Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 1, Edition 17

Product focus: Inside the new welfare branding

September 12, 2013

Three pioneering approaches offer a window on rising trend to watch

There's no doubt changes are coming in livestock welfare. There are numerous drivers at different levels of industry. But impossible to ignore is the major role the big food brands are playing in both responding to and shaping consumer expectations.

Is this good or bad? What approaches bode well for producers and what don't? There's lots of room for discussion and debate.

One thing important for producers and their industry is to keep the radar tuned to what's happening. Here's a snapshot of three leading examples of welfare-related branding among mainstream food industry players today. While over 60 major companies ranging from Safeway Canada to Kraft Foods have announced welfare-related shifts to come in the next decade, these examples are ahead of the curve showing commitments right now, right on the product label. A key trend to watch in the months ahead.

  • Hellman's Real Food Movement
  • Ben & Jerry's Caring Dairy
  • Costco and Wal-Mart private egg labels

Click here to read the full story.

Sow housing changes propel pork producers into uncharted territory

September 12, 2013

No guarantees switch from stalls to pens will result in improved sow welfare

If you don't tell your story, someone else will.

That's the reality facing pork producers under public pressure to switch from sow gestation stalls to pens. In this case, University of Pennsylvania professor and sow housing researcher Dr. Tom Parsons says the industry has often been forced to play defense.

Instead of being first out of the gate to communicate the complexity of sow welfare, the issue has been reduced to the question of whether a gestating sow has the freedom to move around, says Parsons. "The industry is left to find ways tell a more complicated story."

Click here to read the complete feature article.

This article is Part II of "New frontiers in sow housing." Missed Part I? See it here: Research shows shifting from stalls to pen gestation can work.

Issues Watch: Fallout on Beta-agonists

September 12, 2013

Recent decision sends shockwaves through cattle industry

News of the decision by industry giant Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. to stop buying cattle fed the beta-agonist zilpaterol (commercial name Zilmax) sent a jolt through the industry and has fueled the rising fire of debate around this type of widely used feed supplement.

Is this first among many big dominoes to fall? Are the animal welfare concerns surrounding beta-agonists anecdotal or widespread? A number of experts and industry watchers are weighing in and NewStream Farm Animal Care will follow the developments closely.

Within a few days of the Tyson move, Merck & Co. animal health division, while expressing confidence in the product, announced in light of the concerns it would temporarily suspend sales of Zilmax in the U.S. and Canada. The company has also since introduced a "Zilmax Information Centre" on its website. See it here. Zilmax is one of two major beta-agonist products on the market.

Future of livestock welfare takes spotlight

September 12, 2013

Codes, Assessment models and where Canada is headed

The upcoming National Farm Animal Care Conference, Oct. 9-10 in Ottawa, is an opportunity to hear the latest on what's coming and what it means for producers and other stakeholders.

Registration and agenda details are available here.


September 12, 2013

Quick takes on key activity and what's coming, from NewStream editors

Beef Code hits the ground

Ryder Lee of CCA

The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle has been released. There has been no shortage of viewpoints from a range of perspectives on everything from the Code development process to what the contents of the new Code mean for producers and their industry. One person who has had a front-row seat is Ryder Lee, Manager of Federal and Provincial Relations, Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

"Canadian cattle producers care for their cattle every day", says Lee. "What that care entails is not often fully understood by people unfamiliar with livestock production and the practices of the industry in general. The updated Code will give people a better understanding of all that's involved in raising beef cattle. And they can feel good knowing that the Code takes into account science-informed practices that are practical for producers to use and meet the public's expectations for animal care."

There is sure to be lots of reaction and key developments ahead as the real work now begins for those championing the new Code to get it understood and followed. Watch for updates and analysis in future editions of NewStream Farm Animal Care.

PETA under the microscope

The organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is used to making headlines, but not in this way.

The New York Times reported this summer that PETA, regarded by many as the most recognized animal rights group in North America, has alarming statistics related to its own animal treatment. One of its main animal shelters, in Norfolk, Virginia, euthanizes an average of about 2,000 dogs and cats each year at its animal shelter here, while facilitating surprisingly few adoptions - 19 cats and dogs in 2012 and 24 in 2011, according to state records.

The newspaper notes that at a time when the major animal protection groups have moved to a "no kill" shelter model, PETA remains a holdout. The organization says part of the reason is the poor shape many animals are in when received by the shelter. But the story is a reminder that there are many layers to the animal rights issue and even high profile animal rights groups such as PETA face tough choices and challenges. Something the livestock industry can keep in mind when PETA raises the temperature in rhetoric targeting livestock production.




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