Celebrating 30 Years of Preserving Breeds

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) has been conserving over 150 breeds of livestock and poultry since its founding in 1977. It conducts a wide variety of programs, including research, education, agriculture policy development, gene banks and rescues. It also provides technical and promotional support to a network of breeders, breed associations and farmers.

Many traditional breeds have fallen out of popularity because they do not excel under the conditions mandated by agribusiness. Modern food production encourages fast growth and the breeding of animals to produce the maximum output. Some, such as poultry raised for meat, are even bred to have deformities. Traditional breeds, however, retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency, such as fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, the ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites.

The Animal Welfare Institute supports the ALBC philosophy that raising endangered breeds of livestock today is essential to their survival for tomorrow. We mandate our Animal Welfare Approved poultry farmers to use traditional breeds, and all others to do so whenever possible. These breeds can be commercially viable in humane, sustainable agriculture. They are finding a good fit in small-scale and pasture-based agricultural systems—the very systems for which they were adapted.The need to save traditional, historic livestock and poultry is urgent. For more information on ALBC programs, or if you would like to become a member, please visit its website at www.albc-usa.org or contact the organization at (919) 542-5704.

Smithfield in the News: Progress or Persiflage?

On Jan. 25, Smithfield Foods announced that it will "phase out" gestation crates, the 2x7 foot steel prisons in which sows in hog factories spend most of their lives. The phase-out in the world's largest pork production company's 187 sow factories is to be completed by 2017, while its contractors (who raise a majority of Smithfield's pigs) have until 2027 to complete the transition. Smithfield's announcement has been hailed as a "great victory." But one must ask, when matching the company's gains against the pace of real change, "a victory for whom?" Smithfield has succeeded in escaping much of the opprobrium surrounding it, not only for cruelty, but also for environmental and labor policies, while placating McDonald's and other corporate buyers. Yet given that most retrofitting will inevitably occur toward the end of the 10- and 20-year deadlines, millions of sows, as many as four and eight more generations respectively, will go on living and suffering in their tiny prisons. In the next AWI Quarterly, we will examine in depth whether the announcement was a PR coup or a genuine concession.

Starbucks: No More rBGH

Starbucks announced in January that it will move to end its use of milk products from cows treated with rBGH, starting with their removal from stores in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, Northern California and New England. The company has not announced a date when it will completely stop purchasing dairy containing the artificial growth hormone. Organic milk (which is not necessarily humane) is currently available at all Starbucks upon request.

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