On October 15, 2015, APPPA and PASA co-hosted a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) panel discussion for pastured poultry producers in Lancaster, PA. The panel included; Mike Badger, executive director of APPPA; Susan Beal, holistic DVM; and Patty Dunn, avian pathologist at Penn State University and DVM; Craig Shultz, State Veterinarian at Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
This is the summary presentation provided by Dr. Shultz. If you want to understand the fear associated with this virus, pay attention to the costs outlined in this presentation. Also relevant is the definition of the control and surveillance zones.
The historical, observed data as reported by the USDA indicates that HPAI favors intensely confined flocks. As of October 14, 21 of 219 HPAI detections were labeled as backyard. In terms of numbers, the individual backyard birds totaled 9,673 of the more than 48 million infected total birds. We should understand that USDA's classification of backyard doesn't assume outdoor flocks. Backyard is a catch-all categorization.
When we dig deeper, we see that 5,830 of the backyard birds belong to two individual flocks (one mixed game fowl and one pheasant flock). We also know, as it was reported during the panel discussion that some of the employees on the infected commercial barns also had personal flocks at home that became infected with HPAI.
All the numbers are there to demonstrate the risk or relatively minimal risk to pastured flocks. The fear is unfounded.
The USDA's “Fall 2015 HPAI Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan” requires all surviving birds in a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) infected flock be killed within 24 hours of a confirmed positive. The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) does not condone mass depopulation by any method, and believes strongly that the pastured model reduces the need and opportunity for mass depopulation.
To date, the USDA HPAI reports show that less than 10% of the confirmed cases are backyard flocks. In terms of overall bird mortality, backyard flocks have only accounted for approximately 10,000 of the 48 million deaths that have been attributed to HPAI. The USDA catch-all backyard flock category would include commercial pastured poultry farms if a pastured operation were to become infected with HPAI. However, there is often a difference in flock management between backyard and pastured flocks, primarily as it relates to housing and pasture management.
To achieve the 24 hour depopulation goal, the USDA now endorses ventilation shutdown for depopulation, in addition to foam and carbon dioxide. Shutting down the ventilation in a large concentrated animal feeding operation induces suffocation by heat stress on the flock. Using firefighting foam also suffocates the birds. In neither case is the death fast. Foaming may take several minutes. Shutting down the ventilation system is estimated to take 30 to 40 minutes to kill the flock.
In the USDA's “Stamping-Out and Depopulation Policy,” the department acknowledges that ventilation shutdown is “considered by some to be less humane than other methods, but it can spare the lives of potentially thousands of other birds by halting the infection as soon as it is detected.” The fall and winter of 2015 will likely provide insights into the USDA's theory that the complete, rapid killing of HPAI survivor stock, by any means necessary, inhibits the spread of HPAI. However, we do not have a clear expectation of what constitutes success with this practice.
APPPA sympathizes with the emotional and financial burdens placed on the farmers who are confronted with the loss of flocks to HPAI and the torturous suffocating response to the survivors. No farmer who respects the lives of their animals and looks them in their eyes each day wants to condemn them to die by a virulent disease or by mass killing. However, the fearful days to reconcile those realities are upon us.
There's no pointing fingers or laying blame. We've already arrived at this point, and we should acknowledge our unpleasant realities.
The relevant focus should be in addressing the root cause of an epidemic, such as HPAI. APPPA asserts that the root cause is not a lack of confinement, biosecurity failures, lack of vaccinations, or untimely mass flock depopulation; those are reactions to a problem.
It's time we collectively seek to identify the problem, so we can name it; so we can solve it.
APPPA encourages researchers to invest in understanding the scale possible and the science inherent in raising flocks in natural settings in accordance with the land's capacity and under principled pastured poultry production methods. Pastured poultry relies on outdoor production with access to forage, managed pasture rotation, nutritionally balanced feed, stocking densities that eliminate stress, and humane slaughter that honors the connection between farmer and bird.
The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association provides education and producer resources for pastured poultry farmers.
There's a new website called Buyingpoultry.com (a Farm Forward initiative) that is promoting a poultry labeling graphic that lists three categories of poultry classifications for consumers: avoid, better, and best. In the avoid category, Buying Poultry places "pasture-raised." This graphic was subsequently posted by Slow Food USA on their blog.
APPPA took issue with the classification of pasture-raised while plant-based alternatives (e.g., laboratory produced chicken substitutes) were listed in the best category along with several closely related animal welfare certifications.
APPPA sent the following letter to Slow Food USA, Farm Forward, and Buying Poultry.
We have been truly saddened to find that you have lumped all “Pasture Raised” poultry into an avoid category and that you consider this category not satisfactory for consumers to purchase. Poultry produced in a pastured environment stand in an enlightened, high welfare contrast to their factory farmed cousins. We strongly feel that a consumer should know their meat producers and verify that the poultry they are buying is raised in a manner acceptable to the consumers. Direct consumer relationships supersede all certification programs. (emphasis added)
For nearly 20 years, the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) has been educating, coaching, mentoring and providing other assistance to exceptional quality poultry producers. APPPA was started as a grass roots organization with the assistance of Heifer Project International. The inception vision was to provide high quality poultry in local food sheds. APPPA believes that all types of poultry should be raised on pasture using the time tested farming technique that utilizes constant movement onto fresh grass as the basis for a healthy, delicious, and happy bird. Our vision has always been to promote an opportunity for families to work together and to manage small non-threatening animals. This type of farming is a fabulous way to get children interested in animals, nature, and growing good local food.
Our producers believe that all types of poultry will be raised on pasture. Pasture is a rich environment full of fresh vegetation, insects, direct contact with soil, fresh air, direct exposure to sunlight, and the opportunity for the poultry to express their natural behaviors in an optimum environment. APPPA members will manage their poultry on pasture for at least half of the poultry’s’ lifetime.
With all due respect, please reconsider your categorization of all “Pasture Raised.” This type of stereotyping will have severe direct financial effects to thousands of small, local, high integrity pastured poultry producers! You really should visit some of our members before condemning all of us.
In Issue 87 (May/June 2015), APPPA published the following articles in response to the bird flu ravishing the United States in the first half of 2015 and beyond.
- Holistic Approach to Pastured Poultry Biosecurity
- Fostering Health: The Pastured Poultry Approach to Dealing with Avian Influenza
Feel free to link to these articles or quote them to your local papers, websites, emails, and newsletters. Ask permission for reproduce them in full.
Building Ohio Brooders and Moveable Hoop-Style Field Pens for Pastured Poultry
Date: April 11, 2015
Location: The Fertrell Company, 600 N. Second Street, Bainbridge, PA 17502.
RSVP: Call Peggy at 800-347-1566.
You must bring your own bagged lunch.
Join The Fertrell Company and APPPA for a field day to learn how to construct an Ohio Brooder and moveable hoop-style field pen for your poultry. This is a hands-on demo.
8:30am - Registration
9:00am - Discussion of brooders and pens
9:30-12:00pm - Brooder construction
12:00 - Bagged lunch
12:30 - 3:00 Field pen building
Advanced Black Soldier Fly Workshop
Date: March 21, 2015
Where: White Oak Pastures, Bluffton, GA
See the attached flyer for more information. This is not an APPPA event, but if you're a member with a year or two under your belt, you know that White Oak Pastures has been studying BSF and trying to figure out ways to make it work at a production scale. If you're serious about your grubs, this should be on your radar.
On March 28 and 29 2015, the APPPA leadership will descend on the Stone Barns Agricultural Center in New York along with many other poultry experts for a 2 day intensive pastured poultry school. The Stone Barns staff are designing concurrent tracks to apply to everyone from urban flock owners to commercial pastured-poultry producers.
The registration is not yet open. You can subscribe to APPPA Director Mike Badger's email list for the latest poultry school information as well as other pastured poultry news, views, and tips. Or check out the event website.
APPPA is making several scholarships available to cover the cost of registration and meals. Scholarship winners will be responsible for their own travel and lodging.
Deadline to apply: February 613, 2015.
To apply for a scholarship, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information.
- Name, Farm Name, Address, Phone, Email, website (if available).
- Length of time farming.
- Length of time raising pastured poultry, including a list of products (eggs, broilers, turkeys, etc).
- State your pastured poultry goals.
- Tell APPPA why we should award you a scholarship to attend the Poultry School (need, value, role as an educator... you get the idea).
- Are you a current APPPA member?
Applications will be selected based on the following:
- Answer all questions. Incomplete or late responses will not be considered.
- Preference will be given to current APPPA members who demonstrate a need for the scholarship. However, individual awards will be evaluated, which means some non-APPPA members may be selected.
- You have been farming for at least one full year; however, being a beginning farmer is not a requirement. APPPA does reserve the right to award some scholarships to established pastured-poultry producers and long-time APPPA members.
Email your interest to email@example.com on or before February 13, 2015 to be considered.
California's new egg law incrementally improves the living conditionsfor caged hens causing prices to rise for the same quality egg. All eggs sold in the state must be produced from hens that can turn around and stretch their wings inside cage confinement. Pasture-raised hens are raised in environments that allow the birds the ability to express a full-range of natural behaviors, such as flying, roosting, and foraging while improving egg quality.
Hens raised on pasture produce eggs that comply with California's new law, which requires all eggs to be laid from hens with more spacious cages. Pasture-raised hens are not raised in cages, and their eggs are commonly available at farmers markets and directly from local, small-flock farmers.
Even before Californians voted to ban battery cages for hens in the state, pasture-raised hens were living outside in spacious housing on range. The living environment provided to the typical pasture-raised hen allows her to express a full range of natural behaviors, such as flying, roosting, and foraging.
Proposition2, California’s Egg Law, has been interpreted to mean caged hens require at least 116 square inches of space in order to express the most basic of natural motions, such as turning around and extending its wings. To demonstrate the approximate area needed to achieve 116 square inches, draw a square that is 10-3/4” x 10-3/4”.
The California egg law in effect as of January 1, 2015, doesn’t eliminate cages from production, and it doesn’t require the birds to be outside on range. A pasture-raised hen, by comparison, spends a significant portion of its life outside foraging on vegetation and insects.
The California law will ultimately increase the cost of eggs for consumers, but the quality will remain the same. In order to comply with the law, the large economies of scale afforded to producers in a battery cage system will decrease as a necessity to complying with the law.
The quality of pasture-raised eggs compared to confinement eggs can be demonstrated in taste, texture, and nutritional improvements. Various studies have shown that pasture-raised eggs tend to have beneficial nutritional qualities in terms of lower omega 6:3 ratios and increased levels of vitamins A, D, and E.
Eating pasture-raised eggs remains the best way to vote against the modern-alternative of producing eggs in confined environments. Consumers who care about high animal welfare, high quality, and high nutrition already have a choice in the marketplace. That choice is to eat locally produced pastured-raised eggs from smaller flocks.