and I believe that violence begets violence.

Over the past couple of years, a huge building binge of chicken warehouses by the poultry industry on the Delmarva Peninsula has invoked division within our communities.  This is what my conversation was about when it came down to the question of advocate or activist.  My involvement in the issues, is supporting what the community interest are and their interest was decided by those affected.  This is what defines advocacy or activism.

On the other hand, there are a few activists involved in the issues.  I say activists because involvement came from an already decided campaign coming from somewhere other than the community and represented concerns other than decisions made within the community.  Forcing the will of others than those affected, never works, and is doomed from the beginning.

Representing non-profit organizations, activist have a defined campaign in mind long before they disperse into communities.  I say this because most often funding for campaigns come from private foundations or individuals.  Most of us within the non-profit world who have ever applied for funding know that goals are decided for a specified amount of time and are for specific objectives.  The funds applied for are granted before the issues are defined by communities.

Any who’ve worked on any of the issues surrounding the poultry industry know that there are several factions within the community and most often those different factions don’t agree because they have differing concerns.  Finding the common thread within the community and moving forward with agreed upon concerns are the goals of an advocate and it goes a long way toward developing common allies within the community.  An alliance, if you will!

Attempts to bring together differing factions are sorely hampered by activists because they bring a previously decided campaign to the table which is often different than anything within the individual communities.  This becomes a weapon for industry to use and its representatives can often be heard saying that these activists have a hidden agenda which brings about doubt and further divides communities.

According to the dictionary the following applies –

  • Advocate – one who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group
  • Advocacy – the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal
  • Activist – one who campaigns to bring about political or social change
  • Activism – the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change

It’s a fine line between the two words, definition wise.  However, understanding the difference between supporting or promoting (advocate) and a decided campaign (activist) easily defines the difference between the two.  One could say that actions speak louder than words!

Providing assistance to communities in efforts to address its issues within is essential to success.  Telling communities what it’s issues are and how it will address those issues won’t result in positive outcomes.

Pondering the Word “Natural”

Natural is the opposite of artificial or synthetic, right?  It’s something that isn’t altered or created by humankind rather something that comes from nature…… I think!

As I’ve often said, folks, it’s all in the words!  Something as simple as the word “natural” is under heavy scrutiny because of slick advertising being used on food labels that confuses consumers as to what the product is.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking public comment asking if it’s appropriate to define the word “natural”, if so, how FDA should define the word “natural”, and to decide how the agency should determine appropriate use of “natural” on food labels.

which way do i go 2I have to stop here for a moment and say, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME”?
FDA doesn’t know if it’s appropriate, how to define the word natural, or determine appropriate use on labels?  Reminds me of a quote from Alice In Wonderland ~~~ “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here”.

Phew…  Sorry folks, I had a moment, sarcasm kicked in!
Moving on…..

How many products in the grocery store shout out a reference in some type or form of the word “natural”? As a consumer, is your purchase influenced by a shout out such as “all natural”?  If you say yes, you aren’t alone in your thinking.  Most consumers are filled with a picture that the product came from a producer who supplied them with something that was raised or grown in its most natural state.

The Gospel according to the FDA website

  “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”

FDA shares food labeling oversight with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  USDA is in charge of the use of “natural” on meat and poultry labeling.  According to the Gospel of USDA –

“A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product.  The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”)”.

The ambiguous meaning of “natural” as defined by regulations leaves consumers unprotected and confused.  Is it unreasonable for consumers to depend upon food labeling and have confidence in government agency oversight that ensures a product is actually what it claims?  Using the word “natural” on food labeling only refers to processing of the food not where it came from or how it was grown.  Most consumers do not know this!

A good example to ponder can be found in poultry.  According to USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service

Poultry is not injected with water, but some water is absorbed during cooling in a chill-tank, a large vat of cold, moving water. The chill-tank lowers the temperature of the slaughtered birds and their giblets (hearts, livers, gizzards, etc.). During this water chilling process, turkeys and chickens will absorb some of the water, and this amount must be prominently declared on the label. It is not unusual for poultry to declare 8 to 12% retained water on the label.”

This so called “chill-tank” is referred to by some as the “fecal soup bath” whereby processed chickens are dumped into a large tank or vat to cool down the carcass.  Akin to ground beef derived from many different cows mixed up together for packaging and shipped out for consumption, thousands of chicken carcasses co-mingle in the chill-tank.  The most commonly used type of anti-bacterial/microbial to prevent cross contamination of the co-mingling chickens is chlorine, however there are many other products on the market approved for use.  Chlorine does not exist naturally on our plant, it is made by humankind.

Yet I see many poultry products on the market with the words “natural” or “all natural” in large bold letters on the packaging.  Here is where the pondering comes in.  If chicken carcasses retain 8-12 percent water from processing (not naturally occurring original body water) the end product is altered.  Furthermore, in that chill-tank water that is retained from processing is some type of humanly added anti-bacterial/microbial that is not a natural derivative of our planet.  That would make the end product further altered from its natural state.

I suppose USDA’s ambiguous wording referring to the use of the word “natural” on meat and poultry labels absolves poultry products from not being “natural” under the term of “minimal processing” but for the life of me I can’t figure out how poultry products get around the term of “no artificial ingredients”.

There you have it folks!  In reality the word “natural” on food labeling is worthless and cannot be depended upon to really mean something.  Most of the food you eat is processed in some manner and therefore is no longer really “natural”.

To avoid years of studies, recommendations, and argument, not to mention waste of countless taxpayer dollars, why not just prohibit the use of the words “natural” and “all natural” on all food products or labels.  If the food industry insists on a definition to continue with marketing ploys for food products, wouldn’t it be less wasted time and much less costly to simply look the word up in the dictionary?

My next question would be why do we need two different federal agencies governing food labels?

Hog Battle

There’s a nasty virus spreading in the pork industry. Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PED virus) infects piglets under 4 weeks of age and has a 100 percent mortality rate. At present there is no vaccine for PED although the pork industry says that research is underway. The virus has been running loose in the U.S. since last year and is taking a heavy toll on herds.

On February 20, 2014 the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released an undercover video showing the pork industry’s current method of attempts to control the virus. The video showed overflowing boxes of dead piglets being eviscerated and the intestines of the piglets are then ground up to be fed back to the mother pigs (sows).

Although I’ve simplified the scenario above suffice it to say that reactions to the issue have broken out in a war of words between the industry and those who condemn the practice. The issue is quite a conundrum for me and I’ve mixed emotions about the issue.

The HSUS video brought on a disgusting thought process for me. Thinking about dead baby pig intestines being ground up and fed back to their mother’s is just plain gross! I’m not alone in my thoughts and most who’ve viewed the video are shocked.

On the other hand, the pork industry has come out swinging with reactionary measures of explanation. Baby piglets are dying by the millions from the PED virus. The virus doesn’t discriminate between large or small farms. Infected piglets suffer a horrible death from acute diarrhea. The practice of grinding up the intestines of dead infected piglets, known as “feedback”, is fed to the sows in an attempt to expose them to the virus in the hopes of building immunities and passing them on to future piglets.

The conundrum!

Not one who readily accepts explanations to something that has horrified me I had to look further in an attempt to get to the bottom of things. Being an animal lover I would not be able to stand by and watch millions of baby pigs die a horrible death without any attempt to do something about it.

There are several arguments out there against the “feedback” practice mostly being along the line of “consequences of industrial animal agriculture” (a payback). Most often I would agree with this however the best I can conclude is that the PED virus is affecting all types of hog operations.

Some industry experts claim the HSUS video is another attempt by the organization to stop the raising of animals for consumption. In this case pork! True or not, it isn’t going to happen.

Efforts toward development of a vaccine include utilizing the virus in some method of exposure to build immunity. Awaiting the development of a vaccine and approval by FDA will take time. Lots of time! According to some reports, the industry has already spent $1 million toward research.

I have to wonder how much has been spent and will be spent toward exposure of the “feedback” practice and reactionary measures by industry. In my humble opinion that money could be better spent! Maybe along the lines of finding answers to combat and stop the PED virus in its tracks! It appears that might be the more humane thing to do instead of wasting precious time and money arguing while piglets continue to die.

Chinese Chicken, A Global Recipe!

An interesting tidbit of information crossed my desk which, after reading, I filed away as another one of those “head spinners” that I occasionally have. Yessiree folks, I closed my eyes, shook my head, and asked myself – for real?

According to a report from Politico and confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service China was notified last week that four of its poultry processing plants have been given the green light to begin processing chicken of U.S. origin and selling it back to the American public.

Processed heat-treated/cooked poultry products, typically known as “further processed” chicken, such as nuggets, patties, or even the pieces of chicken in your canned soup may now be processed in China and sent to American consumers for consumption. Raw chicken processed in China may come from the U.S., Canada, or Chile the only three countries currently approved by USDA.

Concerns expressed by food safety advocates abound given China’s record on food safety and deadly bird flu (avian influenza) outbreaks. However this issue appears to go much further. In a press release issued by Food and Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter says “it has been no secret that China has wanted to export chicken to the U.S. in exchange for reopening its market for beef from the U.S. that has been closed since 2003 due to diagnosis of a cow in Washington State with spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease……”. The U.S., in turn, banned poultry imports from China in 2004 after a bird flu outbreak.

Although the main focus of concerns on this issue has rightly so centered on China’s not so great food safety record, me in my infinite wisdom, focused further on the statement made by Food & Water Watch. My simplistic common sense manner summed it up as trading chicken for beef thereby resolving a “tit for tat” trade dispute.

I then tried to understand why in the world we would send raw chicken all the way to China to have it processed and then have China send it back to us for consumption. I wondered how many miles it was from my closet seaport, Norfolk, VA, to China. Suffice it to say that it’s roughly 6,757 miles! Furthering my need to know, I realized that the one of the major U.S. chicken companies has a processing plant 15 miles away from me. I’m sorry, but this makes no sense in so far as reducing the carbon footprint that we all are supposed to be mindful of!

Back to the heat treated/cooked poultry products. Every major chicken company in the U.S. has “further processing” facilities in America. While I in no way agree with industrial chicken production, I have to wonder why chickens raised and slaughtered in the U.S. would go to China for further processing and travel back to buyers in America to sell as cooked chicken products. In essence that chicken has traveled nearly twice around the world. Not to mention the American jobs that traveled out of the country with it. What does this say for boosting OUR economy?

Adding insult to injury the cooked chicken products coming from China will only have country of origin labeling for the buyer not for the consumer, the end user. This makes it impossible for consumers to choose supporting local or American made.

I understand, and have been told many times, that I need to think globally. Selling raw chicken to China of course will increase chicken production in the U.S. which is destined for export. The next step has China selling that same chicken back to U.S. buyers as a cooked product. I, by no stretch of the imagination, am a wheeler dealer of global trade however the only benefit I see in this global scheme is corporations increasing imports and exports. I see no trickling down effect of profits!

Many predict the approval of cooked chicken products from China as being a precursor to allowing raw chicken from China into the U.S. and that will have me wondering why we would buy chicken from China when we produce more than enough in our own country. Interested consumers will need to ask, which country did this chicken come from?

Increased trade is a good thing, so I’m told!

Big Chicken Worming Its Way In To Organics

The big boys, industrial animal production that is, have slowly been worming their way into organics.  I’ve often called it the bastardization of organics which is no criticism of true organic producers only those who want to take over organics and make it just like the mainstream industrial food system they already control.

The latest comes from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).   A 60 day comment period on the Final Rule, Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) in Shell Eggs during Production, Storage, and Transportation (Layers with Outdoors Access).  What to comment on is a draft guidance document to clarify how egg producers can comply with the original rule”.  The document that I printed out from the FDA website was a questions and answers type deal and interestingly enough it starts out – Draft Guidance for Industry!

While the Final Rule for prevention of SE in shell Eggs (the Egg Rule) became effective in September 2009 we now have to have more comments allowed to regulations that went into effect 4 years ago.  Talk about waste of taxpayer dollars, this might be a good place to cut spending to balance the budget.

I’ve no heartburn with ensuring food safety or preventing SE, it’s a must in today’s food system.  As a matter of fact we have testing done on our farm for SE and Whole Foods who we sell our eggs to requires it of all egg producers they purchase from.  What I do have heartburn with is that FDA is taking aim at those who allow real and true outdoor access for their laying hens and more specifically  certified organic which outdoor access is required in the National Organic Standards.

Since 2009, USDA has been allowing certified “organic” industrial sized farms that reportedly confine as many as 100,000 hens in a building to sneak around the organic requirement of outdoor access with screened in porches which allow a small percentage of the confined hen’s outdoor access.  The screened in porches can have flooring of concrete, dirt, or grass.  I can guarantee that there is no grass available for hens to naturally forage on in a screened in porch that provides outdoor access for 100,000 hens however USDA has been seeing it differently, allowing the porches to be claimed as legal structures.  Before you know it this will become the new “free range”!

FDA’s new guidance document includes covered porches as one of the four types of outdoor access systems for organic being used.  This has many of the real organic producers who implement real outdoor access in an uproar.  Decidedly, USDA and FDA have legitimized and paved the way for industrial organic production.  Before long, the National Organic Standards for eggs will be so eroded that the only difference between an industrial and industrial organic egg will be the type of feed fed to the hens.  That my friends will also become debatable as more often than not the organic feed supply will be compromised.

Back to FDA’s food safety “guidance document”!  Recommendations are that SE can be prevented through avoiding contact with wild birds.  Theory is that wild birds are a carrier of SE.  Oh please!  I’ve heard this same old song and dance with avian influenza in recommendations for biosecurity.  It’s an industry line that is supposed to legitimize confinement.  Nothing more and nothing less!

FDA is recommending to organic egg producers noise cannons, temporary confinement, netting to cover outdoor area, or structures with roofs (meaning porches) to avoid contact with wild birds.  I’ve many arguments against this.

First and foremost – Remember the giant egg recall for SE contamination?  The eggs recalled were from industrial farms raising tens-of-thousands confinement hens not from hens outdoors on pasture. What wild birds were flying around in the confinement houses?  Research abounds indicating that the threat from SE contamination comes from large scale industrial operations not from small scale pastured poultry.  It couldn’t be coming from the filthy conditions inside of confinement houses, could it?

Getting down to the nitty gritty, porches or structures with roofs is not outdoor access.  Let’s get real about this. When consumers think of organic certified that picture includes animals freely roaming outdoors on pasture.  FDA’s new guidance document misleads consumers as well as confuses them as to what organic is allowed to be.

Having a noise cannon to play with might be fun!  I wonder if you need a permit to own one and if there is a background check before you can buy one.  Are they expensive?  While you’re blasting away to scare wild birds off your hens will be taking shelter and shaking in their boots.  I imagine you will have some mortality in your flock as your noise cannon scare your hens to death.  I don’t think that using a noise cannon would be in the best interest to the welfare of your hens.

Utilizing “temporary” confinement until the threat of wild birds goes away might become permanent confinement as some wild birds don’t really go away.  Netting to cover the outdoor access area would be an unrealistic approach.  True organic includes maintaining soil health and is accomplished in part through pasture rotation.  It would be way too costly  and impossible for a real organic farmer to cover all pastures with netting.  Maybe that is the aim of the recommendations – make it too costly to allow hens on pasture and they will switch to confinement!

It appears that nothing is sacred anymore.  Ironically but not surprising is that the organic movement was scoffed at by industrial ag not so long ago dubbing it as coming from “left over hippies”.  Now that organic has become a huge market it is something the big boys want into and to take over.  It’s all about money and industrial ag knows that organic is big bucks these days as more consumers question where their food is coming from and how it’s raised.

This is not something new for industrial ag.  Takeover is what they do best.  Going back in history the same scenario can be seen when vertical integration and contract farming was ushered in and independent farmers were ushered out.  History is repeating itself and the deck is being stacked in favor of industrial ag.  Independent farmers had the choice of jumping aboard the train or get out of the business before the train runs you over.  Will the same be said for the future of organics?

Insanity in the House of Representatives

In keeping with the apparent theme of insanity running wild in Congress the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill. Of particular interest to me is an amendment introduced by Congressman Steve King (R), Iowa. Known as the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act” (PICA), King is crowing its victory of inclusion in the final markup of the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill.

Essentially, PICA “prohibits states from enacting laws that place onerous conditions on the means of production for agricultural goods that are sold within its own borders but are produced in other states”, says Kings website.

Specifically, King points to “free-range eggs” or “free-range pork” saying that “PICA will ensure that radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence.” According to meatingplace, King’s statement wasn’t as well crafted, saying the amendment will “shut down the Humane Society of the United States, PETA and other radical organizations from creating a network of restrictive state laws that will slowly push agriculture production towards the demise.”

Iowa’s egg farmers lead the nation in egg production, caring for nearly 60 million laying hens producing nearly 15 billion eggs per year. That’s almost one out of every five eggs produced in the United States, says the Iowa Egg Council (IEC). What isn’t said is that the great salmonella enteritidis outbreak in 2010 was linked to DeCoster Eggs, whose huge egg production operations in rural northern Iowa prompted the recall of 550 million eggs and sickened roughly 2,000 people. IEC also doesn’t tell you that a former manager in the network of companies owned by Jack DeCoster, plead guilty in 2012 for his role in a conspiracy to bribe a federal inspector to allow the sale of unapproved eggs.

California is at the crux of the issue when state legislation becomes effective in 2014 requiring only ‘free range’ eggs are sold. Voters in California and other states choose this. King argues that “the impact of their [CA] large market would compel producers in every other state to invest billions to meet the California standard” of production methods.

This has nothing to do with protecting interstate commerce. It has everything to do with protecting industrialized animal production and forcing its products on states that clearly don’t want them. Wouldn’t it be nice if all farmers could get a guarantee of business mandated by our government?

It appears that Congressman King is promoting farm animal practices which aren’t conscientious of animal welfare, public health, or food safety. King only knows that his state produces a lot of eggs which translate to big bucks!

What can one expect from a congressional member who rabidly defended “pink slime” in 2012? Using phrases and words such as “lean finely textured beef”, “enhancement”, and “supplement”, King went on an aggressive campaign pledging congressional hearings against those who conducted a “smear campaign” against pink slime.

Adding salt to the wound, other members of the House Agriculture Committee went along with Kings amendment.  INSANITY!

Note: All links accessed 05/17/2013

United Egg Producer Certified….. For Real?

Warning – Sit back in your chair and grab a beverage, this one is lengthy.

One would think that as many years as I have under my belt in industrial animal production that nothing would surprise me let alone faze me. In other words I’m somewhat jaded.

A friend sent me a link to a video clip on You Tube that left me shaking my head and asking “are you serious”. A slick campaign has been conjured up to convince the general public that The United Egg Producers (UEP) have the “premier animal welfare” for their laying hens with their very own seal of certification.

After watching, I set out to discover exactly what it meant to be UEP certified not realizing what a herculean task this would be or how confused I would become. Like most, I first searched the internet and found web addresses for uepcertified.com, unitedegg.com, and uepcertified.org. Having a suspicious mind when I find that there is a commercial web address (.com) and a non-profit web address (.org) for the same entity, red flags rise up, and it warrants further investigation. I found that all three are one and the same – promoting corporate ag and caged/non-caged egg production in confinement buildings.

Further confusion came when I read the UEP website, unitedegg.com, and I quote, “United Egg Producers (UEP) is a Capper-Volstead cooperative of egg farmers from all across the United States and representing the ownership of approximately 95% of all the nation’s egg-laying hens.” I didn’t realize that independent farmers were producing the majority of the eggs in this country I thought the eggs came from the vertically integrated system whereby a corporation owns everything except the mortgage on the farm they contract with and the manure their animals produce. I warrant that this needs further investigation, but that’s for another time!

Wading through all of the B.S., and I’m being polite here folks, I came out having to go back a second and third time to figure it all out. I printed out the freely available UEP Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks which was found on both the .com and .org websites thinking that was the best place to start.

The 31 page document begins with a short history of egg laying chickens starting in the 1940’s and stimulates a not so wonderful picture of “small backyard flocks” producing the majority of eggs for our country at that time. It’s all in the wording folks that will lead you to think that industrial production and caged confined conditions that the corporate types now use are the best thing since sliced bread.

The first item that gave me a good chuckle is the claim that “the modern cage system has eliminated most diseases of the 1940’s, provided the hens with protection against the weather (environmental controlled housing) and predators, while also improving food safety, the environment (air and water), and animal welfare”. My perpetual habit of talking to myself left me wondering aloud “are these people for real”?

Most chicken diseases prevalent in the 1940’s have been eliminated, if not eradicated, due to development of vaccines, not cages. Secondly, “environmental controlled housing” is for the purpose of controlling every aspect of the chicken’s short life and wringing the most production out of the chickens. These people don’t give a hoot about protecting the hens the hens need to be protected from their way of thinking!

The insinuation that the modern cage system has improved food safety made me almost hysterical. Not so long ago a huge egg recall occurred because of salmonella and consumers becoming ill. The record speaks for itself. The companies involved are part of this confined housing caged system and UEP links to their website. I’d be willing to bet that the company is a member of UEP!

The claim of the modern caged system being an improvement for the environment “(air and water)” is more than hysterical. I had to stop reading and thinking for a while because I was simply flabbergasted. One of the talking points of federal legislation that UEP is promoting, H.R. 3798 that amends the Egg Products Inspection Act is – prohibition of “excessive ammonia levels in egg-laying henhouses”.

Highly acclaimed benefits of confined caged laying hens is that tens-of-thousands can be raised in a small amount of space (confinement building). Most often the building takes up less than one acre of land. Naturally, the hens excrete waste in the form of manure and an excessive amount of ammonia is produced. Where does everyone think that ammonia goes? For the benefit of those who don’t know – the excessive amounts of ammonia are released from the confinement houses into the air by way of huge exhaust fans. Not only is the ammonia released into the air, it comes back down onto the land and water as nitrogen making it available for excessive amounts of runoff into our waterways.

Secondly, how in the world does UEP think they are going to be able to stop the hens from excreting waste and producing ammonia inside of a confinement building, caged or not? If the theory of giving more space to the hens, which is included in the legislation I’ve mentioned, everyone better think again. This won’t reduce the number of hens inside buildings. Industry will only build the housing larger to accommodate the same number of hens, if not more.

The part about improving animal welfare gave me indigestion! No matter which way you spin it, a cage is a cage whether it is conventional, enriched, or cage free confinement buildings. The “enriched cage system” is the crux of the entire campaign and unbelievably “HSUS has embraced this which I wrote about in an earlier post. On the flip side evidently HSUS believes that this system will improve conditions for caged laying hens, making a trade-off that anything is better than nothing!

UEP’s Animal Husbandry Guidelines allow for beak trimming citing advantages that may include, and I underline the word “may”, reduced pecking, reduced feather pulling, reduced cannibalism, better feather condition, less fearfulness, less nervousness, less chronic stress, and decreased mortality. What this means is that beak trimming keeps the hens from picking on one another. If the hens weren’t bored to death being confined in a cage they wouldn’t peck on one another they would have other interests in pecking such as worms, bugs, grasses, or other items in the real natural environment.

The drawbacks of beak trimming cited by UEP guidelines are inability to feed, short term pain, perhaps chronic pain, and acute stress. Obviously and in the mind of UEP, these are all fair tradeoff’s in the welfare of the hens so that long term the hens don’t peck one another to death out of boredom from being caged. Never mind that inability to feed or chronic pain is at issue as well. I don’t suppose the thought that the entire method of raising confined caged hens is not in the best interest to the welfare of the animal.

UEP’s talking points for the proposed federal legislation says that it will provide egg laying hens with “nearly” double the space of current conventional cages and add “”enrichments”” such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas that will allow birds to express natural behaviors.” Sounds good when one looks at the words however the hens will still be in cages!

As I’ve evidenced in my great egg adventure, our hens express natural behaviors by running, jumping, flying, perching, flapping their wings at will, dust bathing and digging holes until they are almost covered, foraging for worms, bugs, and grasses and many other antics they decide to participate in. They also have nesting boxes and are able to run freely inside and outdoors. That my friend’s is expressing “natural behaviors”!

Furthermore, and according to UEP, “Today there are approximately 235 egg farmers with flocks of 75,000 hens or more. These farms care for about 95% of the approximately 290,000,000 laying hens in the United States.” How can there be only 235 farms raising 290,000,000 laying hens in this country? I found it impossible to find the number of acres utilized however I think the numbers above are self-explanatory.

I noticed in the many video clips available from UEP that the hen houses and cages are immaculate and promote thoughts of a sterile environment. Anyone who’s ever raised livestock or has been inside of a barn knows that animals naturally defecate however from what UEP is showing their hens must not do it. Quite frankly the inside of the confinement caged hen houses is cleaner than most human populated houses according to the pictures shown. Maybe we should all go and live in hen houses!

In my wanderings through related info and websites I found that UEP had a contact person from GolinHarris for further info about the legislation I’ve mentioned. My first thought was “what’s a GolinHarris”? I took a peek and found a piece of interesting info and decided to look no further because it was enough to figure out what a GolinHarris is -“For our clients, Communicate to Win is a driving force for building, sustaining and protecting corporate brands and reputations around the world.” Of course there’s a lot more words on the website, enough to make my head spin.

UEP is spending big bucks to drive through legislation that will define labeling allowances for eggs – Require labeling on all egg cartons to inform consumers of the methods used to produce the eggs, such as: “”eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” eggs from cage-free hens,” and “eggs from free range hens.” Aha! Eggs from hens in enriched cages…….. A little too obvious for me! Why anyone in their right mind would think that defining the type of cage or confinement makes it better for the hen’s welfare is beyond me. Doesn’t congress have better things to do than protect those who would mislead consumers into thinking that eggs from “enriched cages” are somehow better?