Haha! I love this. So cute. Check out some of the other comics! There are a lot of funny ones on there.
Saw this video on a friends page today. This is a video recorded by a poultry science Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. He basically says the same things I was saying in my blog last week. It's nice to hear him talk about it though since he's a Ph.D. and speaks much more eloquently than I.
Here are his points in a nutshell if you don't have time to watch the full video (though I highly recommend giving it a watch):
PeTA is one of the biggest causes of headaches for people in agriculture. They are one of the most supported, high budget, animal welfare groups in the country; they are also one of the most misinformed. Actually I’m not sure that PeTA is misinformed but they are one of the biggest misinformers. I will put the link to one of PeTA’s articles here for you to check out if you like and then I’m going to go through and point out all the BS!
Before I start let me say this: I am not against PeTA. Shocking, I’m sure. I don’t agree with everything (most things) they say and sometimes what they say is complete garbage; however, they are trying to help (I think) and their efforts do put pressure on corporations to do the right thing. I can’t find anything wrong with that. I wrote a term paper on animal welfare when I was in high school and I like to think that I'm pretty damn hardcore about it; I've been that way since I was a child. There is no way I could do what I do on a daily basis if I knew I was mistreating animals.
“Every year in the United States, almost 300 million turkeys are killed for their flesh. Virtually all spend their entire lives on factory farms and have no federal legal protection.”
I actually was surprised to find out that PeTA is right about there not being any federal legal protection for the welfare of turkeys. Many places have their own welfare programs (we do) in place but a lot use or build from the program that the National Turkey Federation (NTF) puts out called “Animal Care Best Management Practices,” you can find that here. Animal Welfare is a big public concern and all major turkey producers take it very seriously.
“Turkeys raised on factory farms are hatched in large incubators and never see their mothers or feel the warmth of a nest. When they are only a few weeks old, they are moved into filthy, windowless sheds with thousands of other turkeys, where they will spend the rest of their lives.”
It’s true that poults (baby turkeys) are hatched from large incubators and never see their mother or feel a nest; however, I don’t see how that’s such a bad thing. Poults, like all poultry, are precocial (meaning they are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of hatching, the opposite is called altricial and that refers to most songbirds who are basically helpless after hatching) and don’t really need their mothers for much more than protection and warmth, both of which we supply when they are brought to my farm. As for the nest part, well that’s just funny. Have you ever seen a turkey nest? Here I’ll show you.
Looks comfy right? Yeah I didn’t really think so either. They aren't missing out on much there. As for the "filthy, windowless shed" bit, the barns are far from filthy but it's true that there aren't real windows in them. However, there are plenty of places for natural light to come in through the fans and inlets.
“To keep the birds from killing one another in such stressful, crowded conditions, parts of the turkeys' toes and beaks are cut off, as are the males' snoods. (The snood is the flap of skin under the chin.) All this is done without any pain relievers. Imagine having the skin under your chin chopped off with a pair of scissors.”
Where I work we don’t toe trim anymore because we didn’t see any adverse effect from leaving the toes on & it also made our litter quality better; it’s like having 10,000 little rakes keeping the litter turned over. The beaks are not “cut off” but we do trim the tip of the top part of the beak (maxillary beak) with an infrared technique the day they are hatched. There is a different article on PeTA’s site talking about how they aren’t administered any pain medicine during the procedure, well neither are baby boys during circumcision and people still have their children circumcised. At least beak trimming is done for a reason other than appearances. You could kill a baby turkey, who weighs somewhere between 45-85 grams at hatch, very easily trying to give them any kind of pain medicine. We also don’t de-snood where I work but the same procedure applies to the snood as to the beak & toes. I think of it the same way I think of circumcision. Yes it hurts them when it’s done but I doubt they remember the pain. They are also 100% wrong about the snood being on the neck. The snood is that part that hangs down over the beak.
Seriously PeTA? You couldn't even take the time to get the anatomy right?
“Millions of turkeys don't even make it past the first few weeks of life in a factory farm before succumbing to "starve-out," a stress-induced condition that causes young birds to simply stop eating.”
On my farm we usually lose about 100 birds (out of 10,000) due to starve-out during the first week, but it’s not a “stress-induced condition” and the birds don’t “simply stop eating,” they never started. If you perform a necropsy (animal version of an autopsy) on a starve-out bird you will find its crop, stomach and intestines empty. The bird never eats or drinks a single thing. It’s a strange thing because there are plenty of places to find food & water. Here’s a picture so you can see what I mean.
Food & water everywhere! It’s a sad thing but there’s nothing you can really do about it. The same thing happens in wild birds sometimes. It’s just one of those things.
“Turkeys are bred, drugged, and genetically manipulated to grow as large as possible as quickly as possible to increase profits. In 1970, the average live turkey raised for meat weighed 17 pounds. Today, he or she weighs 28 pounds. According to one industry publication, modern turkeys grow so quickly that if a 7-pound human baby grew at the same rate, the infant would weigh 1,500 pounds at just 18 weeks of age. Turkeys are now so obese that they cannot reproduce naturally; instead, all the turkeys who are born in the United States today on factory farms are conceived through artificial insemination.”
The part of that first sentence saying, “turkeys are bred, drugged, and genetically manipulated,” is misleading. Turkeys are bred to grow as large as possible as quickly as possible this is true and it is done through breeding programs. They pick out the biggest/fastest growing toms (male turkeys) and breed them to the biggest/fastest growing hens (female turkeys). There’s really nothing sketchy there. It’s no different than a dog breeder. You select the traits that you want your offspring to have and you allow those animals to mate. They are never genetically manipulated for growth, that’s impossible for now. I’m not sure what they mean by drugged. Some places feed probiotics in hopes that it will help with weight gain but, at least in my experience, they don’t make a difference. I know some farms used to feed antibiotics as a growth promoter but that is illegal now even if it weren’t too expensive. I don’t know about the growth rate comparison, whether that’s true or not. Turkeys are definitely not “obese” that was an “LOL!” moment for me when I read that. “Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems.” – Wikipedia. Turkeys have an extremely low fat percentage. That’s why all you health conscious people substitute it for beef when you cook! They are definitely not obese. It is true that all turkeys are conceived through artificial insemination (AI). This is because of the large breast muscles that turkeys have; it makes them too heavy to fly up on the back of the female to mount. I actually think it’s better for the hens that they don’t have to put up with natural mating. Broiler breeder chickens aren’t so lucky and usually end up losing the feathers on their back and getting all scratched up from the males mounting them.
“Their unnaturally large size also causes many turkeys to die from organ failure or heart attacks before they are even 6 months old. According to an investigative report in the Wall Street Journal on the miserable conditions on turkey farms, "It's common in a rearing house to find a dead bird surrounded by four others whose hearts failed after they watched the first one 'fall back and go into convulsions, with its wings flapping wildly.'
Our birds are raised to 42 weeks of age and I never hear about anything like this happening. If it did there would be a huge problem. Our biggest problem is pecking; which is when the turkeys will peck one another to death, this is the reason why we beak trim. There is definitely something wrong if turkeys are just falling over left and right having heart attacks. That sounds like a nutrition problem. Something is missing from their feed that is causing that to happen.
“Factory farm operators walk through the shed to kill the slow-growing turkeys (so that they don't eat any more food), such as those who fall ill because of the filthy conditions or become crippled under their own weight.”
No. We don’t. We only cull (“the process of removing breeding animals from a group based on specific criteria” –Wikipedia) turkeys that are sick and suffering and wouldn’t have lived any way. Any time we cull a bird it’s because we want to stop them from suffering. If we didn’t cull eventually they would die from starvation which is a much more horrible way to die. At my farm the only way we cull is by cervical dislocation. There are other ways to euthanize animals but this is the best method for my farm. Having to euthanize an animal is never easy or fun. Veterinarians and people who work with animals just have to accept this as part of life. It doesn’t mean we like doing it. I hate having to euthanize my birds but I can do it because I know it’s what’s best for them. I’m sure vets feel the same way. At least I’m spared the agony of having to go tell a kid that their best friend isn’t going to make it and that putting him to sleep is the best option. I could never be a pet vet. I have nothing but the utmost respect for y’all. Also my barn is never filthy. As soon as a flock moves from my farm to the finisher farm we clean out all the used litter with a Bobcat. Then a contracted power washer company comes out and power washes everything in the building. We then disinfect the barn twice with two different kinds of disinfectant. And just in case that isn't enough we also fog our buildings with a third disinfectant. So it's pretty freaking clean!
That's the inside of my barn with the turkeys around three weeks old. Looks pretty clean to me. That being said the barns do get pretty dirty during the 26 days that I have my turkeys. That's because they are growing feathers which is a very dusty business.
Well I don’t want to end my blog talking about euthanasia and dust. So instead I’ll tell you about watching turkeys run. Whenever you walk into a barn as soon as the turkeys see you they instantly RUUUUUUN as fast as they can to get to you. It’s hilarious; especially when they’re about two weeks old. Every time I see them all I can think about is how they look like little T-Rex’s running at me. Then I instantly think how terrifying it would be to see a turkey the size of a T-Rex. Good thing I wasn’t around for all that.
Did you know it's quite possible that the chicken is actually the direct descendant to the T. Rex? Read this to find out!
People these days are starting to (finally) question where their food is coming from and the quality of the food that they are eating. These are good things! People should be asking these questions. A problem arises when we blindly accept answers from people without ever questioning their credentials. Now I'm not claiming to know it all but as someone who works in the industry I probably know a whole lot more than your average Joe on the subject. Today when I was just browsing around the blogging world I found a perfect example of one those people who "drank the Kool-Aid." I will post the link to their blog then I'm going to go through and pick out the parts dealing with poultry to try & help clear up some common misconceptions. There are some parts in the blog that talk about plant GMO's & other things that aren't relevant to my field of expertise. I know a little about those subjects but for this I'm going to stick to what I know best; and that's poultry. On to the obligatory disclaimer.
***All animal husbandry practices referred to in this blog are from personal experience. This is how I do things on my farm. Obviously not all farms will adhere to as high of an animal welfare standard as we do (although most do & I will explain why in a minute). Also I have never seen Food Inc. although I probably will watch it when I get a chance. I'm sure I will have a lot to say about that as well. I'll make another blog after I see it.***
Here we go:
You can find the blog I'm talking about here if you're interested.
There is so much BS at the very beginning of this blog but most of it is that persons personal opinion so, whatever; she is welcome to that no matter how unfounded I suppose.
"The chickens, pigs and cows are raised in small, cramped areas; many unable to move. They are fed corn as their main diet which causes quick weight gained pumped with steroids and anti-biotics to hopefully offset being infected with disease or the e coli strain, and produce quick results so they can be slaughtered more quickly. Many of the producers of these animals refused to allow cameramen the ability to film the conditions in which these animals were raised, for fear of being dropped by one of the meat companies."
I raise turkeys. All of my animals are able to move around as much as they want. They have way more than enough space; especially when we first get them. In fact they have so much space that we have to put up cardboard rings around the heaters to confine them in so that they don't wander too far away & get cold. When they are older they are allowed more & more space until they are free to roam the entire pen. Never at any point do the turkeys not have enough room to move.
[Before I move on to the next part I just want to tell everyone a little secret about the poultry industry. Any idea what our industries biggest motivator is? Want to know the answer? MONEY! Whoa! Crazy, right? Just like every other business out there. And I'm sure some of you are thinking "OMG this is horrible! How can you say that!? Don't you even care about the animals!?" Of course I do. Not everybody out there does but that doesn't make a difference. The fact that money is our industries biggest motivator is also what keeps the animals safe from the people who don't really give a crap about their welfare. How can that be? Let me explain. Growers (people who raise animals) want to make money. They want to make as much money as possible. How do growers make money? By selling the animals that they grow. How are they paid? By livability (% of animals still living) and body weight. So what does that mean? It means growers want to sell as many animals as they can with the highest body weights they can achieve. How do they get this? By raising happy*, healthy animals! Because unhappy, sick animals die! And even if they don't die they definitely will not weigh as much as the healthy ones. Animals are more active when they feel good. Just like you & me. When you're sick you don't want to do anything but lay down & take a nap right? Same with the birds. When they're sick they just lay around not eating or drinking which means that they also aren't gaining any weight. Follow me? Okay, good. Back to the other blog.]
"They are fed corn as their main diet..."
Poultry is fed corn IN their diet. But that is not the only thing in there by a long shot. There is also soy, sometimes wheat or other grains, vitamins & minerals, fats, etc. Their diet doesn't cause quick weight gain, their genetics do. We have bred them to gain weight quickly.
And now my FAVORITE (read: sarcasm) misconception that they are "pumped with steroids." OH. MY. GOD! Nothing makes me want to slam my head against a concrete wall MORE than hearing someone say this. If you get nothing else from this blog please take away this one thing: WE. DO. NOT. FEED. STEROIDS!!! And yes it was necessary for me to bold, italicize and underline that. Want to know why we don't feed steroids? Go re-read that paragraph in the brackets. M-O-N-E-Y!!! Steroids are crazy expensive! Also you can't just grind some 'roids & throw it in the feed for them to eat & turn into a Schwarze-turkey. Steroids just don't work that way in poultry. If we wanted to see muscle gains from steroids in birds we would have to inject it intravenously, daily. That would take a lot of time & labor. And as we all know, time = MONEY. So that is NOT happening. The costs would greatly outweigh the benefits even if you didn't have to inject it intravenously.
Next subject: antibiotics. Yes we feed our birds antibiotics. Because turkeys get sick. A lot. Much more so than broilers (chickens). I'm not sure why that is but it's true. We never start our turkeys on antibiotics. We don't do this for a couple of reasons, #1 MONEY (you're going to see this one a lot, might as well get used to it), #2 it will kill the gut flora (beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion) & we do not want that. We don't want to kill the gut flora because then the birds have a harder time digesting their food which means they aren't getting the nutrients that they need & that means that they aren't going to grow as big or they are going to die. Also when you give too many antibiotics or if they're on them too long it can cause crop mycosis which is the poultry equivalent of a yeast infection. Not fun. They don't like it & neither do the growers because the birds stop eating. Next thing. People worry about these "super bugs" coming out because we feed our poultry antibiotics & that the bacteria is becoming resistant to them. Well that could happen but it most likely won't affect you. It affects the birds who get sick from those bacteria. There are only a handful of zoonoses (diseases where animals & humans are both affected & can infect each other) that pertain to poultry. The ones we hear about the most often are e. coli, salmonella & avian influenza. Animals are also not allowed to have been on antibiotics a week before processing. Which means by the time the animals gets to the processing plant there shouldn't be any more antibiotics in their systems.
"Despite the debate about the contribution of antibiotic use in veterinary medicine to the overall resistance development in human pathogens, the data suggest that clinical resistance to fluoroquinolones in Escherichia coli and nontyphoidal Salmonella is generally uncommon, except for a few countries." - Journal of Applied Microbiology; Feb2012, Vol. 112 Issue 2, p239-245, 7p, 8 Charts, 2 Graphs
And obviously we don't treat AI with antibiotics. When there's an AI outbreak all the animals are destroyed. So you don't have to worry about antimicrobial resistance there. I know AI is a virus by the way & that viruses can't be treated with antibiotics but they are sometimes fed during virus infections to ward off secondary bacterial infections.
"One woman, who became sickened with her part in this animal cruelty and altering allowed cameras in to film her chickens. She explained that because they grew so quickly, the bones and joints couldn't keep up with the weight gain and therefore, many of the chickens were unable to walk more than a couple feet and some were not able to move at all. Daily, she removed dead birds from the barn which housed 1000's of chickens at one time. Because of the ability to "grow" animals more quickly, time frames are cut in half and producers can begin a new batch of animals much sooner than they would if the animals were raised under "old fashioned" standards."
Yes that can happen if you don't feed your animals correctly. The same thing can happen to humans & all creatures with bone growth. That's a problem with what she's feeding. Not with the animals. I bet if someone tested that feed there would be some kind of calcium/phosphorus ratio imbalance. Here's a site where you can check into that. (I didn't use a journal article since this is a less controversial topic.)
"The film showed how meat was cut up, pulled apart and washed in ammonia to kill potential viruses and diseases. It is then added to the meat that hasn't been treated in an effort to lower the risk of contamination. The fact that the animals are not washed or cleaned during slaughter, and they are caked with their own feces; made me vomit a bit in my mouth;knowing that the meat I was eating contained feces that wasn't visible."
I hate to be nit-picky but also you can't "kill" a virus since it's not alive, but okay. I don't know about the ammonia wash part, usually meat is washed with chlorine water. Although other products are sometimes used. But there is no meat that isn't treated. It's all washed. From the time the birds go through the picker, where they are de-feathered, to the time they are packaged they are constantly being washed. They also spend a long time in a chiller, where there is even more disinfectant. I guess my point is that you are never going to be eating feces.
"Look for 100% grass fed animals and wild fish rather than farmed fish to avoid GM meat. Eggs that are non-GM are harder to find. Many of the chickens are raised with corn feed and drugs. Some non-GM brands are Eggland's Organic, Egg Innovations Organic, Land O'Lakes Organic, Wilcox Farms Organic and Organic Valley. Foods that you buy at Whole Foods; or have labels from Amy's Kitchen, Wildwood, White Wave, Sunshine Burger and Vitasoy will be GM free."
Okay that first part doesn't have anything to do with poultry but, encouraging people to avoid farm raised fish just pisses me off because we're already over-fishing; but I digress. Referring to eggs as GM is hilarious because there is absolutely nothing genetically modified about them at any level. All poultry is raised on "corn feed," I covered that part earlier. One of the companies that sells an organic brand he listed came to talk with us at The University of Georgia. Basically you are just paying twice as much for the same damn eggs. The quality of the egg is no better than the non-organic egg; sometimes it's worse. What you're paying for is the amount of birds (& therefore money) it takes to get those eggs. To be labeled "certified organic" you're not allowed to feed antibiotics so if your flock gets sick in the year or so that you have them then that's just too bad. You just have to hope they get better or if the situation gets really dire you can give them antibiotics but then you're no longer allowed to sell them as "antibiotic free," even if they are only on antibiotics for a week. Ever notice how organic eggs are so much smaller than the non-organic kind? That's probably because they mostly come from young hens who haven't had a chance to get sick yet. Younger hens produce smaller eggs than older hens. I don't want to eat eggs from sick birds. Do you? I think I'll stick with the antibiotic fed, healthy flock. You wouldn't let your dog or cat stay sick just so you can avoid giving them antibiotics would you? Well I feel the same way about letting my birds stay sick. Whatever though, those companies selling organic eggs are laughing all the way to the bank. If you don't take the time to make informed decisions when you go to the grocery store then it's your own damn fault if you get swindled & I don't feel sorry for you.
Here is a link that tells you what the different labels mean.
This is the USDA's regulations for products that are labeled "organic."
I think next time I'll talk more about organic & free range stuff. What do y'all think? Any questions or suggestions for the next blog?
*I try not to anthropomorphise as a rule of thumb because you can't really quantitate "happiness" in animals but I'm not trying to get published in a journal here so I'm going to use the word!