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Food and Animal Welfare at Tufts

Tufts Dining is proud to support a number of animal welfare initiatives, including cage-free eggs and a sustainable seafood program. In addition, veal - a product often associated with low animal welfare standards - is not served on campus.

Food and Animal Welfare

The high intensity and high production capacity of our food system has allowed the U.S. to possess the cheapest and most abundant food supply in the world. U.S. consumers reap the short term economic benefits of this system, yet the impact on animal and environmental welfare is huge. Few people realize the poor state in which food animals spend their lives.

Animals bred by the meat, egg, and dairy industries live brief lives that are manipulated to maximize their food-producing potential. Whether you believe in animal welfare or not, there are numerous social and environmental reasons to question the way in which our meat is produced.

Although animal welfare violations are widespread in the United States, many producers are comitted to improving both the lives of their animals and the quality of our food. While a number of labels exist that suggest humane treatment, such as "grass-fed," "free-range," or "all-natural," they are mostly unregulated and can be misleading. Currently the best way to ensure that your animal products are produced humanely is to buy directly from the farmer or from a local store you trust to check up on the practices of their suppliers.

Grass-fed Beef
The industrialization of the beef industry has influenced the development of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), which keep cattle confined in small spaces and feed them up to 90% rations of corn. Very young calves cannot survive on corn, but after six to eight weeks of pasture are considered old enough to leave the grassy range and inhabit a CAFO, where they will eat corn for the rest of their confined lives. A corn diet results in severe stomach ulcers and other health problems before they are slaughtered at 12 months of age.

In contrast, grass-fed beef operations allow animals to subsist on their natural diet of prairie grasses throughout their lives. Because animals don't fatten as quickly on grass, cattle live longer, healthier lives out on the range. The meat from grass-fed beef is also leaner, higher in unsaturated fat and lower in saturated fat. In addition, fewer environmental impacts are felt with grass-fed operations as animal manure is dispersed more evenly throughout the land. For nearby vegetable farms or housing communities this means less likelihood of water contamination and less odor pollution.

Currently, there is no federally regulated "grass-fed" label, so inconsistencies in interpretation exist.

Free Range

 

Free range generally implies that an animal was raised in the open air or was free to roam and live out their natural instincts. Animals raised in the open have access to minerals and nutrients in the soil that improve the quality of their lives as well as the quality of their meat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has defined "free range" for poultry but not for eggs. USDA requires that free range chickens raised for meat have access to the outdoors, however this requirement is not very meaningful. In reality, the government only requires that outdoor access be made available for "an undetermined period each day." This can translate into an open coop or stall door for just five minutes daily, regardless of whether the animals actually make it outside. For other products carrying the "free range" label, there is no standard definition or regulation.


All-natural

rBGH-free
Many conventional dairy cows are impregnated to stimulate milk production, and are separated from their calves within a day of giving birth. They are then given recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a genetically engineered copy of a naturally occuring hormone produced by cows which stimulates milk production by as much as 10-15%. Cows injected with rBGH suffer from increased mastitis, a painful inflammation and infection of the udder, as well as severe reproductive problems, digestive disorders, foot and leg ailments, and persistent sores and lacerations. A number of dairy farms and commercial operations offer rBGH-free milk products. Organic milk is rBGH free by definition.

Organic

Statistics

  • Over 25 billion animals are killed for meat each year in the United States.
  • Almost three-quarters of the antibiotics used in the U.S. each year are administered to animals raised for food.
  • Farmers who practice “forced molting” starve chickens for up to 14 days in order to “shock” their bodies into laying more eggs.
  • Because they can be raised neither for food nor eggs, millions of male chicks are killed every year by being suffocated or ground up in macerators.
  • Chickens have an average wingspan of 32 inches, yet up to eleven will be crowded into cages 18 inches wide by 20 inches long. Many fast food corporations require that no more than five chickens be put in each cage, but even a single chicken would not be able to spread its wings in such a small space.
  • By the time they are slaughtered, approximately 29 percent of chickens have broken bones as a result of their mistreatment.
  • Although a cow’s natural lifespan is 25 years, those used by the dairy industry are killed at the age of 4 or 5. By this time, almost 40 percent of the cows are lame.
  • As a result of intensive milking and chemical manipulation, dairy cows’ bodies produce 10 times more milk than they naturally would.
  • Between a third and half of dairy cows suffer from mastitis. A third of beef cattle are afflicted by potentially fatal liver abscesses due to their poor diet.
  • Veal calves live in crates no more than 30 inches wide and 72 inches long.

Sources/Links:

www.eco-labels.org

www.peta.org
www.fishinghurts.com
www.goveg.com