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'Ethische Allesfresser' und 'grasendes Geflügel'

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'Ethische Allesfresser' und 'grasendes Geflügel'

Autor: Achim Stößer | Datum:
Zwei aktuelle Zeitungsartikel machen wieder einmal deutlich, wie sehr reformistische Ansätze schaden, wie zwingend notwenig Abolitionismus ist: "Ethische Allesfresser" möchten nicht zuletzt Peta sei Dank "human aufgezogene" Leichen aus angenehmer Umgebung konsumieren, nach dem Motto, auch ein totes Schwein ist ein glückliches Schwein; und auch die Vögel auf der Weide lassen die Herzen der Leichenfresser und Kaplanisten höher schlagen - bemerkenswert zynisch hier die "related stories": "Chicken with Olives and Oranges", "Mozzarella Chicken with Pesto", "Mustard Chicken with Seasoned Crumbs", "Braised Chicken with Spices", "A poultry taste test".

Marcia Friedman (eine Frau, die glaubt, "Hundezähne" zu haben und zum "Fleischessen geschaffen" worden zu sein, zumindest ihren Leichenkonsum damit rechtfertigt), bringt es auf den Punkt. Sie war "kurz davor", keine Leichen mehr zu kosumieren, "nur wegen all der Sachen, die ich gelesen habe ... über Massentioerhaltung und wie schrecklich das wirklich ist", stattdessen bestellt sie jetzt die Leichen "glücklicher Schweine".

'Ethical omnivores' want meat from cruelty-free environments

Autor: Achim Stößer | Datum:

KENT -- Anyone who buys vacuum-sealed packs of ham, bacon and chops from Shelley and Mike Pasco-Verdi is welcome to come down and see how the meat was treated when it was part of a living pig.

On Thursday morning at Whistling Train Farm, they would have seen nine piglets grunting with satisfaction as they clustered close to mother Violet in a spacious pen, nursing on and off as they pleased. Then the sow nudged the Chihuahua-size babies with her nose for their first trip outdoors to wallow in the dirt and explore.

The ample shelter and pastoral setting, the clean straw and vegetarian feed, the undocked tails and mother's milk -- even the affectionate shoulder rubs that inspire Violet to lean her whole body against Shelley's side -- are summed up in two words on the farm's Web site: "Happy Pigs."

Meryl Schenker / P-I
At Whistling Train Farm, these week-old piglets, although still destined for market, nurse from their mother rather than being fed artificial milk, and they are free to run around a large pen instead of being confined.

And that's part of why Whistling Train's pork is a hot seller, entirely aside from the flavor.

The search for such "humanely raised" food is opening up new ground in what was previously a no-man's land between carnivores and vegetarians. An increasing number of consumers are acting as "ethical omnivores," saying that they'll only eat meat and dairy products that have been raised in a cruelty-free way.

"I was very close to becoming vegetarian, only because of the things I have been reading ... about factory-farmed animals and how horrendous it really is," said Marcia Friedman of West Seattle. Instead, she began ordering Whistling Train's pork last year.

"You know what, we are made with canine teeth and we were made to eat meat and I feel if I'm going to, it may as well be meat and animals that are well-treated and happy until the last minute and killed in a humane way."

Such choices tend to be pricier for consumers. One study suggested that humane improvements instituted by the United Egg Producers cooperative would raise the price of eggs by 8 to 10 cents per dozen -- and animal rights advocates criticize even those improvements as minimal. Prices for free-range chickens run more than 50 percent higher than standard brands this week at QFC.

Regardless, the trend is the fastest-growing segment in grocery shopping, said Trudy Bialic, editor and marketing manager at Puget Consumers Co-op, which has long had "cruelty-free standards" for its animal products.

"People want clean dairy and meat. They want wild-caught salmon. 'Fast Food Nation' (the muckraking best seller on the food industry) did a lot, I think, to wake people up to what's happening, and a lot of people are asking more questions about their food."

It's leapt beyond a niche market, with a majority of consumers in a May Gallup poll said they would support strict laws concerning farm animal treatment. National chain groceries now offer milk from "happy cows" and eggs from "naturally nested" birds. Some restaurants are jumping in, such as University of Washington-area favorite Agua Verde, which recently switched to organic and cruelty-free meats despite the whack it took to restaurant profits.

"I don't know if we're all still trying to change the world, but I think a lot of people are," co-owner Mick Heltsley said of the switch.

Industrial farms have been stung by high-profile campaigns from groups such as PETA and reports such as the recent book "Dominion," where a former speechwriter for President Bush detailed how the economics of factory farming -- and the separation of farming from the average consumer's life -- has led to a numbing cruelty where animals live out short and painful lives.

Even fast-food purveyors have made improvements: For instance, McDonald's now refuses to purchase eggs from suppliers who don't give hens at least 72 square inches of cage space.

"I think people are getting more aware that the factory methods of creating meat and dairy products and eggs and things is not consistent with how they view food ought to be produced," said Bruce Babcock, a professor of economics at Iowa State University.

There's still an enormous gap between industry improvements and true humanity, animal welfare advocates say. The United Egg Producers, for instance, required increasing cage space for birds from 53 to 67 square inches per bird over six years as one of the requirements for its "animal care certified" label.

"If you're trapped in an elevator with 20 people as opposed to 10 people your entire life -- yeah, it's going to be a little better with 10 people, but it's still going to be excruciating and horrible," said Jennifer Hillman, legislative coordinator for the Progressive Animal Welfare Society in Lynnwood.

However, "the problem is so huge that it's not fair to the animals, from our perspective, to say wait until they're not in cages at all. If we could at least give them a few extra inches, we'll take it," Hillman said.

And the United Egg Producers label is just one in a confusing sea of claims, with cartons advertising grazing animals and words like "natural" without specifics to back up the beatific claims.

"Natural is kind of a misnomer, really. All it means is minimally processed and no added ingredients. So to go out on a natural beef program, you're really not telling the whole story, you're just using (the marketing)," said Lee Pate, meat and seafood merchandiser for PCC.

Pate said there's no substitute for seeing firsthand how the animals are treated -- or shopping from a place that does so.

He loves taking his meat managers on ranch tours like a recent one to Oregon, visiting Umpqua Valley Lamb's pasture-fed animals. He praised the producers' work in controlling a weed without pesticides; their work controlling hillside erosion, and their passion for their work that showed in healthy lambs.

"You just walk away from that and go wow, these people really care about what they're doing ... I can just look at an animal (and see its living conditions)," he said. "You're also looking people in the face and seeing if they're telling you the truth, which is important."

In a move that might add more clarity, a coalition of animal care organizations recently backed a new national "Humane Farm Animal Care" program that will certify producers who follow standardized animal welfare guidelines (Full guidelines are online at

Meryl Schenker / P-I
Shelley Pasco-Verdi delivers grain to her hogs. Because of the "happy pigs," her pork is popular and sought after by those shunning meat raised in cruel conditions. At her farm, the pigs, like the chickens, have room to roam and are "humanely raised."

Pigs must be free to turn around without difficulty at all times as part of the certification requirements, for instance, rather than the standard practice of confining pregnant animals to "sow crates" so small they can't comfortably lie down (In Florida last year, voters banned such crates). Laying hens must have enough room to turn around and stretch their wings without difficulty. Producers are not permitted to withdraw food from chickens to induce molting, and they must provide a shaded area for dairy cows when daytime temperatures are consistently above 85 degrees.

But humane-certified companies can continue with other practices that leave animal rights groups aghast, such as docking pigs' tails and trimming chicken beaks. The guidelines note that when more research is done and alternatives developed, such practices might be banned.

The standards, while a needed third-party oversight, are "probably not as strict as some people would expect," said Humane Farm Animal Care board member Jack Sparks.

"People, when they hear the animal welfare community is behind it ... think we demand the cows be tucked into the sheets with chocolate on the pillow. That's not the case, they're very common sense."

But it still won't guarantee the small-farm approach of organizations like Whistling Train, where 200 chickens can freely roost inside a henhouse or wander outdoors to peck for bugs under the hazelnut trees in a two-acre field.

The business isn't a sentimental one -- the week-old piglets will be slaughtered in December, after all. And the laying hens have an eight- to 10-year lifespan, but Whistling Train sells them for stewing meat when their production drops off sharply at the age of 2 or 3.

Even so, it's hard for them to make a profit from livestock -- part of the reason why factory farms took off in the first place.

Whistling Train makes more of its money on its vegetables, Shelley Pasco-Verdi said, only breaking even on its eggs at $3.50 per dozen (they're debating adding more chickens to achieve some economy of scale). Pork sales only became profitable when the state began allowing farmers to sell meat at farmers markets. They can charge $4.50 to $8.50 per pound for the smaller quantities, a profitable jump from the $3.50 per pound they could get when selling a quarter- or half-pig at a time.

A sudden loss -- such as the boar who stopped inseminating the sows last year, or the hot weather that reduced the chickens' laying last month -- can completely disrupt the careful balance of costs and profits.

But Pasco-Verdi raises animals because she likes them and wants to, and because she's comfortable with the way she does it.

The chickens and pigs are allowed to range "because, well, they should," she said, gesturing at Violet's pen. "I mean -- I don't want to be stuck there."

P-I reporter Rebekah Denn can be reached at 206-448-8190 or

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Pastured poultry: Advocates say both consumers and animals benefit

Autor: Achim Stößer | Datum:
By Judith Blake
Seattle Times staff reporter


CARNATION — The young, white-feathered chickens scratching about in the grass on Michele Blakely's Snoqualmie Valley farm don't know it, but in modern chickendom they're unusual: They live almost entirely outdoors.

To a certain breed of chicken farmer, and a small but growing number of chicken eaters, that's something to crow about.

Though they're not exactly grazers on a bovine scale, the penned but blade-plucking birds on this and similar farms clearly like grass — and grass makes their meat taste better, fans claim. Even their moniker has a faint, cowbell ring: "pastured poultry."

That may sound tamer than "free-range" chicken, which trotted onto the scene a few years ago, but pastured chickens often get more outdoor time and al fresco dining.

"They're eating naturally," says Blakely, a flannel-shirted woman with blue-gray eyes and a tumble of curly, graying hair, as she watches her birds forage for grass and bugs. They're also fed chicken feed, and can go under a low, open-sided shelter when they want.

Only a smattering of small, local farms raise chickens this way, and farmers markets are almost the only places to find the meat, which is sold only frozen. Still, demand seems to be on the rise, and signs point toward increased availability ahead.

"I would say consumer demand for this product is definitely growing. We've seen great success with it at farmers markets," said Leslie Zenz, director of the Small Farms and Direct Marketing Program for the State Department of Agriculture.

"We've seen a dramatic increase in the number of farmers who want to bring it in," said Zachary Lyons, executive director of the Washington State Farmers Market Association.

"We believe the demand was there all along," he said, but both interest and availability increased once the state began allowing sales of frozen meat, poultry and seafood at farmers markets in 2001.

'Free range' vs. 'pastured'

If pastured poultry sounds like free-range re-heated, this isn't quite the case. While free-range chickens boast access to the outdoors, they don't necessarily spend a lot of time rambling in the wide-open spaces.


"Anybody's who's really doing outdoor chicken would call it pastured poultry," maintains grower Pat Labine of Olympia.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's definition of free-range says these chickens must be able to go outside whenever they want, through barn doors that are always left open. But that definition leaves leeway. "A lot of people are savvy to the fact that 'free-range' can be meaningless," Lyons contended.

Couch-potato chickens

Many industry observers say most of the chickens raised in large-scale, free-range operations — the kind that supply supermarkets — choose to spend most of their time inside the chicken shed with thousands of other birds, hanging out near the feed trough.

Their couch-potato ways relate to the breed — Cornish Cross — the white bird that is virtually the only meat chicken raised in the United States.

"They're not bred for mobility. They're bred for hogging down food," said Terry Swagerty, a small-farms expert with Washington State University Extension in Stevens County.

Cornish Cross chickens eat so much and get so heavy that they've been known to plop down and not walk at all.

Even so, Rick Koplowitz, chief executive officer of Draper Valley Farms, Washington's only producer of supermarket-sold free-range chicken (Ranger brand), says a portion of their chickens do wander outside, though he did not know what percentage.

Conventionally raised chickens, which are far and away the biggest share of American poultry, spend their lives packed closely in huge sheds along with thousands of their kind, but with no outdoor access.

Pastured-poultry farmers contend their birds' meat not only tastes better, but the chickens get a better life, given all that time in the open air and grass.

Farmers have devised assorted ways to keep their chickens mostly outdoors and in grass. Blakely uses portable, roofed, floorless and open-sided shelters surrounded by wire pens. Before the chickens trample down the grass in one area, she moves the entire shelter/pen arrangement to another spot. Other farmers employ variations on the pen-moving theme.

Bird density in the pens varies from farm to farm.

Daily life is so natural among the pastured chickens at Walla Walla's Thundering Hooves farm that the birds display "normal chicken behavior," such as staring contests, said Clarice Swanson, who manages Western Washington marketing for the farm. How that affects the chickens' psyches or succulence is open to speculation.

Not a legal definition

Shoppers who wish details about a farmer's methods can ask at a farmers market, or even ask to visit a farm — steps some recommend since there's no legal definition of pastured poultry, and procedures vary.


Some pastured poultry is certified organic, some not. Even uncertified farms may practice organic methods.

Both the pastured poultry farmers we talked with and Koplowitz, of Draper Valley, said their alternatively raised birds get no antibiotics. In the conventional chicken industry, the practice of giving the birds antibiotics to prevent or treat disease or to promote growth has been the subject of long-running controversy. Some critics say it might cause antibiotic resistance.

Koplowitz said Draper's Ranger chicken costs more than its conventional poultry partly because fewer birds reside in the free-range sheds, each bird taking up more of the space as a disease preventative, since they're not given antibiotics.

Koplowitz called free-range chicken a niche market that goes up and down with the economy, and said Draper Valley Farms got into it because "stores were asking for it." Conventionally raised poultry is Draper's main product.

Pastured poultry is a niche within a niche. But it could expand after the operating rules for a new state law passed earlier this year are drafted and approved. Though the rule-making could take time, the law paves the way for farmers producing fewer than 1,000 chickens a year to process their own birds.

Until now, they've had to haul their chickens to a distant, licensed processing plant, often a costly prospect — though some reportedly have done their own processing without a legal go-ahead.

Blakely is part of a group looking into developing a mobile processing unit that many small Western Washington farmers potentially could use.

Says Labine of pastured poultry: "It's a wonderful niche for a small farmer. You can make a lot of money at it, and the (big) industry can't touch it — it's too labor-intensive," with the constant moving of shelters and pens.

That rosy outlook will depend, of course, on whether consumers flock to these birds.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The Seattle Times, Northwest Life - Food&Wine