With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we wanted to explain the difference between a turkey raised in a factory farm and a turkey raised Certified Humane®.
In factory farms, turkeys are so overcrowded, they often climb onto each other’s backs to get away from each other. Their talons tear into each other, causing pain and severe distress. Factory farms amputate the birds’ toes to keep them from doing this to each other.
Certified Humane’s strict standards don’t allow for turkey toe amputation. Instead, we require sufficient space to support the bird’s natural behaviors, such as flapping wings and moving around freely. Certified Humane® turkeys also must receive environmental enrichments, like bales of straw or hay, so they can perch above ground at night.
In factory farms, high-ammonia levels cause blindness for the birds.
Certified Humane turkeys raised in barns have strict air quality and air testing requirements.
In factory farms, birds are often exposed to continual light or routine darkness, which impacts how they eat, how they grow, and how they get along with other turkeys.
Certified Humane® turkeys must receive a minimum of 8 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness every day to maintain their natural life-cycles.
Currently, only a few turkey producers in the U.S. meet the Certified Humane® label standards of care for their whole bird turkey products. That’s because few turkey producers are willing to meet our strict Animal Care Standards.
But you can make a difference for turkeys this Thanksgiving.
First, look for the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label when you shop. To find stores that sell Certified Humane® turkeys and other products, visit Certified Humane’s “Where to Buy” page at www.certifiedhumane.org or download our free Certified Humane® App.
Second, pressure turkey producers to meet higher welfare standards. The goal of the Certified Humane® program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices. Please visit our Take Action page and take the Turkey Request Form to your local grocery stores.
Finally, please support Certified Humane®. Your donation today will help us educate farmers, conduct farm inspections, and guarantee that millions of farm animals will receive humane treatment throughout their entire lives.
Recently, a video surfaced about the welfare of some chickens on a Certified Humane farm. As soon as the video surfaced, we sent one of our highly-qualified poultry inspectors to do an unannounced inspection of the farm.
Whenever Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) receives a complaint about a farm on the program, we immediately investigate. We address all complaints and concerns about every farm in the Certified Humane program. We rely on our farm animal experts to review the living conditions of the animals, file a report with us, and ensure the farm is complying with our Animal Care Standards. If they are not, their certification is revoked.
This was the inspector’s report:
“The scope of this inspection was to determine the welfare and living conditions of organically raised brown hens at this farm.
On first inspection, all hens were active in all levels of the aviary system and litter. Hens were observed foraging, perching, preening, resting, and dustbathing. The feather cover of the hens varied widely. Many birds were 100% fully feathered (about 25%) while others had severe feather loss (about 25%). The majority of hens exhibited some degree of feather loss, although this is normal for the age of the birds (68 weeks at inspection). Approximately 25 – 50% of the hens observed were in a heavy molt, evidenced by major feather regrowth. It appears the hens in this flock were undergoing a natural molt, accounting for some of the feather loss.
Hens were observed for any signs of aggression or cannibalism and no evidence was found. There were no aggressive interactions observed by the inspector, and no vent injuries were found while walking through the house.
The litter condition in the house was very good, litter was dry and easily movable. Hens were observed foraging and dustbathing in the litter. Birds were observed in all parts of the housing system with no crowding at any time during the inspection. The hens readily approached the inspector and staff (4 people in total) and explored around us by pecking at our boots. As I walked down the aisle, birds perched along the aisle did not leave the perches, but observed me in a curious manner. This strongly suggests the hens had no fear of humans, and are treated in a kind manner on a regular basis.
Overall, my assessment is that the birds were in good condition consistent with their strain and age. Housing conditions were excellent with good management, especially with litter condition.
I don’t see how they could have walked into the barn and filmed that many bare birds without having moved them into a group themselves. There were too many feathered hens in the house. There were some bare birds, but it was a minority of the flock.
Personally, I think a lot of that video had to be staged. The dead birds they claim were cannibalized, were not. One has a prolapse, but there is no evidence of cannibalism; the other was likely cannibalized, but post mortem (after death, which is common in organic flocks.) I looked really hard for vent injuries, and didn’t even see a single scratch.”
An explanation of molting
The poultry inspector said the birds he saw were molting, a natural cyclical process that sheds old feathers and produces new feathers over the course of several weeks to several months.
It can be shocking to see molting birds since they will often look very scruffy and some will look ‘oven ready.’ A partial molt can sometimes take place earlier in the year, but this usually just involves the neck feathers that fall off and are replaced. Most molting occurs in the fall.
Laying hens start laying eggs at about 20 weeks of age. They start the molting process between 60 to 65 weeks of age. The hen begins to shed old feathers, then pin feathers grow in to replace them. As the pin feathers become full feathers, even more feathers are shed. This is a natural cyclical process. Because feathers make up 4 to 12 % of a bird’s body weight, molting birds often look scraggy and very underweight, have a reduced immune system and are susceptible to disease. They sometimes peck at each other during this process too.
Molting is designed to give birds a rest from laying eggs. During this time, the bird builds up its body reserves of nutrients. It also contributes to a longer life for laying hens. Contrary to criticisms of cage-free hens, birds with more living space produce and molt better than conventional caged birds.
What we need to remember is that molting is a natural, regenerative process that gives the hen (or rooster) a whole new coat of fresh feathers every year. Their new feathers make them more resistant to disease. So, it’s a good thing, it’s a healthy thing for chickens – no matter how bad it looks to us.
To people who aren’t experts in chicken welfare (who is everyone who is not a poultry expert), their appearance can be shocking and concerning, especially when filmed in a barn in the middle of the night with artificial lighting. The intruder’s presence also likely terrified the birds who were not used to night time visitors.
As the poultry expert, who has a PhD in poultry science and who inspected the farm, told us, these chickens were in the middle of a hard molt – an already vulnerable time for laying hens. Our inspectors always follow biosecurity requirements.
Unfortunately, the DXE trespassers broke into the henhouse without respect for the careful bio security measures used to protect flocks from pathogens and diseases. These diseases can be easily transmitted to birds at all stages of their life, but hens are especially vulnerable during molting. Because the hens’ suppressed immune systems were compromised as a result of DXE’s nighttime intrusion, the farmer euthanized the chickens in this barn shortly after our inspection.
DXE’s claims it is an animal liberation organization. They have tried to discredit this program and any program that provides relief to the billions of farm animals raised for food. DXE does nothing to actually help farm animals. They would prefer to foster their own agenda by showing falsified scenarios of “cruelty” to farm animals. If there are organizations that are actually doing something to make a difference in the lives of these farm animals, it is against their agenda.
They ask for donations at the end of their videos to support this agenda. If they cared about farm animals, they would educate themselves on the life phases of a laying hen rather than break into a farm in the middle of the night, stress the chickens with their activity and lights, and shoot videos that imply animal abuse when it was chickens experiencing their seasonal molt.
Like many of you, I have been watching the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil every night. I love watching our athletes and enjoy the stories about the host nation and its people. This worldwide event brings nations and people together to engage peacefully towards common goals.
I feel a special connection with these particular Olympics. I have made many trips to Brazil over the last few years to visit with farmers and producers about the Certified Humane program. It’s a beautiful country with many people committed to the higher welfare of farm animals.
The idea behind Humane Farm Animal Care(HFAC) and the Certified Humane program has always been to end factory farming through changes in the marketplace. Our program educates and asks consumers to shop for Certified Humane products. In turn, farmers and producers must respond to consumer demand for humanely-raised food by adopting our Humane Farm Animal Care’s Animal Care Standards.
The Certified Humane program has only been in Brazil for 9 years. We have seen a significant increase in consumer demand there for humanely-raised foods. Brazilian consumers are just as eager as we are in the U.S. and Canada to end factory farming and support standards that ensure farm animals live free of gestation crates and battery cages and can live, instead, in spaces where they can exhibit natural behaviors.
When we launched HFAC in 2003 in the U.S., we started with just 143,000 farm animals in the program. Today – and 5 countries later – more than 103 million farm animals are in our program annually – and this grows every year with the addition of more farmers wanting to be on the program.
HFAC is working peacefully with consumers towards a common goal too: To end factory farming through the marketplace and to bring the Certified Humane program and its standards to more farms and more producers worldwide. It’s a great feeling when we can realize our humanity through a common goal.
“Animals are sentient beings. They can feel. They can feel pain and they can feel frustration. As a society, we should just remember that you need to have respect and compassion for any living thing. What we’re doing is trying to provide relief for the 10 billion animals that are killed in the U.S. for food every year. It’s a certification and labeling program that is based on humane rearing and slaughter standards for farm animals that assures consumers that when they they purchase products with the logo on it that those animals, from birth through slaughter, were raised humaly.” – Adele Douglass, Executive Director for Humane Farm Animal Care.
When you talk to Adroaldo Zanella, DVM, a member of Humane Farm Animal Care’s (HFAC) Scientific Committee since 2005 and Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of São Paulo Veterinary School of Medicine in Pirassununga, São Paulo, Brazil, about farm animal welfare, he can hardly contain his excitement at the progress his country has made over the last few years.
“Brazil is at a massive crossroads for animal welfare,” says Zanella. “We have 200 million people consuming products and those people are starting to think about animal welfare as part of an ethical society and are asking for more humanely-raised food.”
Zanella credits this growing consumer awareness with the arrival of HFAC’s Certified Humane® program in Brazil in 2006. Launched in the U.S. in 2003, HFAC is the leading international nonprofit certification program improving the lives of millions of farm animals in food production. Today, HFAC oversees the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label in 5 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Peru, Chile, which assures consumers that farm animals are raised according to HFAC’s Animal Care Standards.
“Before Certified Humane®, we didn’t have a set of standards to measure things and assess farm animal care,” says Zanella. “The Certified Humane® program does that. It provides very specific standards of care, which we can use to measure and audit farms to assure consumers that animal welfare is a top priority for farms in the program. We’ve never had anything like that before in Brazil.”
University wants to lead the way
With more than 90,000 students at the school’s 7 campus locations, the University of São Paulo Veterinary School of Medicine and Animal Science (FMVZ) wants to lead the charge for change in farm animal welfare in South America, according to Zanella. The criteria for HFAC inspectors is that they must have a Master’s degree or PhD in animal science or be a veterinarian. To that end, the University recently hosted a Certified Humane® inspector training program on their Pirassununga campus. Sixteen students with advanced degrees (DVM’s, PhD’s and Master’s degrees) learned about HFAC’s Animal Care Standards and the Certified Humane® program. With more than 1,000 beef cattle, 150 sows, and thousands of chickens, among other farm animal species, on the University campus, Zanella says this is the perfect setting for students to learn about farm animal welfare.
“The program moves students from conceptual learning in the classroom to practical learning on local farms,” he says. “This experiential experience gives students the perfect environment to fully understand how to apply animal welfare into a practical setting. They assessed farms with pigs, laying hens, broilers, dairy cows and beef cattle. Certified Humane’s standards are the toolbox they can use to make more measured assessments of how animals are cared for and treated on that farm.”
Meeting the demands of Brazilian consumers
When it comes to humanely-raised food, Zanella believes Brazilians are much more demanding than the food industry thinks.
“Brazilian consumers don’t want eggs from laying hens that are caged,” says Zanella. “Yet 95 to 98 percent of the eggs consumed in Brazil come from caged hens. If consumers want to purchase food based on animal welfare, the only information you can find is on animal rights and veganism. Until the arrival of Certified Humane, we had limited opportunities to make humane food choices about farm animals.”
Zanella says the University’s short-term goal is to develop and validate science based animal welfare indicators and educate inspectors. Their long-term goal is to make all campus farms Certified Humane®. “Our campus farms give us a unique opportunity to help students understand their relationship to food animals,” he says.
Adele Douglass, Executive Director for HFAC, says, “the rapid growth and expansion of Certified Humane® in Brazil, Peru and Chile in recent years shows that South American consumers want the same thing as consumers in the U.S. and U.K. – humanely-raised food.”
Not only can these students become inspectors for the Certified Humane® program, these students are now “phenomenal ambassadors for the program,” says Zanella. “One student said the program had entirely changed her view of farm animal welfare. The fact that you can measure things and work through and assess farms by a set of humane standards gives consumers the assurance that animal welfare is a priority. This can only help people concerned about animal welfare make better food choices. That is huge step for us.”
Since 2003, Humane Farm Animal Care has worked tirelessly to introduce humane standards of care for farm animals in the U.S. and around the world. Since then, 514,514,848 million cows, pigs, chickens, and other farm animals have been raised under our precise standards of care, guaranteeing them the freedom to express their natural behaviors, like spreading their wings, perching on posts, and moving around freely on pastures.
Consumer demand is driving change for farm animals raised for food, and our supporters are going to great lengths to find and buy Certified Humane® products where they live. As a result, more and more farmers are wanting to adopt our Animal Care Standards and raise their farm animals Certified Humane®.
An awful farming practice may finally come to an end by 2020, thanks to potential advances in “egg sexing” technology.
Since 2009, Certified Humane® has been advocating for the elimination of the inhumane culling of male chicks in the poultry-breeding business. Culling involves the practice of killing one-day old male chicks because they don’t have any value as meat chickens. (None of the egg producers on the Certified Humane® program hatch their own eggs, so no male chicks are born or macerated on any Certified Humane® farms.)
Some of the methods for the disposal of these male chicks include high speed maceration in a grinder or carbon dioxide (gassing). Occasionally, chicks also have been killed by decapitation, cervical dislocation, electrocution and drowning. All of these are methods result in the deaths of hundreds of millions of male chicks in the U.S. every year and billions worldwide.
In an unprecedented step, the United Egg Producers, which represents 95 percent of the egg industry in the United States, announced it would commit to ending the culling of male chicks by 2020 or as soon as new technologies are “commercially available” and the process is “economically feasible.”
This is the best news we’ve heard for farm animal welfare in a long time.
The most promising research involves ovo-sexing, which would identify the sex of a future chick while it is still inside a fertilized egg allowing hatcheries to terminate male eggs before they hatch. Another potential technology involves injecting green fluorescent protein on the male chromosome of chicks that would turn male eggs a different color than female eggs.
For years, we have urged our supporters to write to the The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Room 200A, Whittenberg Building, Washington, DC 2025 to encourage more research to end culling. And we have asked you to thank Unilever, which owns Hellman’s mayonnaise and other egg-using companies, for research that will ultimately end the suffering of male chicks at email@example.com. Please continue to do so as they need to know the United Egg Producers will end culling as soon as the research and new technology becomes available to them.
We’re thrilled to see the United Egg Producers make the commitment to end an inhumane farming practice. Thank you for supporting Certified Humane and for making your voice heard on behalf of farm animals.
There is a special irony in the work we do here at Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC).
After launching HFAC in 2003 based on the farm animal care standards created by the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Protection of Animals) in the UK – and receiving support from 65 humane organizations here in the US, including the HSUS and the ASPCA – we find ourselves continually battling a barrage of attacks from animal rights groups.
Recently, six people comprising “Animal Justice of Canada” filed a complaint to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency saying that Certified Humane®’s standards are no more than the industry norm, which is laughable, since our standards were written by animal welfare scientists and veterinarians from around the world – all experts in their fields. These experts came together to write humane standards that meet the needs of different farm animals raised for food, which is based on a scientific understanding of their biology and behavior, and not an individual’s or group’s make-believe perception of what they think these animals need.
Yet this group accuses Certified Humane® of “deception” and misleading the public about its program. I have two things to say about that.
First, none of the images in their propaganda video were taken on a Certified Humane® farm or during the transport from a Certified Humane® farm to a slaughterhouse that meets the standards we require. This is a typical approach to attacking us. These groups use footage and photos from factory farms to make their claims against Certified Humane® farms. Isn’t that incredibly deceitful? I promise you, I know our farms and our farmers and these animal rights groups have never set foot on a farm that has been Certified Humane®.
Second, we are completely transparent about our Animal Care Standards and publish them on our website for anyone and everyone to see. I encourage you to check them out. If you don’t want to read all of the standards, I am attaching a link to the letter we wrote in response to their complaint along with a comparison chart so that you can at least see how we stack up to their false claims that our standards are no better than industry standards.
One of their complaints is that chickens are sometimes raised indoors and are not pasture-raised. The irony of this is in Canada, it is not always warm enough to let the birds outside. There is no scientific evidence that chickens cannot be raised well indoors. For this reason, Certified Humane® wrote standards for both barn-raised and free-range chickens. Whether they are raised inside or outside, our standards ensure their behavioral and physiological needs are always met. We believe chickens can be raised humanely in a barn, just as a cat can be raised humanely in a home – never going outside either – so long as the cat receives enrichments, like toys and exercise, that allow it to exhibit its natural behaviors, which in the case of my two cats is play, groom, eat and sleep.
HFAC’s mission is to ensure safeguards and protections for the humane treatment of farm animals. We want to make sure that animals raised for food receive certain standards of care throughout their lives. In contrast, some animal rights groups see our work for farm animals as a threat to their agenda. They believe if there are improvements for farm animals, then people won’t want to give up meat and poultry and become vegetarians or vegans. So they continually undermine our efforts to improve the lives of farm animals rather than going after factory farming practices where animal suffering actually occurs.
How can our animal welfare group compete with an animal rights group willing to use false imagery to make their point? How do we compete against groups attempting to derail any improvements for farm animals because they falsely believe people will be less likely become vegetarians if there are humane standards for farm animals raised for food?
All we can do is continually try to educate consumers about the Certified Humane® program and the need to help farm animals – the most abused animals in the word. It’s our hope that reasoned people understand that attacking Certified Humane® farms and the progress being made for the humane treatment of farm animals will only ensure that factory farms continue to thrive and continue to allow animals to suffer. If these groups really cared about animals, they would not let animals suffer to make a political point.
Quebec-based pork producer, duBreton®, the #1 producer of Organic and Certified Humane Raised and Handled® pork, shows some of the differences between a factory farm and a Certified Humane® farm in this video.
I think you will find the contrasts in animal welfare undeniable. As you will see, pigs don’t have to suffer their entire lives confined to gestation crates. Farmers can choose to raise animals more humanely and are doing so through Certified Humane® program.
In a recent online article, Daniel Nowland for JamieOliver.com offers some tips on how to be an ethical shopper and, as a strong supporter of Certified Humane®, explains what to look for when buying animal products.
Here’s some of what he writes: “With so much talk of sustainability, seasonality and animal welfare surrounding the food we eat, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin if we want to align the food we’re buying with our own personal values.”
In this second part of my article on ethical shopping, I explain what to look out for when buying animal products and how to stay smart when you do your weekly shop…
…5. Read labels and ask about animal welfare. Beware of labels that look green and ethical but that don’t actually mean anything. Certified products, such as RSPCA Assured, Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved are the best guarantees of a meaningful label.”
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