We at Animal Welfare Approved applaud the USDA and HHS for creating an important and useful new website, www.foodsafety.gov. The site's purpose is to help consumers find consolidated up to date information on food safety and food recalls. We want to remind our readers that food safety begins at the farm and is directly related to the farming system utilized. Between January 1, 1994 and November 31, 2007, over 800 separate meat product recalls took place across the United States – equivalent to over 300 million pounds of meat and poultry products. Nearly all of the recalls were the result of the potential contamination of factory-farmed meats with two types of food-poisoning bacteria: Listeria and E. coli. We know that a safer, welfare-friendly alternative to feedlot beef already exists. Scientists have shown that meat from grassfed cattle – such as those raised by Animal Welfare Approved farmers – is less likely to harbor dangerous food-poisoning bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria.
This week, Animal Welfare Approved and Wild Turkey Farms hosted a poultry processing workshop to train potential users of the new mobile processing unit (MPU). Funded by a Good Husbandry Grant and built by Wild Turkey Farms, this plant-on-wheels can travel to area farms for on-farm processing – minimizing transport stress on the animals and providing farmers an economical processing alternative (rental rates start at $45/day). Techniques on humane slaughter were demonstrated as well as cervical dislocation for emergency euthanasia. Attendees learned the importance of humane handling and catching to ensuring product quality and took home some good tips on effective product presentation.
Many farmers raising birds for meat operate under the 1,000 bird exemption, meaning that they are not required to have an inspector on-site at the time of processing. However food safety is even more important for the small farmer than it is for a large plant, and sanitation, biosecurity and recordkeeping were emphasized as important tools to ensure a safe product for the consumer. A very knowledgeable and gracious staff from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, including Don Delozier, State Director for the NCDA&CS Meat and Poultry Inspection Division and Compliance Officer Melanie Pollard, presented on the relevant regulations for on-farm processing, how to comply and where to go for more information. The attendance of state officials was sincerely appreciated and added a great deal to the workshop. The information learned will not only help to ensure that farmers are upholding the highest standards of food safety, but will also help them avoid costly mistakes. Composting Specialist Brian Rosa from the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources talked about how to properly compost processing waste while maintaining environmental quality and complying with state regulations. This engagement of state officials with farmers at the on-farm level was a much appreciated gesture of openness and approachability. As one farmer told us, “It was the information I needed.” To find out about future workshops and events, sign up for the AWA email list, join us on Facebook or visit our Upcoming Events page.