Thursday, September 24, 2015

Slaughterhouse Shortage

by Kama Einhorn, Animal Welfare Committee

You may have noticed a "certified humane" logo on some coop meats—but only a few. Why are there plenty of small, local family farmers raising animals well, but so few humane-certified items available in the coop—or in any store or restaurant? Here’s the four-part problem:

All farmers must use USDA-approved slaughterhouses.
Farmers cannot legally sell meat unless it’s been “harvested” at an approved “processing plant” (otherwise, they can only eat it themselves or give it away). Obviously, it’s crucial for a government agency to ensure that disease is kept out of the public food supply, but the USDA is a bloated bureaucracy whose rules favor factory farms (with fast “line speeds,” which is poor for humane slaughter) and help them to thrive. And factory farms are responsible for E. coli, Salmonella outbreaks and mad cow disease (the USDA lets factory farms feed dead, diseased cows to living cows).

Small farmers are limited to smaller slaughterhouses.
Big slaughterhouses don’t accept small jobs due to economies of scale. This means that small farmers must transport their animals to the closest legal processing plants that will accept their animals. Because USDA regulations focus on the health of consumers but have little to do with animal welfare, few of these plants will conform to the higher standards of “humane slaughter” that small farmers would like for their animals’ deaths. (USDA inspectors often overlook violations of the Humane Slaughter Act, which requires that animals be rendered insensate to pain —which is accomplished by various methods of stunning—before slaughter.)

Humane certification requires humane slaughter (that is, as fast and painless as possible), which only some slaughterhouses do.
From an animal welfare standpoint, and for the “certified humane” accreditation, how animals die is as important as how they live. This means that farmers cannot get the certification unless they are lucky enough to have access to an good small slaughterhouse with transparent policies even if they did the “right thing” every day of the animals’ lives.

Sadly, these small slaughterhouses are becoming fewer and farther between.
The USDA’s regulatory framework favors the big players (such as those located on factory farms) and makes business quite difficult for a small operation. This means that many small plants are closing, due to the financial demands and complexities of operating in a system that is stacked against them.

There’s plenty of supply (animals) and plenty of demand (consumers), but between the

two is a giant hurdle made from government-issued concrete.

This article appeared in the Sept 3rd, 2015 edition of the Linewaiter's Gazette.

Have You Visited a Local(ish) Farm Animal Sanctuary This Summer?

by Deborah Diamant, Animal Welfare Committee

Are you looking for a unique day trip to flee the city with your friends or family in tow? The Animal Welfare Committee encourages you to visit one of the several farm animal sanctuaries located within a few hours of the Coop before the summer ends. Some are even reachable via mass transit!

Spending a day at a farm animal sanctuary is not just a humane alternative to visits to zoos and circuses--they enable us to interact with animals up close in an environment where they receive proper care. While stroking the radiant coat of a Holstein cow and standing among frolicking goats, we observe up close each animal’s unique personality. This simply is not possible through a cage in a zoo and from a seat in a circus.

The purpose of farm animal sanctuaries, though, is to provide a caring environment where animals mistreated as products in commercial farms can recover and live the remainder of their lives free of cages and substandard treatment. Jenny Brown, founder and executive director of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (WFAS) stresses that “farmed animals are easily reduced to mere statistics when talking about the 10 billion land animals slaughtered every year in the U.S., but to our visitors at the sanctuary they become tangible, self-aware individuals with names who behave very differently in an environment where they are treated with love and respect as opposed to as commodities.”

Ms. Brown has done such an effective job providing a home to rescued farm animals since she founded WFAS 10 years ago that her sanctuary is currently moving to a farm that is six times larger in High Falls, NY. Ms. Brown explains that WFAS “is a place where people connect with animals as individuals, and that helps people connect with themselves, with each other, and with the larger natural world.” WFAS holds special events throughout the year in addition to its regular tour schedule. On September 5, WFAS’s grand reopening event will feature sanctuary tours, food vendors, and live music.

Keep the below list of local(ish) farm animal sanctuaries handy. Perhaps you will find time to visit them all! The sanctuaries have been listed in order of proximity from the Coop, with the closest sanctuary listed first. (Be sure to double check that a sanctuary is offering tours the day you plan to visit.)

Skylands Animal Sanctuary & Rescue (66 miles from PSFC)
50 Compton Road
Wantage NJ 07461
Tours given Saturday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

For the Animals Sanctuary (69 miles from PSFC)
8 Cherokee Trail
Blairstown, NJ
Open to visitors on “visiting days.” Check the website for schedule.

Barnyard Sanctuary (70 miles from the PSFC)
Columbia, NJ (exact location provided once tour is scheduled)
Reservations required! Call 973-670-4477 to schedule a tour.
Tours given Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary (83 miles from the PSFC)
542 Gardner Hollow Road
Poughquag, NY
Call 845-724-5138 to schedule a tour.

Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (102 miles from the PSFC)
High Falls, NY
Currently closed to visitors because the sanctuary is moving from Woodstock to its new home in High Falls, NY. Mark your calendars: the grand reopening is September 5!

Catskill Animal Sanctuary (112 miles from PSFC)
316 Old Stage Road
Saugerties, NY
Tours given April through October: Saturday-Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Spring Farm CARES (250 miles from the PSFC)
3364 State Route 12
Clinton, NY
Reservations required! Call 315-737-9339 to schedule a tour.
Tours given 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day of the year except on major holidays.

Farm Sanctuary (255 miles from PSFC)
3150 Aikens Rd
Watkins Glen, NY
Questions: 607-583-2225, ex. 221
June - August: Tours given 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. (No tours August 14-16); May, September, and October: Tours given 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Saturday & Sunday only.

This article appeared in the August 20, 2015 edition of the Linewaiter's Gazette.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

New Member Squad Application - Deadline Extended to JULY 1!


Like what we do and want to get involved? Apply to join the Animal Welfare Committee! We're looking to add a few members to our very active committee. Below you can read an overview of what the Animal Welfare Committee's work entails and how to apply for the Animal Welfare Committee squad as your coop workshift.

All applications are due by July 1 and we are hoping to meet with candidates who are a good fit during our August 24 meeting (7:00-8:30 p.m.), if possible.

Please review the following points before applying. 
  • Please know our mission before applying.  The Animal Welfare Committee provides transparent animal welfare information about the co-op’s products.  Please take a look at the info sheets we produce.  This is a large part of what this committee's work is...and what the new members will be researching and creating as well!  Research involves calling PSFC vendors (farmers) and asking them questions about the welfare of the animals they raise.  Research can also include using external sources to provide transparent information about broader issues (e.g., animal testing information).  
  • You must be able to attend Monday C week squad meetings from 7:00-8:30 p.m. without missing more than two to three in a calendar year.
  • Squad work is flexible based on current projects.  There is the opportunity to log additional coop workshifts either to share with your coop household members or to bank and use in future months when you might have less time for extra projects.  All squad members are required to log the 2.75 hours required to be a coop member per cycle.
  • Areas we cover:  
Animal testing as it relates to personal care and household products

Farmed animal welfare (currently laying hens, cow and goat dairy, turkeys during Thanksgiving season and in the future chicken, pigs, cow/beef, etc.)
  • We are currently seeking two new members and have identified a need for the following skills.  The application will give you space to explain any experience you have in these areas or other relevant experience that would benefit the committee:
- Design (graphic design or layout for info sheets)
- Publicity (social media, print media, tabling - spreading news of squad's work)
- Branding (to make our deliverables easily identifiable)
- Journalism (ability to get transparent info and communicate it in a succinct way)
  • Apply online!  All applications will be done online.  Our committee communicates largely via email and Google Drive when not meeting so a comfort level (or a willingness to get comfortable with!) both would be great!   
Please include any relevant experience in the areas of skill sets we’re looking for
Please include any experience you believe is relevant to the squad’s work
AWC will post the due date of the applications and when we’ll be calling people in for interviews
Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you!  If you have any questions, please don't hestiate to email us at

Deborah, on behalf of the Animal Welfare Committee

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Possible Reprieve for the Male Chicks of the Egg Industry

A little known fact about the egg industry is the number of male chicks who are killed in the process of producing eggs.  How does that happen?   Almost all hens in commercial operations are purchased from hatcheries that dispose of male chicks shortly after hatching since they only need the birds who will lay eggs – the females. The hatcheries need to wait for the eggs to hatch to “sex” the birds and identify males and females.  Females get sent to egg industry vendors and males get destroyed.  Methods of disposal include suffocation, gassing and grinding alive. These male chicks are not used as “meat” birds because their bodies are not as profitable as conventional broiler chickens (birds bred for and used as “meat” birds) and therefore have very little use and value to the agricultural industry.  The killing of male chicks is an unfortunate side effect of egg production.

You may notice that there is a column on our Egg Guide that asks vendors “Fate of Male Chicks?” with all of the answers being either “killed at hatchery” or not given. We’ve noted that even if the answer is “not given”, standard process is the culling and killing of male chicks at the hatchery.  We don’t currently have even a single vendor who can claim to successfully avoid this situation.

Unilever recently announced that they plan to provide financial support towards research of “in-ovo gender identification” technology.  This would allow the sexing of the birds within the eggs to happen before the eggs hatch, with the disposal of male eggs before hatching. Unilever committed financial support to the market introduction of such a method, once it’s successfully created.  If this technology comes to the market, we might very well have an egg industry that can avoid the culling and killing of male baby chicks.  

Interestingly, in the same communication about Unilever’s animal welfare policy, they commit to exploring ways to meet egg ingredient demands by using plant-based solutions.  Meanwhile Unilever recently attempted to sue Hampton Creek, makers of plant-based and vegan Just Mayo (carried at the co-op), for false advertising advertising and fraud, citing their use of the word “mayo” and depiction of an egg with a sprout in it on the front of their jar. They claimed Just Mayo damaged their market share by representing the product as something it’s not and Unilever asked Hampton Creek to pay them three times the amount of their profit and cover their legal fees in addition, to cease use of the egg image on their label, and to recall any products and promotional materials that might confuse the public. That lawsuit has since been dropped.




Monday, January 19, 2015

From the Linewaiter's Gazette: "The Five Freedoms for Animals—Plus One for Coop Members"

[From the December 25, 2014 edition of the Linewaiter's Gazette]

By Kama Einhorn, Animal Welfare Committee

The welfare of animals involved in food production has been a major concern for many since the beginning of our industrialized food system. Coop members are, of course, no exception. The Coop’s Animal Welfare Committee seeks to address these concerns by educating and providing facts to our fellow Coop members about what’s happening on the farms from which our animal products originate.

In the 1960s, as factory farming became increasingly standard practice in the UK, the British government commissioned an investigation into the welfare of “intensively farmed animals.” Soon after, they created the Farm Animal Welfare Council, which developed a set of guidelines now known in the animal welfare movement as the Five Freedoms:

Freedom from thirst and hunger: by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.

Freedom from discomfort: by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

Freedom from pain, injury, and disease: by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Freedom to express normal behavior: by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.

Freedom from fear and distress: by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

It seems quite simple and reasonable. The Five Freedoms describe the world that all animals (including humans) should live in—and you can even count them on one hand.

If Old MacDonald really did have a farm once, surely that’s how he would have organized things. And yet, 98% of the animals most Americans eat won’t see any of these freedoms. What’s happening in modern industrial farming is something Old MacDonald would never recognize.

While the Coop’s meat, dairy, and eggs generally come from animals more well-treated than most in intensive factory farming settings, the animal welfare practices of the Coop’s vendors vary significantly. So an important task of the Animal Welfare Committee is to leverage another precious and fragile freedom—the freedom of information.

Check out the Animal Welfare Committee’s blog at for buyers’ guides to eggs and milk (and soon, chicken and beef). Each comprehensively researched guide details the practices of each of our vendors.

And write to us with your thoughts at or visit our Facebook page (Park Slope Food Coop Animal Welfare Committee).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Updated Dairy Milk Guide! And what's coming next!

We have an updated Dairy Milk Guide up on our blog and in the folders outside the milk case (near the butter)!  You can find this guide and all current guides here on the blog at the AWC Guides tab located at the top of the blog.  (Current guides:  Eggs: Animal Testing on Products; Dairy Milk)

What's up our sleeve?
  •  We'll be finalizing a Chicken Guide soon!  Keep an eye on Twitter and the blog!
  • The seasonal Turkey/Seasonal Veggie Thanksgiving Options guide will also be happening this year - keep an eye out on Twitter and the blog!
  • We will offer another Eating Vegan Workshop in 2015 but we're waiting until the large Meeting Room is available for booking again (it's currently slated for construction) so stay tuned for the 2015 date!
Jesse, on behalf of the Animal Welfare Committee

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

CANCELED: September 28th Vegan Eating Workshop!

We'll be rescheduling the workshop for early 2015! Stay tuned!

Are you interested in vegan eating?

In recent years, there has been an increased interest in vegan eating, with people like Bill Clinton and Ellen DeGeneres touting the benefits of their plant-based diets. Growing evidence shows that vegan diets have positive impacts on human health and are better for the planet.

Whether you want to commit to a vegan diet or start eating more plant foods, this workshop will help.