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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The most abused animal on earth

What is the most abused species of animal?

Is the worst animal abuse on earth the annual dolphin massacre in Taiji, Japan? Clubbing baby seals in Canada? Chinese fur farms? No, it's actually modern chicken agriculture.

Cornish Cross Broilers

The US alone produces over seven billion (that's billion, with a "B") meat chickens each year. The birds are raised indoors in confinement houses with tens of thousands in one building. The conditions are so poor that the birds have to be given antibiotics just to stay alive. 80% of antibiotics in the US are administered to livestock and poultry, not people, for this reason. Some birds can't cope with the freakishly rapid growth that has been painstakingly bred into them for decades and their heart and other internal organs just can't keep up. Birds that die this way are called "flips" and dozens are usually cleaned out of each house daily.

Confinement Broiler House
After just 6 or 7 weeks, the survivors are loaded onto trucks, often kicked and thrown, and are taken to a processor. If they are lucky, the birds are electrically stunned before going into a hot water scalder, but the stunning system is prone to failure and many birds go into the bath fully conscious and aware they are being boiled alive.

Broiler Processing Plant

The egg industry is no kinder. 97% of egg layers raised in the US are confined to battery cages where they only have 45 to 67 squares inches of space per bird. They spend a year is this small cage then are killed to make room for younger, more productive birds. These are the lucky ones who were born female. The males of the egg laying breeds are killed the day they hatch, most often by being thrown in mass into a high speed grinder while still alive.

Battery Hen House

This has been the state of modern chicken production ever since just after World War II and the rise of modern confinement agriculture. This system has perfected mass production at the lowest price by sacrificing the welfare of the chickens, as well as the nutrition and taste of the product.

What can we do? You can vote with your dollars. You can choose more ethical options. We will be discussing these options in our next post.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Announcing our first Project, Free DVDs!!!!!

Have you ever seen the movie "Pay It Forward"? Here's how IMDb describes it:

Young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother's alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward--repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. Trevor's efforts to make good on his idea bring a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his physically and emotionally scarred teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him

The amazing part of the movie is that after the boy dies (spoiler, sorry) his mother learns that he has actually made a difference in hundreds of lives. Most of those people didn't even know Trevor, but were connected in a stream of caring and helping that changed lives. And that movement is still growing and working even after Trevor's death.

Who wouldn't want to be part of something that amazing?

So, our first project is called "Share It Forward". We are giving away copies of the awesome documentary "Food Inc." This film really opened my eyes into the real way our food is produced in America and what it really costs us.  You can not watch this film and not be affected.

To enter the contest you only have to "like" our Facebook page. That's it. But, if you want more chances to win you can share one of our Facebook posts and you get additional chances to win one of the DVDs. 

There is one catch; you have to promise not to keep it. We want to get as many people to watch this film as possible. After you, your friends and family watch it you need to give it away. Whoever you give the DVD to most also promise to do the same. See how this works?

In order to see if this is working, we are going to create a map where we will record locations where people have seen our DVDs. No names or addresses, just cities and the number of people who have viewed the film.How cool will it be to see a map showing where hundreds of people have seen the documentary thanks to you?

Ready to get involved?
  • Visit our Facebook page and click "Like"
  • Share one of our posts on your Facebook page
  • Buy your own copy of  "Food Inc." and share it forward! Be sure to let us know so we can include your info on our map!

We will be giving away the 1st DVD on Jan 10th. How many people will eventually watch it? I don't know, but I can't wait to find out.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Future Projects: a mobile processing unit for pastured poultry producers

Why would a non-profit organization that is fighting to reduce animal cruelty be involved in setting up a system to slaughter and process animals? Well, Temple Grandin is often asked “How can you care about animals when you design slaughter plants?” Her reply is that “some people think death is the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal.” She argues that “the most important thing for an animal is the quality of its life.”

If we are going to eat meat, and I surely am, then we need to understand the process by which that meat ends up on our plate. Unfortunately most consumers just turn a blind eye to meat production. I made a commitment to only eat ethically raised meat for the entire year of 2013. I learned a great deal about how available these products are; the short answer is "not very". 

We want to make ethically raised meat more available. A great example is pastured poultry.  Not only is it a more humane way to raise the birds, but it's also better for the environment, produces a more nutritious product, uses less fossil fuels, and puts a higher percentage of the profits into local economies. Joel Salatin claims that pastured poultry is the best enterprise for new farmers. Clearly, we need to promote pastured poultry. 

One of the biggest issues with the pastured poultry industry is the lack of processors. My nearest processor is 3 hours away in another state and it isn't Animal Welfare Approved. You could process yourself under the exemption, but that could never be Animal Welfare Approved and would cost a great deal to buy all the equipment that would be used only a few days a year. A mobile processing unit solves those problems. It could get the AWA seal of approval and disburse the costs of ownership over a number of processors. Hopefully this could make pastured poultry a more attractive enterprise and increase the number of producers in the target area.

This initial project would target southeast North Carolina. We already have a great marketing program called Down East Connect. Local farmers advertise their meat and produce on the website and take sold items to a central drop-off point on collection days. Down East Connect then sorts the items and takes them to several drop off sites in nearby metro areas. Down East Connect handles all the payments and the farmers get a monthly check. Buyers get bags of fresh produce, meat, eggs, jam, etc. from a variety of local farms.

Another advantage of NC is a result of the tobacco buyout program. When the government stopped the price support for tobacco, they gave payouts to farmers and setup several programs to help transition them to alternative agricultural opportunities. The Golden Leaf Foundation provides grants to government entities and non-profits that help provide these alternatives. Pastured poultry could be an option if we make processing easy and cost effective.

This all sounds great if you live in our initial target area of southeast North Carolina. What about the rest of the country? We will be documenting the process to make this as easy as possible to replicate as we can.
If you still can't get locally raised pastured poultry, we will provide links to online retailers. Of course, you could just raise them yourself!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What is ethical agriculture? It's farming without exploitative shortcuts. Ethical agriculture doesn't abuse livestock, people, or the environment.

The industrial farming system isn't trying to mistreat the animals they raise. It's just a byproduct of a system where animal welfare is never a real concern and businesses are only looking at profit margins.

It starts in the breeding programs that produce the livestock. Pigs are born to sows that live most of their life in a 7' by 2' gestation crate where they can't even turn around. Half of all egg layers have the misfortune of being born male and are thrown into a grinder soon after hatching. Modern breed turkeys are no longer capable of natural mating and must be artificially inseminated. In contrast, ethical breeding programs would provide comfortable housing, make more use of natural mating, and only produce livestock that have a chance of some type of reasonable life. Heritage breeds would be a common sight on ethically managed farms.

Ethical production methods would allow livestock to express instinctive behaviors; in fact most producers would use these traits to their advantage. Modern poultry, swine, and cattle confinement operations often have the animals living in terrible conditions; overcrowded, covered in manure, and lungs filled with ammonia. Ethical production would have animals that are clean, healthy, and happy.

Slaughtering procedures should minimize stress, keep animals reasonably comfortable, and render them insensible to pain before they are dispatched. Some of the most horrid examples of animal abuse come from slaughter facilities that fail to consider these basic ethical considerations.

Another aspect of agriculture is the treatment of people; more specifically, it's customers. The most glaring example is the lack of transparency. You wouldn't go through so much trouble to hide everything if their wasn't something worth hiding. The truth is that they are afraid that if you saw how your food was produced then you might not want to eat it. Ethical farms don't hide what they are doing, they are proud of it. That pride can be seen in the product. Ethical farms produce high-quality, great tasting food that is loaded with nutrition. Very high sanitation standards are also adhered to. In industrial farming the focus is on producing the maximum amount possible for the lowest cost.

More than half of all antibiotics produced in the US are administered to livestock. This is a direct result of the unsanitary conditions of confinement agriculture, if they weren't pumped full of medications then they couldn't survive in that environment. Repeated exposure to antibiotics promotes the spread of resistant strains. At the current rate, we may lose all effectiveness of existing antibiotics. Ethical farms would only use medication when required and would limit or eliminate exposure to other possible dangers(such as GMO grains).

Ethical farms help protect the environment. One way they do this is biodiversity. Industrial agriculture favors monocropping, plating an entire field with a single species. This causes soil chemical imbalance and allows faster rates of disease transmission. Ethical farms utilize polycultures such as companion planting, multispecies grazing, and "salad bar" pastures.

Chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides are overused in industrial agriculture. Ethical agriculture would greatly reduce or eliminate the use of these chemicals in favor of more natural types of controls. Examples would be guinea fowl for tick control or geese removing weeds from strawberry fields.

Finally, ethical farms minimize erosion by reduced tillage, cover crops, perennials and tree crops. Not only does this help maintain topsoil, but it also helps prevent flash flooding and sequesters carbon. Industrial farming plows fencerow-to-fencerow year after year. Organic matter in the soil burns up from oxygen exposure and greatly reduces the water holding capacity. Rain then runs off the farm instead of soaking into the soil and it takes the topsoil with it and can cause flooding. Without any water stored in the soil, drought conditions are exacerbated. Ethical farms can soak up rain and store it in the soil for later use.

Ethical agriculture is all about how we treat animals, people, and the environment. In the next post, we will talk about what EthicalAgriculture.Org will do to promote these ideas and what types of services we can offer.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Introducting EthicalAgriculture.Org

The website EthicalAgriculture.Org will be officially launched on Jan 1st. In preparation for that event, I will be making a series of blog posts to let everyone know what the website and the organization behind it are all about. I will be detailing who I am, what I think ethical agriculture is, what services this organization can offer, why you should get involved, and more in the next few weeks leading up to the official launch of the website.

My name is Robbie Perdue and I am a farmer. Farming isn't my career however, I'm actually a network engineer turned school teacher. I began raising livestock as a way to feed my children something I knew wasn't full of chemicals, antibiotics, or bacteria. Watching a news report on a child who died from E. coli by eating a contaminated hamburger will put fear in any parent.

I began by raising a few chickens in a dog kennel in the backyard and eventually tried ducks, geese, guinea fowl, pigeons, turkeys, rabbits, pigs, goats, sheep, and cattle. I currently manage a small farm, Waccamaw Pork & Poultry, where I produce pork, poultry and eggs from my own breeding programs. My livestock lives their entire life on my farm and only has one "bad" day. It's that bad day that led me to found EthicalAgriculture.Org.

I have filed paper work to form a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation in North Carolina called Southeastern Ethical Agricultural Services Inc. Once approved, I will complete additional forms to do business under the name EthicalAgriculture.Org. I have indicated that we intend to operate as a not for profit corporation with the main purpose to prevent cruelty to animals.

Industrial factory farms produced billions of chickens and hundreds of millions of pigs every year. The vast majority of these animals live in horrible conditions, are pumped full of antibiotics just to keep them alive, and then are slaughtered inhumanely. Current US laws even allow poultry to be slaughtered while still conscious.

I can't support any business that treats animals that way and you don't have to either. You can purchase high quality, great tasting products from local farmers who respect the environment and treat their animals humanely. Sorry, you can't find this at your local supermarket or discount store. With the exception of specialty stores such as Whole Foods, your best bet is buying directly from the farmer, either on-farm or at a farmer's market.

We get to vote three times a day. How will you vote?