Industry Also Nears Completion Of
First Year Audits That Ensure Guidelines Are Being Met
United Egg Producers, September 17, 2003
Media Contact: Allie Steck email@example.com
& Jennifer McGuire firstname.lastname@example.org
Atlanta – The United Egg Producers’ (UEP) Scientific
Advisory Committee has approved adding a new feed alternative for
inducing a molt to the industry’s Animal Care Guidelines.
Following three independent university studies, egg farmers now
have the option of using a non-feed withdrawal to induce a molt,
rather than the traditional practice of withholding feed for a short
period of time [They've always had this option as well as the option
to not force molt the birds at all]. Molting flocks results in 50
percent fewer hens needed to meet the nation’s demand for
eggs, which means significantly fewer hens are handled, transported
and slaughtered than if molting was not induced.
The UEP Scientific Advisory Committee, which established
the Animal Care Guidelines and includes several the nation’s
top scientists and academics, met this month and agreed upon the
following statement: "The Scientific Advisory Committee
says that non-feed withdrawal molt research projects have shown
promise and at this time will recommend non-feed withdrawal programs
as another option for inducing a molt. These programs should be
used only if they meet or exceed the welfare standards previously
established by the committee for feed withdrawal molts, including
the standards for preparing the flock for the molt and for maximum
molt mortality and hen weight loss."
According to Dr. Jeff Armstrong, dean of the College
of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University
and chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee: "The research
on this new feed alternative has been conducted in three university
settings, but the true test will come from field studies
in the commercial egg industry. We are urging egg producers
to give the non-feed withdrawal programs a try and report their
conclusions back to us, because this is a subject we are
continuing to study."
Poultry researchers and scientists have long recognized
that molting is a normal process of chickens and other birds [see
below]. In the wild, birds usually shed and renew old,
worn plumage before the beginning of the cold weather and their
migratory flights. In commercial egg production, molting is induced
to cause all hens to molt at the same time. The molt has many benefits
including the replacement of old feathers, reduction in body fat,
rejuvenation of the hen’s reproductive cycle, and extending
the hen’s life span.
Evolution of Animal Care Guidelines
In 1999, the UEP asked Dr. Jeff Armstrong to assemble a team of
experts to review the scientific research and literature and provide
recommendations. Dr. Armstrong established an independent, unpaid
committee of academics, scientists and experts specializing in egg-laying
hens that included representatives from the USDA and American
Humane Association. The committee met initially in 1999
to review all scientific research available on the treatment of
egg-laying hens, considering both the advantages and disadvantages
of production systems and practices.
The UEP announced its Animal Care Guidelines in 2002 that are based
upon the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Committee. They
include science-based standards for cage space per hen, air quality,
beak trimming, molting, handling and transportation.
Egg farmers that voluntarily implement the guidelines and pass
an annual independent audit become an Animal Care Certified Company
and can display the new Animal Care Certified logo on their egg
cartons and products. More than 200 egg farmers currently
participate in the program representing 84 percent of the nation’s
total laying hens or 229 million layers.
Certified Farmers Keeping Their Promise
More than 80 percent of the farms participating in the
Animal Care Certified program were independently audited this summer
to ensure they are meeting the Animal Care Guidelines. The vast
majority of these successfully passed the audit, showing
overwhelming support for the animal welfare program. Only
six farms did not pass the initial audit, primarily due to administrative
and record keeping problems. They had 60 days to rectify
the problems and were later re-audited, with every one passing the
The remaining 20 percent that have not yet been audited
are mostly Southern California farms under strict biosecurity
restrictions to stop the spread of Exotic Newcastle Disease. These
farms have been unable to allow auditors and other nonessential
visitors on the farms, but are expected to begin audits this month.
All farms participating in the Animal Care program are
required to be audited annually to ensure their operations
and production facilities meet the Animal Care Guidelines. The UEP
approved the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), American
Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS) and SES as authorized
Any new farms entering the program must be audited
first to prove they have met all current guidelines before they
can carry the Animal Care Certification logo.
From: "The Animal Welfare and Food Safety Issues Associated
With the Forced Molting of Laying Birds," United Poultry Concerns,
STARVATION AND FASTING ARE NOT THE SAME.
"Anorexia" means loss of appetite or refusal to eat, not
food removal. Force-molted hens do not stop eating because they
lose their appetite or don't want to eat, but because their food
is taken away from them. A visitor to an egg farm in Pennsylvania
wrote regarding the first day of a 7-day starvation program, "When
the lights came on, the cackling and clucking rose to a cacophony,
accompanied by the sound of thousands of beaks pecking on metal"
(Geist, 1991, p. 3).
Naturally-molting hens do not go for days and weeks without eating,
while a hen with a clutch of eggs leaves her nest for ten to twenty
minutes each day until her chicks are ready to hatch, to forage
for food, drink water, defecate, and exercise. Artificially-incubated
eggs must be cooled for 15 to 20 minutes a day to match the time
the hen is away from her nest. Mrosovsky and Sherry observe that
While it is presumably possible in theory that the hen is getting
hungrier and hungrier as she sits on the nest, a much more elegant
and safer solution to the problem would be to lower the set-point
[for body fat] and avoid clashes between incubating and eating.
Similarly, in the case of hibernators, the motivation to hibernate
would have to be very strong to overcome the temptations of food
lying right under the animal's nose. (Mrosovsky and Sherry, 1980:839)
Fasting is self-imposed behavior, not food removal. To fast means
to abstain from all or certain foods. Fasting originates within
an individual or a species as part of a larger purpose or activity
that is meaningful to that individual or species, e.g., hibernation,
migration, or hatching chicks. A brooding hen is engaged in normal
species behavior that is meaningful for her and has no resemblance
to the frightening experience of being arbitrarily deprived of food.
Mrosovsky and Sherry summarize that when animals fast in nature,
fasting is part of their being "engaged in other important
activities that compete with feeding" and that evidence shows
fasting to be “physiologically different from starvation"
Whereas a brooding hen and a naturally-molting hen are fully intent
upon “other important activities that compete with feeding,"
the hen being starved in confinement has been stripped, without
compensation, of her only pleasure, virtually her only activity
in confinement, which is eating. Moreover, and most significantly,
animals fasting in nature do not generally suffer from immune system
breakdown and disease, whereas force-molted hens do. In force-molted
hens, cellular immunity is “significantly depressed during
food deprivation," and SE infection and transmission are increased