Well Done, Everyone! (The King Amendment is Dead!)

By Pamela Deleon, intern, Compassion in World Farming

Back In August 2013, Compassion in World Farming, along with hundreds of other animal rights, human rights, and environmental rights activists, organized a call to action to defeat the King Amendment to the Farm Bill. The amendment would have blocked any state in enacting and enforcing their own agriculture standards on animal welfare which are stronger and more protective than current federal laws.

It was especially targeted for California, which in 2008 passed a law requiring all eggs sold in the state to come from chickens that were kept in spaces that allowed for reasonable movement, like being able to turn around and stretch their limbs. The passage of the amendment would have meant power being taken away from any other state that has sought or is seeking to pass their own laws, where federal laws fall short, to protect animals rights. It would have meant that states would have no say in how their meat products are grown.

Thanks to the collective efforts of various advocacy groups and public involvement through your petitions and your calls to your congressional representatives, this amendment was defeated and was unable to be integrated into the Farm Bill. This recent win for animal rights and all animal rights supporters goes to show how resounding public opinion can influence federal laws. It does not mean our fight is over; it only gives us more reason to keep pushing on!

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Antibiotic use in factory farms: When a medical advancement becomes a threat to public health

By Pamela Deleon and Rachel Dreskin

The development of antibiotics was a massive medical breakthrough. People infected by once life-threatening diseases such as tuberculosis can in many cases now be cured with a simple prescription for antibiotics. But somewhere along the way we started over using antibiotics to the point where the bacteria began forming new highly dangerous, antibiotic-resistant strains that are a major threat to public health.

Antibiotics and farm animals

Several decades ago, the factory farming industry figured out that administering antibiotics to farm animals made them less prone to sickness and disease. So, they began routinely giving them antibiotics – and lots of them. According to the FDA, a staggering 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States are consumed by animal agriculture.

For years, the public health and medical community have warned against the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms. Despite these warnings, antibiotic usage continues to be a major threat to our health, and very little is being done about it. In a recent CNN op-ed article titled “How a cow could kill you: New antibiotics guidelines still fail to protect the public”, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter and John Hopkins University Environmental Science Professor Dr. Robert S. Lawrence warn that although hundreds of scientific studies have confirmed the link between antibiotic misuse in food animals and superbug infections in humans, industry lobbyists have blocked any significant act that would address this issue.1

Salmonella “superbugs”

Take for example the recent outbreak of Salmonella Heidelburg that has been linked to the poultry giant, Foster Farms. The CDC reported that a total of 430 people from 23 different states were infected by this antibiotic-resistant “superbug” bacteria that can be traced back to three California Foster Farms locations.                                        

Early findings from the CDC have shown that an alarming 56% of individuals who have been infected from the outbreak, who took part in the study, exhibited resistance to one or more antibiotic drugs.2 This means that antibiotics that have traditionally been effective in treating salmonella infections did not work for over half of those affected by this dangerous strain.

Types of food poisoning that could have been easily treated with antibiotics in the past can be deadly today. Given that most large-scale factory farms, like Foster Farms in California, send their meat products all over the country, and sometimes all over the world, outbreaks are visibly becoming increasingly more dangerous and far-reaching.

What we can do right now

Although data on how much antibiotics are actually given to animals grown in factory farms is a well guarded industry secret, FDA has a reported 29.9 million pounds of antibiotics

were sold for use in meat and poultry production in 2011.3 Daily use of antimicrobial drugs on food animals is commonplace in the meat industry even with mounting evidence from scientific literature that supports the idea that misuse and overuse can result in evolved antibiotic-resistant bacterias.3 Organic farms, on the other hand, only use antibiotic for treatment of diagnosed diseases, and they use it sparingly. Not only is organic farming safer for the animals in those farms, but ultimately safer for the public’s health.

By supporting humane and sustainable farms, you are lessening the demand for animal agriculture that is heavily supported by the irresponsible and routine overuse of antibiotics. Find farmers in your area or visit your local green market. Get to know your farmers, ask them questions and become knowledgeable about your food choices. Unlike many industrial farms that spend millions trying to keep the truth from the public, sustainably-minded farmers are happy to talk and answer any questions you may have.

  1. Slaughter, L. M. and R. S. Lawrence (2013) How a cow could kill you: New antibiotic guidelines still fail to protect public. http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/27/opinion/fda-antibiotics-guidelines-opinion
  2. (2013). Multistate Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Heidelberg Infections Linked to Foster Farms Brand Chicken. http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/
  3. Kim, B. F., et al. (2013). Industrial Food Animal Production in America: Examining the Impact of the Pew Commission’s Priority Recommendations, John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-a-livable-future/_pdf/research/clf_reports/CLF-PEW-for%20Web.pdf


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The most important thing you’ll ever do for farm animals

This may be the most important thing you ever do to protect farm animals.
End of cycle broiler chickens inside typical growhouse
Steve King is a Congressman from Iowa. He got an amendment in the Farm Bill which could nullify and prevent future state laws from protecting agricultural workers, family farmers, and the environment. As well, dozens of state animal cruelty laws are likely to be nullified including those against extreme confinement of farm animals, horse slaughter, and puppy mills.

A committee has been formed to create a final Farm Bill, where this amendment sits. Georgia’s Senator Saxby Chambliss is on this deciding committee, along with Congressmen David Scott (Jonesboro and Smyrna) and Congressman Austin Scott (Tifton).

Georgians hold the key to stopping this amendment that will turn back the clock for animal protection.

We need you to contact Senator Chambliss today. Urge him to reject the King amendment. If he is your representative, contact Congressman David Scott (Smyrna/Jonesboro)or Congressman Austin Scott (Tifton) and ask him to reject the King amendment in the Farm Bill.

Here is what you might say:

“As a Georgian concerned about the future of our farmers, farm workers, environment and animal welfare, I hope you will not support the King Amendment in the Farm Bill.”

Please forward this to your friends!

If you are not in Georgia, you can also contact your representative  or Senator and ask them to oppose the King amendment!

We need volunteers to protect farm animals by stopping this amendment. Please contact us today if you can help.

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Second Annual Pastured Poultry Week

June 10-16 2013, Georgia and New York City.

A celebration of humane and sustainable pasture raised chicken

Over 70 restaurants are expected to participate in Georgia and New York, helping celebrate the virtues of pastured poultry by featuring it on menus between June 10 – 16. Why pastured poultry? Because it’s better for the environment, your health, and your taste buds! Because we believe chickens belong on pasture.

Why pastured poultry?

Pastured Poultry Week is a celebration of humane and sustainably produced pasture raised chicken.

Over 70 restaurants are expected to participate in Georgia and New York, included esteemed restaurants such as  the Lion (Manhattan), ABC Kitchen (Manhattan), Marlow & Sons (Brooklyn), Bantam & Biddy (Atlanta), Farm 255 (Athens) and Ecco (Atlanta). Participating restaurants are helping celebrate the virtues of pastured poultry by featuring it on menus between June 10- 16.

Pasture raised chickens can take up to twice as long to reach the same weight as a factory-farmed bird due mostly to the slow growing breed that is used. This slower growth is an important factor in healthy development and good welfare.

Pasture raised chickens are given plenty of space and enrichment to allow a chicken to be a chicken! The animals in these systems are allowed to express their natural behaviors, like scratching, pecking, wing flapping and perching.

Raised out on pasture with slower growth rates and less crowding, these animals don’t require routine antibiotics. Furthermore, being out on pasture and being raised extensively can have a beneficial impact on the environment. Their waste can act as a very valuable natural fertilizer for the pasture.

Pastured poultry is not your average factory-farmed supermarket broiler. Like a fine wine, or handcrafted cheese, pasture raised chicken is referred to by chefs, like Shaun Doty of Bantam & Biddy, as having superior flavor.

In short, pastured chicken is better for the environment, animal welfare and human health – not to mention your taste buds!

To find out more about participating restaurants or pastured poultry go to:

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The End of Ag-Gag in Sight?

By Kristine Dennis

This month Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam vetoed bill SB 1248/HB 1191, one of a number of recent attempts to pass so-called ‘ag-gag’ bills.  This followed on from huge public outcry when both the House and Senate passed the bill in the week earlier.  The bill proposed to seriously limit the ability of animal cruelty whistleblowers to collect evidence of animal cruelty, and even criminalize them for doing so.  Had the bill passed, it could have made animal cruelty whistleblowers the criminals, rather than the actual abusers.

While vetoing the bill, Governor Haslam cited three major concerns with the law as it’s proposed.

“First, the Attorney General says the law is constitutionally suspect.  Second, it appears to repeal parts of Tennessee’s Shield Law without saying so.  If that is the case, it should say so.  Third, there are concerns from some district attorneys that the act actually makes it more difficult to prosecute animal cruelty cases, which would be an unintended consequence.”

At a time when ag-gag bills are being considered across the U.S., the message of Haslam’s veto sends a strong and clear message.  Ag-gag bills will not be accepted by the public.  Not only do these bills potentially violate basic rights as defined by the constitution, they hinder whistleblowers from exposing illegal acts of animal cruelty.

Last week brought yet another ag-gag bill, the Commerce Protection Act, under review in North Carolina. The bill shares similar language to other ag-gag bills across the country.  The public, media and NGOs are once again rally for this bill to be rejected, despite some strong government support.

Let’s hope that North Carolina goes the way of Tennesee.   The failure of Tennessee’s bill may mark the beginning of the end of a failed attempt to keep the public in the dark about factory farming and the way animals are treated in these inhumane production systems.


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Reclaiming “Humanely Raised”

By Kristine Dennis

As consumers, we all struggle to navigate the complex and often unclear labels covering the foods we purchase while trying to make informed decisions based on where our food has come from and how it was grown/raised.

A class action lawsuit regarding this issue was filed by two members of the Humane Society of the United States against Perdue, one of the largest poultry producers in the country. The suit was first brought against Perdue in 2010 claiming a violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, alleging false advertising of their “Harvestland” and “Perdue” chicken products as “humanely raised”.

In an exciting development over the past month, a federal court in New Jersey has denied Perdue’s arguments for dismissal. This brings the case forward into a pre-trial phase of evidence collection and trial later this year. The lawsuit alleges that most consumers would not consider the conditions under which these chickens are raised “humane”. The standards allow for housing conditions that prevent normal resting behaviors, transportation of birds for long distances with no food or water in extreme temperatures, painful handling and ultimately inhumane slaughter.

Perdue’s primary defense has been that consumers do not expect “humanely raised” to apply to slaughter. The court opposed this argument stating that the labeling could reasonably be understood by a consumer to apply all the way through slaughter. Chicken slaughter by Perdue does not fall under any federal humane regulations (poultry is currently not covered under the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act).

With consumer demand growing for “humanely-raised” products, this case emphasizes the need to hold companies accountable for their labeling. Ensuring that the raising and slaughtering practices that a label and price represent is key to both the consumer and the poultry producers who truly are leading the way in humane practices.


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Unsafe at These Speeds

By Kristine Dennis

Last week Southern Poverty Law Center released a comprehensive report discussing the dangers of poultry plants for both workers and consumers. The report  “Unsafe at These Speeds” is the product of 302 interviews with Alabama plant workers and reveals the injuries, illnesses, and inequalities they face every day.

Of those surveyed, 72% reported significant work-related injury or illness. As this survey and other studies have shown, higher rates of injuries are documented among poultry workers, particularly musculoskeletal disorders. Although many of these injuries are concentrated in the hand and wrist, one-third of workers also specified pain or injuries in their back, shoulder or arm.

The workers come from low-income areas, are often immigrants, and are typically considered disposable by employers due to their circumstances. Given these factors, they are left with little opportunity to speak up for themselves due to risks of retaliation or firing by employers.

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has no specific regulations that require poultry plant workers to be protected from musculoskeletal disorders. Additionally, musculoskeletal injuries and lacerations which primarily impact poultry workers are currently exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements provided they are not linked with more severe outcomes such as death or loss of consciousness. Ergonomics programs have been shown to successfully decrease repetitive-motion injuries and the risk of other musculoskeletal disorders yet no standard requirements currently exist.

Line-speed was identified by 78% of the workers surveyed as making them feel less safe and increasing pain and injuries experienced. The USDA regulates line speeds for food safety and has recently proposed to increase line speeds from a maximum range of 70 to 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute. Along with this proposed regulation, there will be fewer USDA inspectors on processing lines, leaving already overwhelmed workers with the responsibility of inspecting chickens for abnormalities and contaminants as they speed by. (Even if a designated USDA inspector is within the plant, they will have one-third of a second to inspect each chicken.)

Alabama is the third largest poultry producer in the United States and employs 75,000 people through the industry. With so many people directly impacted by the lack of OSHA regulations to protect poultry workers and the current proposal by the USDA to increase line speeds, this is a critical time for regulations to be put in place that protect workers rather than leave them in greater danger. The report summarizes the importance of this issue stating “Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas, the three leading poultry-producing states, are not among the 27 states that have job safety and health standards approved by OSHA as being at least as effective as federal standards. It is the responsibility of policymakers to protect the hard-working people who produce our nation’s food.”

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Good Food = Good Health

By Kristine Dennis

With spring quickly approaching and fresh, local food on our minds, it was a fitting time for the 16th annual Georgia Organics conference. This year the focus was on the way fresh food from the farm can be a vehicle for improving and maintaining health. With the obesity epidemic impacting everyone from young children to adults, the focus of this conference couldn’t come at a more needed time. 

The conference provided in-depth workshops for everything from farming and gardening strategies to food access and job creation through urban agriculture. Educational sessions were also held covering everything from the details of farming to the broader implications of policy to the ultimate goal of health.

Pastured poultry featured high on the agenda as usual! A special session, Pastured-Poultrypalooza, discussed the growing demand for pastured-poultry products in Georgia. Two of Georgia’s leaders in pastured poultry, Will Harris of White Oak Pastures and Chad Carlton of Carlton Farms, led the session focusing on the management and legal requirements for successfully developing a pastured farm model all the way to processing and marketing. Georgians for Pastured Poultry had a table to help conference-goers learn more about where they could buy pastured poultry and why it was important to get behind this growing alternative to factory farmed chicken. A few lucky people even won Dan Imhoff’s book –  CAFOs – The Tragedy of Animal Factories for stopping by and answering one of our trivia questions!

In conjunction with the conference, Georgia Organics is piloting a new farmers market prescription program. Once adequate funding is met, the hope is to work with both a pediatrician and obstetrician to provide resources for preventive health through better diet and opportunities for children to have early access to healthy foods. Keep an eye out for new programs such as this promoting the interaction of food and health!

With such a diverse conference bringing together leaders in farming and health, an incredible amount of energy was generated behind the push for a healthier, more sustainable future.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table!!!

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Perspectives on Pastured Poultry & High Animal Welfare

By Jenni Harris

At White Oak Pastures, we take pride in farming. We aren’t animal scientists or nutritionists with facts and figures that explain every part of what we do; we just know what feels “right.” Right, these days, looks and feels different to each person asked. For us, pastured poultry is “right” for many reasons: furthering the Serengeti rotational grazing model, fertilizing our farm in a completely different way than ever before, and adding variety to the meats we are able to raise and process.

At White Oak Pastures, we are proud to raise ducks, geese, guineas, and turkeys seasonally in addition to our year-round pastured chicken program. This July, we are expecting about 5,000 heritage breed poults to put on pasture to be ready just in time for Thanksgiving.

I hope eating pastured poultry doesn’t exclusively become a seasonal event and that you will integrate this sustainable food model into your everyday diet!

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Atlanta Hosts 65th Annual International Poultry Expo

By Kristine Dennis

This past week Atlanta hosted the International Poultry Expo (IPE) for the 65th year. Over 25,000 attendees traveled from all over the world to hear about new technology developments and updates from all elements of the industry including processing, marketing, feed production, etc. With current large-scale industrial poultry and egg production practices, there are inherent animal welfare issues.

Currently, 40 billion meat chickens are slaughtered each year across the world with 9 billion produced in the U.S. The realities of industrial production are hidden from consumers with often misleading or meaningless labels.

The true picture is as follows:

-25,000 chickens, each with only the space of an 8”x11” sheet of paper

-each animal has been genetically selected for rapid growth. He or she grows so rapidly his or her heart, joints, and lungs often can’t support the chicken, frequently leading to debilitating leg conditions, breathing difficulties, and heart problems among many others.

- a lifespan around 45 days in dim lighting with limited stimulation until being roughly packed into cages for transport to slaughter

A recent article in Food Safety News http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/01/why-we-havent-seen-inside-a-broiler-chicken-factory-farm-in-a-decade/#.UQWHBY6lrMA describes in greater depth exactly “Why We Haven’t Seen Inside a Broiler Chicken Factory Farm in a Decade”.

By the end of IPE, we hope attention was swung to components of production that will have a high impact on animal welfare and open the door to future discussions about improving the lives of billions of animals. As highlighted by Leah Garces in the above article, “Key issues like the welfare problems caused by fast growing breeds, the overcrowding, the barren environment, and the lack of natural light will need to be recognized and addressed.”  Two conference sessions—Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit and Poultry Handling may have provided a platform for some of these issues to be discussed in the future.




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