Peggy Greenway lives in Mitchell, South Dakota, where she and her husband, Brad, raise beef cattle and pigs. Hear Peggy talk about animal welfare on today’s farms and what families like hers do to help raise a healthy, safe food supply.Play Video
Reputably Sourced Food Facts
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Do Animals Raised for Food Live in Inhumane Conditions?
Farmers and ranchers are constantly exploring new ways to improve how they raise their animals.1 They know that when animals are well cared for, they’re healthier and more productive. Stewardship and certification programs are in place to help farmers, ranchers and food processors improve the lives of the animals that depend on them.2 Those programs are good for both people and animals.
Many farmers participate in farmer-driven certification programs to ensure the meat they produce is high quality and safe, and the well-being of the animals is a top priority.3
Why Do Some Farmers Keep Their Animals in Barns?
On today’s farms, there are many different housing options that farmers can use to keep their animals. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
For example, fields where animals live in their natural environments can make disease and injury control more challenging. On the other hand, using intensive confinement housing to reduce disease and improve injury control often limits animals’ ability to engage in normal behaviors.1
On a well-run farm or ranch, the animals’ health and well-being is always a top priority. Housing protects animals from predators, disease and bad weather. Housing also makes reproduction and birth less stressful, protects young animals and makes it easier for farmers to care for their healthy and sick animals.
Are Chickens Raised for Egg Production Kept in Cages?
Most farmers use one of three housing systems for housing their laying hens: conventional cages, enriched cages and aviary housing, which is often referred to as cage-free. All three systems have advantages and disadvantages.1
Today, most eggs produced in the United States follow the United Egg Producers (UEP) Certified guidelines, which assures that hens receive appropriate space, nutritious food, clean water, proper lighting, and fresh air daily.2 Any egg farmer desiring to be recognized and market eggs as UEP-Certified must implement the UEP guidelines on 100 percent of his or her flocks.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Federal Drug Administration, Federal Trade Commission, Food Marketing Institute and National Council of Chain Restaurants all recognize and approve of the modern cage-certification program.3
Are Free-Range Laying Hens Healthier?
Farmers take a number of factors into account when determining how to house their hens. Today’s cage-production systems, whether conventional or enriched, eliminate the threat from most diseases, reduce injuries to the birds, reduce aggressive behaviors and provide the best air quality for the birds.1,2 Research does not show a difference in hens’ stress levels across housing systems.2 Additionally, hen mortality is much higher in aviary systems.1
Research on the food safety of eggs produced in various systems is mixed. 1,2
Why Do Some Cattle Live in Feedlots Instead of Pastures?
Nearly all beef cattle, whether raised organically or conventionally, spend the majority of their lives in pastures eating grass. When mature, cattle are sold or moved to feedlots where they typically spend 4-6 months.
Feedlots allow ranchers to raise beef cattle more efficiently using fewer natural resources like land, feed and water. Feedlot cattle live in fenced areas and are given plenty of food, fresh water and room to move around. As the National Cattleman’s Beef Association reports, veterinarians, nutritionists and cattlemen work together to look after each animal every day.1
Why are Some Pigs Kept in Pens?
Pregnant female pigs (sows) sometimes live in individual maternity housing called gestation stalls. These stalls meet all the important criteria for sow care.
Farmers choose to use gestation stalls to help provide for their pregnant sows’ needs, like protection from more aggressive animals and competition for food.
A 2005 American Veterinary Medicine Association study found the rate of sow injury is reduced in gestation-stall housing, and that individual housing doesn’t cause any more physiological stress than group housing.1