Certified Humane® vs. Factory Farming

The “Pump” a restaurant chain in New York City has switched from buying Murray’s Chicken (one of our Certified Humane® producers) to purchasing commodity chicken.  That of course is their prerogative, however they are implying that the commodity chicken is special and that Murray’s is the commodity product.

Previously on their blog when they announced this, they said that Murray’s buys chickens from local farms and then processes and markets the chickens themselves.  “This isn’t bad per se – it’s actually quite common in the poultry business.”  They then proceed to describe the commodity chicken from the industrial chicken farms as being “grown and prepared for market at one location from birth to sale.”

Murray’s does buy chickens from small local farms and then processes them in their processing plant and markets the chickens themselves.  They are a Certified Humane® company which means their farms and processing plant are inspected annually to make sure they meet the highest humane standards for all aspects of their operations. Murray’s buys from small family farmers not contract growers. Their birds get the dark period they need to sleep so their growth is slowed and they don’t go to slaughter until they are older than commodity birds.

We’ve inspected the local farms Murray’s buys their chickens from and can attest to the treatment of these birds.  What Murray’s does is uncommon in the poultry business.  They are one of two Certified Humane® poultry producers in the US.   Murray’s is not an “integrated operation.”  “Integrated operations” are what is common in the poultry business in the US.

The “Pump’s” customers should be given the truth about the new chickens they are buying – common industrial chicken, commodity birds grown in integrated commercial systems, otherwise known as “Factory Farming.” The “Pump’s”  new supplier has breeding facilities, hatchery facilities, feed mills and processing plants.  Their operations include a farming division that has 28 company-owned farms for the chickens and more than 300 other farms.

The new supplier’s website says they employ over 2200 people, have farms in Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina and process 2.2 million birds per week and pack about 10 million pounds of finished products per week.

Murray’s process less than 10% of the number of birds that their new supplier processes weekly.

They have changed their blog to say, their new supplier “is not commodity chicken, and as such, these birds have been raised and held to higher standards.”  Whose  higher standards have they been raised to?

I have already written to Elizabeth Kellogg of the Pump.  It is important for people not to be fooled by PR “spin” like this. Why don’t you  contact the “Pump” and let them know that you support Certified Humane® producers and products and that you are disappointed that they don’t.

Adele

27 responses to “Certified Humane® vs. Factory Farming

  1. I left a comment on their blog. Thanks for the heads up on this.
    MORE of your readers need to get involved in the convo on their blog! Come on guys!

  2. I think they may have removed your comment.

  3. A recent report prepared for the UN Human Rights Council may turn out to be a powerful tool against the further expansion of factory / industrial farming.

    The report demonstrates that agroecology (aka human scale farming), if sufficiently supported, can double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty.

    The report therefore calls for a fundamental shift towards agro-ecology as a way for countries to feed themselves while addressing climate and poverty challenges.

    In short, the report says that factory farming is LESS EFFICIENT than old-fashioned community farming.

    More info about the report – http://www.healthhabits.ca/2011/03/10/factory-farming/

  4. I know the difference between commodity and Certified
    Humane® products.

  5. know the difference between commodity and Certified
    Humane® products

  6. Vanessa Story Jarman

    I also left a comment. Thank you.

  7. I checked and your comment does in fact seem to have been removed.

  8. Roderick and Cynthia Brown

    We sent the following to the Pump blog:
    March 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    OUR REACTION to what you are saying:
    Your PRIOR supplier, we’ve recently been informed, is Certified Humane®, (uncommon in the poultry business). They purchase birds from small local farms, process them in their processing plant, and market the chicken themselves. They process fewer than 10% of the number of birds that The Pump’s new supplier processes weekly. The farms that supply companies that are Certified Humane® are inspected annually to make sure they meet our Animal Care Standards.

    THERE IS A VAST DIFFERENCE between Certified Humane® products and your new supplier, we’ve been told, (who raises common industrial chicken: commodity birds grown in integrated commercial systems, otherwise known as “Factory Farming.” They own breeding facilities, hatcheries, feed mills and processing plants. Their operations include a farming division that has 28 company-owned farms for the chickens and more than 300 other farms. They employ over 2200 people, have farms in three states, and process 2.2 million birds each week.
    WE KNOW WHAT WE WANT TO PUT INTO OUR MOUTHS! Is your new supplier now Certified Humane®?
    Please let us know.
    Thank You.
    Roderick and Cynthia Brown
    San Diego, CA 92116-2601
    rodandthiabrown@cox.net

  9. I want to eat good old fashion farmed happy chicken not factory chicken.
    I know the diffrence the taste is way different.

  10. Fraud has to stop somewhere

  11. I left a comment too but now their blog has been removed.

  12. I also left a comment, however I can no longer find the page. Guess they took it down.

  13. Vivian Peacock

    Unable to leave any message The Pump Blog is no longer there. As a vegetarian I do not consume any meat products. However, I feel all farm animals deserve to be treated with respect, fresh air, green grass, feel the warmth of the sunshine and the rain. Trees to seek shade underneath. Not todays farming.

  14. If you go to Murray’s website (www.murrayschicken.com) and read their FAQ you will discover that:

    1) They feed their chickens GMO corn, because it’s expensive.

    2) They do not free-range the chickens. The chickens are raised indoors with “access to natural light and fresh air”. This may mean that the birds are in a 200′ shed with a single 1′ square pophole door. They claim that it’s healthier for the birds, which is a little odd because chickens have been happily living outdoors for millions of years.

    3) They are not certified organinc. They address this with the usual complaints about the costs associated with certification and the line about “affordability”.

    If I want cheap, CAFO-raised, GMO-fed chicken, I’ll just buy it at a conventional grocery store. This stuff is sold at the coop where I live at a premium price, and is in fact more or less the same factory food that I can get at Walmart for a lot less $$$.

    • My dear Daniel…
      1. There is no way to tell whether feed comes from a crop that is genetically modified or not (GMO) since there is no labeling requirement to label GMO feed.
      2. Free range is not a requirement on our program for these chickens. They only live to 7 weeks of age. The first 4 weeks are spent
      being kept warm by the heaters in the barns. In very warm weather they don’t go out until a minimum of 4 weeks of age, and then that would be for about 3 weeks… and in most parts of the country that is only for about 3 months of the year. Our standards were written for the needs of the birds whether they are indoors or outdoors, since most birds will be indoors for most of their lives. “Free range” conjures up great images in our minds, but reality does not match that. “Free Range does not insure the welfare of the birds without strict requirements as to shade, parasite control, predator control, etc, space, to ensure the birds are not spending all their time in waste.
      3. The difference between the organic program and our program is that ours is concentrated on animal welfare. The organic program is about agricultural inputs which mean pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. I always buy organic produce and I assume you do as well. The organic poultry regulations cover “outdoor access” for which there is no definition and organic feed. You can go to our website at http://www.certifiedhumane.org and go to the fact sheets, we have a comprehensive chart that compares our standards to others, and that includes. organic.
      4. What is a CAFO? How large a barn? How many animals to a barn? Before you start making judgements, you need to define what a CAFO is. Every state has a different definition of a CAFO. A CAFO is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. The farms that sell birds to Murrays are small family farms that raise chickens. Many of them are Amish farms in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I don’t think they consider themselves CAFO’s.
      5. It appears that your only concern is price, since you mention that you can get chickens cheaper at Walmart, not the welfare of the animals, then you should continue to shop where you can get the cheapest price and not concern yourself about how the animals are raised. others do care and that is why they support this program. You might also, read what our standards require, those are also on our website under Standards. –Adele Douglass

  15. Hi Adele,

    First, you are simply wrong about my only concern being price. I am quite happy to pay a premium to support producers who use sustainable and compassionate methods – I’m not at all happy about paying that premium when the product is advertised that way but not produced that way. The point I was trying to make wasn’t that buying chicken at Walmart is a good idea, but that paying co-op prices for Walmart chicken is a ripoff.

    I raise chickens myself (just for eggs). I pay double the price of conventional feed to get organic feed for them, and I free-range them (using movable fencing to rotate them across pasture) because that’s what they want to do. I just don’t believe claims that it’s better for chickens to be kept indoors, regardless of how we define CAFO – given the choice, chickens love to run around outside, snuggle down into a dustbath in the warm sun, eat bugs, etc.

    I agree that “free range does not insure the welfare of the birds without strict requirements as to shade, parasite control, predator control, etc, space, to ensure the birds are not spending all their time in waste.” But all that really says to me is “this is hard work and it’s expensive so we aren’t going to do it”. To that I say “please, do the hard work, and charge what you need to to support a living wage for your workers – I will gladly pay!”

    I also think that “cage-free” gets used by The Big Guys to defend operations that we would both agree qualify as CAFOs. It may well be true that Murray’s sources from small farms that I would love to buy direct from, but the phrase “cage free with access to natural light and fresh air” just sets my teeth on edge because it’s too frequently a smokescreen for horrific conditions. Sorry to be so reactive and for using loaded terms like CAFO.

    Here’s the whole story. I purchased a package of Murray’s chicken at my co-op, which takes a strong position against the use of GMO products. I believe that Murray’s is telling the truth about feeding GMO products to their chickens, because they say so themselves on their website, and because desipite the lack of a legal requirement for GMO labelling, it is easily possible to purchase certified organic feed. Again, the argument about the expense doesn’t hold water for me; I say to the producer “buy the expensive organic feed and charge me the appropriate price! That’s why I’m trying to be your customer!”

    When I returned the chicken to the co-op, the woman I spoke with was pretty horrified, and I expect that some changes will be made. At the very least, since we have it directly from Murray’s that their feed contains GMO products, our co-op needs to put up a sign next to the product informing customers of this fact so that they can make an informed choice (really, I think that Murray’s should state the facts on the package as honestly as they do on the website).

    I don’t mean to imply that your certification program is without worth or merit. I do mean to imply that there are legitimate reasons to avoid Murray’s products that go well beyond price, even though your program has certified them.

    • Dear Daniel,

      What you want is for Murray’s to be organic. They are not organic. And a lot of producers who are on our program are not organic because of the price of the organic feed. There are some producers that are organic and Certified Humane®. If buying organic and Certified Humane® is important to you, that is what you should be looking for. Unfortunately the organic standard does not include animal welfare. Our standard does not require organic feed, it does not allow antibiotics or hormones, like the organic standard. Our standard has humane slaughter standards, the organic standard has what cleaning and chemicals can be used in slaughter plants. Many producers are not organic because of the cost of the feed. The feed that is fed to the animals, on our program, however, has to meet very strict requirements of what is allowed and what is not allowed (no mammalian or avian parts) and must meet the nutritional requirements of the birds. Choosing different programs, at different price points is what choice is all about. Murrays is honest about their program and not trying to hide anything, and if the coop owner only wants to supply organic chickens then that is what they should be doing.

      It sounds easy to think that one can just buy direct from the small farms that Murrays buys their chickens from, but unfortunately, the small farms don’t slaughter the chickens on farm and have no capacity to ship those chickens. That is what Murrays does, keep those small farmers in business by providing slaughter, packing and distribution as well as marketing those chickens. And Murrays pays them a good price for those chickens. If each farmer had to sell their chickens to individuals and set up their own slaughter and distribution points, they would all be out of business.

      Please take the time to read our standards for chickens, (www.certifiedhumane.org ) you would understand exactly what the requirements of our program are, and since Murrays is Certified Humane, they meet all of those standards and exceed them, you would know the difference between industry cage free and our program.

      I hope your coop is successful in finding the chicken that is right for you.

  16. This exchange (Daniel/Certified Humane) has been very enlightening. Thank you both for taking the time. The same concerns that bother Daniel bother me also. Murray’s is the best I have around here, so that’s what I buy. I would be glad to purchase poultry that’s both Certified Humane AND organic — did you say it exists? Did you say there are only two Certified Humane poultry producers in the US? That’s depressing — what’s the other one?

    Thanks,

    Mu Keyzik
    NoShmeat.com

    • The other is the organic “Smart Chicken.” You can go to our website at http://www.certifiedhumane.org and there is a list of producers and products that are certified. In addition on our website is a “Where to Buy” page and if you type in your city/state or zipcode it will not only list the stores that are in your area, but what products are found in those stores.

    • PS .. and yes it is depressing and that is why there is the power of the consumer.. all of you out there, please go to our website at http://www.certifiedhumane.org and go to the “take action” page and print off the comment card that asks your supermarket to sell products that are Certified Humane. If you don’t ask they won’t believe there are customers that are interested. And if you want both organic and Certified Humane, write on the comment card that you want products that are both organic and Certified Humane. You have the power to make the changes that need to happen.

  17. Humane Farming Association

    Power of consumer! Interesting post!
    Please come and check out our site. We’ve done plenty of research into this field. http://www.hfa.org/blog
    http://www.humanefarmingassociation.blogger.com

  18. Have you visited Murray’s Chicken where the chicken is processed? Have you looked at their track record of OSHA health and safety violations and their USDA shut down due to insanitary conditions? One day a year there is a visit to inspect the treatment of the birds to ensure it is humane? There are 365 days in a year. Who is really doing the PR spin here? Nothing is as simple as it seems.

    • To answer your question, yes, we visit the chicken slaughter plant to ensure that chickens are slaughtered humanely, meeting our slaughter requirements, which you can see on our website at http://www.certifiedhumane.org/uploads/pdf/Standards/English/Std09.Chickens.2J.pdf The article was about the excessive use of chemicals in processing plants after the chickens are dead and the effect on workers in those plants. USDA health inspectors say there is a rise in the use of toxic, bacteria-killing chemicals in poultry plants to remove contaminants that escape notice as processing line speeds have accelerated. OSHA issued four citations. Two were for “serious” violations, which included failing to provide inspectors with training about hazardous chemicals and failing to record inspector injuries in a federally mandated log. In following up with Murrays, they had corrected the OSHA violations.
      However , the USDA is going to be increasing the line speeds by an additional 25%, having less USDA inspectors to ensure healthy animals in the food supply and having more private company inspectors doing those inspections. This means more of a risk of having diseased animals in the food supply and therefore more chemicals in poultry processing plants for workers to be exposed to.
      On May 21, 2012, I sent an alert to everyone on our newsletter list alerting them about this proposed rule and what the consequences of passage of this rule would bring. I asked everyone to please contact the USDA and tell them you care about poultry welfare matters and that you are opposed to this rule. This rule is the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection FSIS-2011-0012-0903.” Did you receive this alert and did you contact USDA?
      This rule is expected to be finalized shortly. In a private report to the House Appropriations Committee, the USDA said that in plants that have already accelerated line speeds, workers have been exposed to larger amounts of cleaning agents. “The use of powerful antimicrobial chemicals has increased in order to decrease microbial loads on carcasses,” according to a 2010 report.
      We believe that line speeds should be slower, that there should be more USDA inspectors ensuring that diseased animals not be in the food supply and therefore, these dangerous chemicals should not have to be used under any circumstances.

  19. Just a point of clarification: The two major OSHA violations referred to were not issued to Murray’s; they were issued to the USDA inspectors who were at Murray’s production plants.

    • I applaud your efforts as an overseeing agency, being able to ensure consumers that your certification is representative of animals that have been treated in an ethical and humane manner in both life and death. Moreover it appears that worker’s rights and safety is also something Certified Humane stands behind as evidenced by your alert in the newsletter which I did not receive as I was not on your mailing list at that time. I have done a significant amount of advocacy work on the USDA line speed issue and it is very pleasing to see others doing the same.

      I want you to be aware that Murray’s did indeed receive one serious violation, a repeat violation, and an additional violation categorized as “other” from OSHA. The OSHA reports are available through the Freedom of Information Act and make interesting reads. You can obtain them through the OSHA office in Albany, NY at phone number 518-464-4338. This however was by no means the beginning of Murray’s issues. The company has a record of struggling with both sanitation and an ongoing salmonella problem as evidenced in the article below from 2010.

      http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Hold-The-Chicken–NY-Poultry-Plant-Shut-Down-99506194.html

      Additionally, as a result of the OSHA investigation the USDA also received two serious as well as other violations. There violations were issued to the USDA as an agency, NOT to the Inspectors as individuals.

      It is important to note that while a poultry purchaser may have many options on the marketplace today, a thorough investigation of not only the source of the product must be conducted, but the plant in which it is processed as well. A chicken can have a beautiful life, and an ethical death, and then be processed in a facility that where worker health and safety AND product health and safety are second to profit. I take all these factors into consideration when I purchase meat.

      http://hudsonvalley.ynn.com/content/top_stories/617573/murray-s-chicken-boiler-explosion-sends-three-workers-to-the-hospital/

      I truly hope that the animals branded Certified Humane are treated as such, however my fear is that this label may in some cases have become yet another pawn of the food industry used to further increase profits at the hands of the consumers who want to believe what the labels represent. While many mean well, I can’t help but believe from what I have seen that SOME Certified Humane chickens MAY be treated ethically on CERTAIN days of their lives. At least I hope this much is true but I can no longer be fooled by the labels and brands used by the food industry to boost profits.

      Thank you again for all the hard work you do. I mean it sincerely. I hope this discussion sheds some light on long overdue changes that are needed in how we as a society consume.

      • Our standards cover the chickens from birth through their slaughter and therefore your statement that “some certified humane chickens may be treated ethically on some days of their lives” makes no sense what so ever. We do not inspect chickens after they are dead. You did read the article and you do understand that the issue was about after the chickens are dead don’t you?

        Since I have personally been to the Murrays plant at various times for inspections. Additionally, our highly qualified inspectors have done the inspections can also attest to the fact that the chickens are treated very well during their life and during their deaths. The chickens are treated gently and go to their ends swiftly and as calmly as possible.

        The 2010 closing of the Murrays plant that you refer to had nothing to do with Salmonella or cleanliness. It would behoove you to get your facts and information straight first. This information is also available under FOIA. At no time were any of Murray’s Chicken products considered by the USDA to be unwholesome or unsafe. The USDA never asserted that their chickens were contaminated or adulterated. The USDA allowed product that was processed on the day before the plant closed to ship their products and sell those same products. If there were salmonella issues or cleanliness issues, that would not have happened.

        Murrays has never been issued any citation from any state or federal agency regarding the plant environment/air quality. Again, you can find this information under the FOIA. An air quality study conducted by the USDA’s Division of Worker Safety and Health determined that there was no problem with air quality at the Murray’s plant.

        I personally am a strong supporter of labor unions, and since the employees at Murray’s are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union which diligently acts on behalf of Murray’s Chicken employees, I believe the union would immediately remove employees from their facility were the plant environment the least bit hazardous.

        There are many people who would like our program to “go away.” Those that are entrenched in the industry status quo and those that are so fanatical about their philosophy they would rather the 10 billion farm animals raised and killed for food each year were offered no relief by a program like the Certified Humane® program so they could be used to make political points.

  20. A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment.

    I think that you should publish more about this subject, it might not be a taboo matter but usually people don’t talk about these subjects. To the next! Cheers!!

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