Temple Grandin:
Egg, Dairy Farms Must Improve Practices

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Temple Grandin:
Egg, Dairy Farms Must Improve Practices

[Ed. Note: Always remember there are not enough "improved practices" that can ever make eating animals humane.]

By Philip Brasher and Dan Piller on DesMoinesRegister.com

"The bad has become normal," Grandin said in remarks at an organic food industry conference.

But Grandin said she worries that standards for egg farms could become too strict and lead some production to move to Mexico where standards are more lax.

Temple Grandin, the animal-welfare guru and best-selling author who is now the subject of an HBO movie, says egg and dairy farms face major problems in the way they treat their animals.

Grandin revolutionized the way that meatpackers handle livestock while winning the respect of both the industry and animal-rights groups.

Now she is pushing for higher welfare standards on the farm. Grandin developed new animal-handling systems for slaughter plants as well as an audit system for grading practices.

She said the dairy industry has widespread problems with cows that are lame or too thin. Many farmers have gotten accustomed to keeping livestock in poor condition and are refusing to improve practices, she said.

"The bad has become normal," Grandin said in remarks at an organic food industry conference.

She also is concerned, she said, about egg producers' continued use of battery cages to house hens. The cages are not large enough to allow the hens room to express their normal behaviors of perching, nesting and scratching, she said.

Conditions are especially bad on farms that primarily sell their eggs in a liquid or powder form rather than in the shell, she said in an interview.

Those farms do not get audited by the companies that buy the product, and cage sizes are so small that the hens have to sleep on top of each other, she said.

But Grandin said she worries that standards for egg farms could become too strict and lead some production to move to Mexico where standards are more lax.

She said it also is important to produce eggs inexpensively enough so that they are affordable to low-income people.

A good option for housing hens, she says, is the larger cage systems developed in Europe that include perches and nesting areas.

Beef, pork exports see increases

The U.S. Meat Export Federation is reporting increases of 14.5 percent for beef exports and 2.6 percent for pork exports over last year during February.

The value of those exports totaled more than $630 million.

"There are solid signs of progress in key markets," said Philip Seng, Meat Export Federation president. "And that means positive growth in profitability for U.S. producers."

USDA examining meat locker concerns

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan says she's looking into complaints of meat lockers and other small meat processors over proposed new testing rules.

Processors say the rules could force some mom-and-pop firms out of business and run counter to the administration's efforts to promote locally grown foods and small-scale food production.

Merrigan, who is leading that initiative, says the cost estimates being used by opponents of the rules are overblown. But she says she will be discussing the issue soon with officials from the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

She said the USDA does not want to harm small-scale meat processors.

Congressmen unite over crop insurers

It's not often that Iowa's five U.S. House members find something they can agree on. But all five are telling Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to back off of his proposed cuts to the crop insurance industry.
Iowa is the richest single state for the companies that handle the federally subsidized policies and the agents who sell the coverage.

The administration is proposing to cut both the companies' profits and the agents' commissions to save $6.4 billion over the next 10 years.

The USDA says the commissions, which average 21 percent in Iowa, need to be brought closer to other regions.

In a letter to Vilsack, the Iowa lawmakers say Iowa would be hit disproportionately hard compared with other states. "Many independent, rural agents who provide crop insurance in Iowa depend on it as a key component of their small business," the congressmen wrote.