April 7th, 2011 - Jill Ettinger
A Florida bill passed late last month making any photos obtained from illegal entry to a factory farm a misdemeanor crime. The proposed felony targeted trespassers, typically animal rights advocates capturing abusive and neglectful conditions, but the Florida Senate Committee downgraded the violation.
Read More:Secretive Factory Farms Push for Felony Penalties of Investigators
December 27th, 2010 - Jill Ettinger
Recent research published by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment reveals a growing number of antibiotic resistant strains of pathogens used in livestock animals.
Read More:Got Antibiotic-Resistant-Make-You-Sick Milk?
December 10th, 2010 - Jill Ettinger
If you haven’t seen it yet, Food & Water Watch launched an incredible updated version of its online Factory Farm Map. Users are able to view the locations and drastically increased numbers of factory farms between 1997 and 2007. Sort by cattle, dairy cows, pigs, broiler and layer chickens, or view them all at once to see the massive impact factory farming has on our country.
Read More:Map Reveals Massive Increase in Factory Farming
November 9th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., a Jackson, Miss.-based producer and marketer of shell eggs, is recalling approximately 24,000 dozen unprocessed eggs purchased from Croton, OH-based Ohio Fresh Eggs, LLC, because they may be contaminated with salmonella.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently notified Cal-Maine that a routine sample taken at Ohio Fresh Eggs tested positive for the bacterium. The affected eggs were processed Oct. 9–12 and distributed to food wholesalers and retailers in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. No illnesses have been reported to date.
Read More:New Egg Recall Affects Consumers in 8 States
October 26th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Remember Galt, IA-based Wright County Egg—the key factory farm involved in August’s recall of 500,000 eggs after a multistate salmonella outbreak? The company whose owner, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, was called a corporate criminal by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich?
After the recall, DeCoster was required to outline corrective actions in a formal letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Not surprisingly, the agency has found his proposed measures to be sorely lacking. Kansas City District Director John W. Thorsky has sent DeCoster a warning letter that requires “prompt and aggressive actions” to correct a host of unresolved problems. If DeCoster fails to comply, the FDA can enjoin his company from selling eggs or seize the foul farm.
Read More:FDA Should Shut Down Iowa Egg Farm
October 15th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
In First They Came for the Cows: An Activist’s Story, Vermont farmer Sharon Zecchinelli has written a fictionalized account of her battle with federal farm regulations.
Zecchinelli’s target: the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)—a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that collects data on farm animals.
The book exposes how the USDA provides loopholes for massive industrial farms, favoring corporate operations at the expense of family farmers and consumers.
Read More:Book Explores Threats to Family Farms
August 31st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Iowa-based Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms—the two producers responsible for the recall of 500,000 eggs potentially contaminated with salmonella—should be put out of business.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, last week said these companies were “not operating with the standards of practice that we consider responsible,” according to the New York Times.
Now we know some of the specifics: These factory farms, whose eggs have sickened roughly 1,500 consumers, were overrun with rodents, maggots and flies, and chicken manure heaps. Henhouses were filthy and broken down, with rusted holes, structural damage, unsanitary employees and seeping manure.
Read More:Egg Recall: Disgusting Conditions Confirm Dangers of Factory Farms
August 22nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Salmonella can infect the eggs we buy in two basic ways:
- Hens with infected ovaries or oviduct tissue contaminate eggs before they’re laid.
- The bacterium can penetrate the shell when a laid egg is exposed to fecal material.
“We used to think that just washing the eggshell, and using Grade A shell eggs, would keep us safe,” says Patrick McDonough, PhD, a professor of microbiology and clinical bacteriologist at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. “However, we know that infected hens do not show clinical signs and that the infection is harbored in the ovaries. When the shell is laid down, it actually covers the yolk, the albumen [egg white] and the infection.”
In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration enacted new egg safety requirements for producers with 50,000 or more laying hens (about 80% of our egg supply). The rules, which the FDA estimated would reduce egg-related salmonella infections by nearly 60%, mandate:
- Buying chicks and young hens only from suppliers that monitor for salmonella bacteria
- Establishing rodent and pest control, as well as biosecurity measures, to prevent the spread of bacteria throughout the farm by people and equipment
- Conducting testing in the poultry house for salmonella enteritidis, with specific measures for handling infected eggs
- Cleaning and disinfecting poultry houses that have tested positive for salmonella enteritidis
- Refrigerating eggs at 45°F during storage and transportation, no later than 36 hours after the eggs are laid
Many experts say proper precautions could have prevented the Wright County Egg recall, and the New York Times reports that company owner Jack DeCoster “has had run-ins with regulators over poor or unsafe working conditions, environmental violations, the harassment of workers and the hiring of illegal immigrants.”
Per the Times, DeCoster previously paid a $2 million fine to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And Robert Reich, President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, called DeCoster’s workplace “an agricultural sweatshop.”
“If all works as it is supposed to, we would not have salmonella enteritidis outbreaks,” Dr. McDonough says. “Because we know the risks and how to control, prevent or mitigate as appropriate, the number of outbreaks should be able to be decreased. This is especially important, as we have a growing aging population, and these people are one of the groups especially at risk.”
In the meantime, going organic can help protect you from the dangers posed by factory farms.
Photos: Farm Sanctuary
Read More:How Did Salmonella Contaminate So Many Eggs?
August 21st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
I wish I could tell you that the ongoing egg recall is under control, with all affected egg brands clearly delineated and successfully pulled from market shelves.
Unfortunately, Iowa-based Wright County Egg sold its products to a slew of major grocery chains, retailers and distributors, and additional recalls are likely to be announced. To wit: Hillandale Farms of Iowa yesterday issued a new recall, as did Los Angeles-based Country Eggs, Inc. on Thursday.
Investigative journalist David Kirby, author of Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment, noted in Thursday’s Huffington Post that cheap eggs are destined to make us sick. As he writes:
“Salmonella is largely a problem for factory-farmed eggs. Laying hens raised in organic or sustainable conditions are allowed to peck around outdoors for grubs and high-quality feed provided by farmers who are as concerned about animal health and the safety of the food they sell as they are about keeping their costs—and prices—to a minimum. These eggs are less likely to carry disease, and to me at least, they taste a whole lot better.”
Be sure to check out Kirby’s July 15 post, American Factory Farming: You Owe It to the Animals to Watch This (Video). It makes a trip to McDonald’s all the more maddening.
Photo: George Grinsted
Read More:Egg Recall Highlights Benefits of Going Organic
May 27th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Grocery giant Safeway has announced it will increase sales of cage-free eggs—from 6% to 12%—over the next 2 years.
The decision follows a study published last month in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization, which reveals that California’s Proposition 2—legislation passed in 2008 that outlaws cages for hen-laying eggs by January 2015—had “a significant effect on consumer preferences for eggs, increasing demand for cage-free and organic eggs by 180% and 20%, respectively.”
The study shows that “the very act of putting an issue like Prop 2 on the ballot affects consumers’ preferences—likely because consumers are largely unaware of, and have incorrect beliefs about, modern agricultural practices,” concludes author Jayson L. Lusk, PhD, a professor of agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University.
Dr. Lusk found that, despite higher prices, demand for cage-free and organic eggs increased 180% and 20%, respectively, in response to news stories about Prop. 2, even as overall egg demand remained the same.
“California egg producers have an opportunity to thrive by meeting this demand and abandoning cruel cages,” says Jennifer Fearing, who managed the YES! on Prop 2 campaign for the Humane Society of the United States.
Safeway’s 1,712 North American stores include the Vons, Pavilions, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Carrs and Randalls grocery chains.
Read More:Safeway Responds to Demand for Cage-Free, Organic Eggs