The future of high-welfare, environmentally and financially sustainable livestock farming is brighter than industrialized agriculture would have us believe, says a panel of experts convening on May 4, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. in Washington, DC for a public discussion, “Green Pastures, Bright Future: Taking the Meat We Eat Out of the Factory and Putting it Back on the Farm.” The panel discussion is presented by Animal Welfare Approved in cooperation with the Pew Environment Group.
Participating on the panel are investigative journalist and author of Animal Factory David Kirby; author of the best-selling Righteous Porkchop Nicolette Hahn Niman; chicken farmer and whistle-blower in the Oscar-nominated documentary "Food, Inc." Carole Morison; and rancher, veterinarian and president of the American Grassfed Association, Dr. Patricia Whisnant. The discussion will be moderated by Andrew Gunther, program director for Animal Welfare Approved.
P.T. Barnum famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and if he were alive today, he would probably be cozily ensconced in the corner office of a large agricultural company--particularly one that makes its profits selling industrialized animal farming to the public. Award-winning journalist David Kirby’s gripping new book, Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment (St. Martin’s Press), exposes industrialized agriculture for the cruel, polluting, disease transmitting, manure-soaked con game that it is. Think that’s too harsh? By the end, one of the everyday heroes that makes the book such a compelling read, hardy ex-Marine Rick Dove, ends up with a severe case of antibiotic resistant E. coli after a tumble in a creek flooded with chicken manure from a nearby industrial chicken operation. The infection nearly kills him.
Rick Dove is just one of the ordinary citizens-turned-activists that Kirby follows in Animal Factory, and he wisely lets the power of their stories drive the narrative. For Rick Dove of New Bern, North Carolina, Helen Reddout of Yakima Valley, Washington and Karen Hudson of Elmwood, Illinois, farming originally meant what we’ve all been taught to believe—happy animals standing in lush grasses with a welcoming red barn in the background. It’s not until Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, known as CAFOs, move nearby, complete with stench and large manure spills, that they begin to realize what today’s industrialized agriculture really represents. Polluted fields and waterways, cruelly confined and mistreated animals, dreadful working conditions, fish kills, stink, illness.
In the changing agricultural landscape of the 21st century, Americans are rediscovering their connection to food and how it’s produced. In the process, they are also discovering a desire to hear the stories of the visionaries, farmers and ordinary people guiding how food is produced so that it better reflects our values and ideals.
The stories are out there—books and films that chronicle the people and events vital to ensuring safe, humane, nutritious food reaches every table. Animal Welfare Approved is pleased to be launching a new section of its website dedicated to finding and reviewing the books and films that inform, educate and inspire.
We're kicking off our reviews with a look at Nicolette Hahn Niman’s Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. Published last year, it’s already a classic in the field.
Tyson Foods’ recent agreement to settle a lawsuit for falsely advertising its “raised without antibiotics” chicken brand has received limited media coverage – no doubt to the relief of the company’s boardroom. And with an annual turnover of nearly $27 billion, they probably won’t sweat too much over the $5 million that the company must now shell out as compensation to unhappy customers.
In falsely marketing its chicken meat as produced from birds “raised without antibiotics” while still feeding them antibiotics, Tyson Foods was shamelessly exploiting the growing public concern over the excessive use of antibiotics in industrial farming, particularly in the form of non-therapeutic growth promoters.
But while the intensive meat industry continues to vigorously oppose any attempts to reduce antibiotic use in farming, the irony is that Tyson Foods may well have inadvertently shot itself in the foot by publicly admitting that the overuse of certain antibiotics in industrial farming really is a threat to human health.
Where does our school food come from and how is it produced?
To investigate some of these issues, Animal Welfare Approved sponsored a one-week, three-city tour for the UK Dinner Lady, Jeanette Orrey. Jeanette is credited with changing school food in the UK, and AWA sponsored this visit to promote cross cultural dialogue and share her experiences with people working to make change in several US school districts. Following two days in New York City, the tour continued south (via Amtrak), to Baltimore City Public Schools and Arlington (Virginia) Public Schools. (Pictured: Nancy Easton and Chef Bill Telepan of NYC nonprofit, Wellness in the Schools and Baltimore City Schools' Great Kids Farm Manager Greg Strella.)
Animal Welfare Approved, the nation’s leading certification label for family farmers raising their animals with high welfare standards, is hosting Jeanette Orrey, the United Kingdom’s famous “Dinner Lady” (that would be a lunch lady on this side of the pond) the week of January 11th. Orrey is a leader in the U.K.’s efforts to provide school lunches made of fresh, local organic food. She will be visiting with school officials, farmers and proponents of healthy school lunches in New York City, Baltimore, Maryland and Arlington, Virginia.
Accompanying Orrey on her journey will be Animal Welfare Approved staff, Bill Telepan, chef/owner of Manhattan’s Telepan Restaurant, and Nancy Easton, a New York City teacher for 20 years. Telepan is a long-time Animal Welfare Approved supporter and a board member of Wellness in the Schools. Wellness in the Schools is a grassroots organization that promotes children's environmental health, nutrition and fitness within the New York City public schools. Easton co-founded Wellness in the Schools and serves on its board. The New York City school system serves approximately 1.1 million students.
We at Animal Welfare Approved are privileged to work with some of the most amazing farmers in the world. They are leading the transition back to pasture-based farming, and pioneering a new agriculture that seeks to heal our planet while providing healthy, nutritious food to all.
This year, as you prepare for a holiday that celebrates the bountiful harvest farmers have provided, we ask you to take a moment to thank a family farmer for the good food that nourishes you. Join us in celebrating National Farm-City Week by using the comments section of this blog to tell us about the farms that will fill your Thanksgiving table this holiday season and throughout the year, and why they matter to you.
Take a moment to write a few words of thanks to your neighbor farmers, farmers from your farmer’s market, your CSA provider, and any family farmer you appreciate.
Dr. Mohan Raj, a world-renowned expert in humane slaughter and farm animal welfare, has been tapped to lead Animal Welfare Approved (AWA)’s newly formed Scientific and Technical Advisory Board, AWA Program Director Andrew Gunther announced today.
Raj is currently the Reader in farm animal welfare at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. He is one of the foremost authorities in the field of humane stunning and slaughter and the developer of a novel and humane slaughter system for poultry and pigs using inert gases. Raj has published over 40 original scientific papers and authored chapters in textbooks and reference books.
The Animal Welfare Approved program has experienced tremendous growth over the past year, Gunther notes. The creation of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Board is the next step in aiding the program in retaining its reputation as being driven by practical science while still grounding the standards in the everyday reality of farm life. “Dr. Raj will be instrumental in ensuring AWA standards respect and reflect the needs of the animals and farmers while not compromising good care,” Gunther says. “We are honored and fortunate to have Dr. Raj at the helm of our new Board. His experience and knowledge is second to none in the field.”