Farming Methods of Production – Text format

INTRODUCTION

Many production claims in South Africa have no legal definition or standards and are vague and/or weak. Because definitions can refer to such a wide range of actual living conditions, “free-range” in particular, EATegrity has listed methods of production (MOP) as a guide only for best practice of the highest claims.

✸Other descriptions are provided to inform on existing conditions such as commercial free range and barn raised which are not disclosed in South Africa.

When a claim contradicts the MOP then it has not been included, i.e. Grass Fed Meat Association for ruminants needs to be just that and not permit any grain supplement to avoid misleading consumers and to preserve this farming method.

MOP for rabbit farming have not been included due to the general concerns raised by NSPCA about the farming of these animals. EATegrity encourages consumers to stay informed via NSPCA website (http://www.nspca.co.za) and newsletter as to livestock production concerns in South Africa. EATegrity has high regard for the NSPCA and the advocacy work they provide.

It is the aim of EATegrity that MOP claims are accurately marketed and labeled to allow consumers to make an informed choice. It would therefore be in the best interest of the consumer if the DAFF would provide a description & accurate food labels of MOP for factory farms or CAFOs.

Due to the lack of transparency in our food system, along with the proliferation of inaccurate claims and until such time that an accurate third party assurance label exists in South Africa, consumers cannot take any methods of production claim at face value. These descriptions are therefore employed as a guide to inform consumers, they are not the standards. Consulting with farmers, third party certifiers and visiting farms is an ongoing process by EATegrity so these guidelines are subject to updates.

Where applicable to pasture-raised, EATegrity refers to Animal Welfare Approved standards ranked as the “most stringent” of all third-party certifiers by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and recognized as the only “highly meaningful label the by United States Consumer Reports.

AWA also requires that no animals be kept in cages, crates or tie stalls and breeds chosen for a farm must be well-suited to that farm’s weather conditions. AWA is one of only two humane certifiers that require certain slaughter practices. Standards include breeding and transport.

What makes AWA unique, in addition to the pasture requirement, is that it does not charge farmers for certification, and only family farms can participate. It is a program of the non-profit Animal Welfare Institute.

To see more about the Animal Welfare Approved Standards, visit www.animalwelfareapproved.com

 

CONSIDERATIONS

The below could be practiced within all MOP and are standard dependent and sometimes farm dependent. Therefore it is wise to ask to view the standards of a third party certifier or of the farm.

  • mutilations performed without painkiller, including: de-spurring, de-beaking, dehorning, disbudding, ear notching, castration, tail docking
  • killing of male chicks alive in grinding machines
  • suffering before death due to inadequate slaughtering process (CO2 gassing etc)
  • spent hens vulnerable to starvation as not sold to reputable dealers
  • dairy male calves sold as veal
  • dairy calves not permitted to remain with mother for longer than three days, sometimes removed at birth
  • gin traps used as predator control,
  • regular use of antibiotics but not “routinely” given
  • feed containing growth stimulators
  • unless organic or specified, grain-feed would probably be GMO

Organic MOP and standards do not necessarily always have the highest animal welfare standards. Occasionally animals are barn raised for their entire lives. Third party organic certifier, Soil Association (https://www.soilassociation.org/certification/farming/what-is-certification/our-standards/) has proved to have the clearest and most valuable animal welfare standards but they do not have a presence in South Africa.

Access or Freedom of Access:
It is important that consumers understand what the word “access”  is a meaningless and misleading statement.

Broilers
Broilers Genetic selection has resulted in high yield broilers that can attain market weight in reduced time based on fast growth rates and improved feed conversion. However, rapid and accelerated growth has resulted in several health and welfare concerns. Of particular concern are diseases and anomalies of the skeletal and circulatory systems.

Egg Layers
There are minimum regulations provided by the South African Poultry Association giving vague instructions on how to raise free-range chickens, there is no definitive legislation regarding labeling. South African Poultry Association recommends 10 birds per square meter indoors. In South Africa, the production of free range eggs is currently loosely regulated under the Agricultural Product Standards Act. http://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/saf108125.pdf
Some larger egg producers are initiating spent hen abattoirs for end products such as broths and gravies.

Update: Cage-Free will be a new term introduced into the vocabulary of the South African consumer with the global initiative to end the suffering of caged egg layers. In the March 2017 SAPA (the South African Poultry Association) Poultry Pluimvee Bulletin ran an article which claimed that “the cage-free revolution is moving rapidly through the world and the South African egg industry should make sure that they are prepared to accommodate the change.”
Cage-free methods of production will vary due to a variety of practices already being adopted globally.

ADDITIONAL

Predator Control
Non-lethal, holistic, ecologically acceptable and ethical management strategies to deal with wild animal–livestock farming conflicts should be encouraged.
If there is a continual threat from predators that cannot be managed by live trapping, advice must be sought either from The Landmark Foundation, Conservation SA, Cape Leopard Trust, Baboon Matters Trust or Endangered Wildlife Trust regarding a control program. Foraging animals deemed as pests to be captured through live-trapping.
Vegetarians & vegans take note: even vegetable or grain farmers may practice culling of wild animals regarded as pests.

Transport and Slaughter
Transport vehicles shall be of suitable size to prevent damage and or bruising. Gates must be used in transport vehicles to segregate animals into compatible groups and restrict movement of animals that could cause injury or damage. Floors and ramps must be corrugated or suitably designed so the animal does not slip unduly. Unloading ramps (not less than 1.5 metres in length) should have a level dock before the ramps go down so that animals have a level surface to walk on when they exit the truck. The inside walls of the ramp should be constructed so animals cannot see activities outside the ramp. Animals should be offloaded by experienced personnel as soon as practicable after arrival. The use of electric prods is prohibited. Substitutes for prods include plastic paddles or sticks with flags on the end. Animals should not be lifted by the horns, legs, ears, tail or wool during unloading. Feed and clean water must be available before and after transport. Time period from loading to unloading must not exceed 8 hours. A responsible agent must accompany the livestock on the journey and be present for loading and unloading. Unfit animals must not be transported. Slaughter will be carried out quickly and without undue stress. For waiting periods in excess of 6 hours, provision of clean and dry areas must be made for animals to lie down and feed provided if animals are held overnight.
Animals may not be held or herded in an area where the killing of other livestock is visible. Animals must not be conscious during slaughter. A stun action device must be backed up by emergency measures in the case of failure. Poultry: to reduce the animal’s stress, the chickens are caught at night, one at a time.

Further details for guidelines here: http://animalwelfareapproved.org/standards/list-of-standards/


PORK

Pasture Raised
Pasture raised indicates that the animal was raised outdoors on pasture and feed is primarily from foraging but supplemented with legumes, grain and/or prepared feed. The aim of good ranging and foraging area management is to satisfy the pig’s natural behaviours. Animals must be able to root and explore the ground and their natural environment. Any pasture enclosure area provided for pigs must offer separate dunging, feeding, wallowing and foraging areas. If piglets over the age of 10 days do not have free access to a ranging and foraging area the area outside the housing, hut or pen must not be less than 4.5 sq. meters per sow and litter. The sow and litter must have free access to a ranging and foraging area once the piglets reach the age of 21 days. No castration if pigs are slaughtered under 90kg. No teeth clipping or tail docking. No sow or farrowing crates. No growth hormones or long term antibiotics are used. Piglets must be at least six weeks of age at weaning.

Free Range
Free-range pigs are typically kept in distinct groups based on age, sex, size, and stage of pregnancy and one in which the pig herd is rotated on outdoor enclosures or paddocks. They receive the majority of their nutritional needs from prepared feed, with pasture or forage as supplementary feed. ‘Free-range’ implies that animals are not confined in enclosures primarily fed outdoors and normally have free access to small paddocks which are specially constructed. When pigs are at risk of heat stress, wallows or sprinklers, in combination with natural or artificial shade, must be provided. Piglets are weaned at approx six weeks and are then confined to a weaner camp until they are then relocated to various camps where they are given access to grazing lands or paddocks. Weaners and growers must be housed in groups. No use of sow or farrowing crates. No teeth clipping or tail docking. No castration if pigs are slaughtered under 90kg. No growth hormones or long term antibiotics are used.

✸ Commercial Free Range
There are variations to the production system on some farms (e.g. growers may be finished in shelters). Farrowing crates are still used for five weeks during weaning and growers are kept predominantly indoors with no enrichment.

Housing should be spacious enough to allow pigs to exercise their freedom to express normal behaviour. Feed and water is predominantly indoors with access to small outdoor paddocks, usually without vegetation cover. Food and water must be distributed in a way that eliminates competition. Enrichment should be provided to prevent boredom or aggression when housed indoors. No growth hormones or long term antibiotics should be used. No teeth clipping or tail docking. No castration if pigs are slaughtered under 90kg. No sow crates but farrowing crates can still be used.

EGG LAYERS & POULTRY MEAT

Pasture-Raised
This is basically the same as free range (below), though the term pasture-raised indicates more clearly that the animal was predominantly outdoors on pasture and nutritional needs supplemented with feed outdoors during the day. Ranging and foraging areas must be rotated to allow for constant vegetation. Housed preferably in mobile houses to ensure constant vegetation is available. Farmer re-sows and seeds pasture (carefully designed in order to have sufficient clean and nutritious pasture grass and Lucerne, enough natural vegetation areas as well as sufficient scrubs). Smaller flock sizes encouraged, housed in multiple camps.

Free Range
Free range flocks should be fed and watered outside. This encourages the birds to spend time outdoors and keeps the houses cleaner and drier. Birds must be provided continual access to an outdoor area for ranging and foraging for a minimum of 6 hours per day and are only to be housed indoors at night and during adverse weather. Feed containing meat, fishmeal or animal by-products is prohibited but foraging for grubs and bugs should be encouraged since birds are omnivores. Birds must be able to explore the ground and their natural environment throughout their life. The outdoor space must at least provide 4 square feet of space per bird. Shade must be provided in outdoor area in the form of natural vegetation or shade cloths to encourage the birds out to range, and as a protection from predators. Shelters also provide protection from rain and wind during inclement weather. Smaller flock sizes encouraged, housed in multiple camps. Birds who have undergone genetic selection to the point that their welfare is negatively affected are prohibited. Birds must be chosen with consideration of their ability to thrive in the prevailing climatic conditions of the farm. They must be able to perform natural behaviours such as nesting, perching and dust-bathing. Birds should be encouraged and introduced to the range at an early age. No routine antibiotics. Shelters and housing must allow natural light to enter. When using drugs, it is generally advisable to withdraw medication at least 10 days before slaughter.

Layers
Synthetic yolk colourants are prohibited. Each hen should have at least 1.8 square feet of indoor floor space and must be able to nest, perch and dust-bathe. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited. Prohibition of GMO feed not specified.

Broilers
Castration (caponizing) of chickens is prohibited. Birds must not be subjected to dim and/or continuous lighting or kept in permanent darkness. Growth hormones or the use of any other substances promoting weight gain are prohibited, including the use of commercial feeds with these substances included. Birds must be caught individually and carried by both legs; one- legged catching is prohibited. Prohibition of GMO feed not specified.

✸ Barn Raised Broilers
Broiler (meat) chickens are traditionally not raised in cages due to their rapid growth meaning they are slaughtered young, usually at 32 days. There are variations to this production method. Some slaughter at 40 days. Some leave lights on till 22h00 and birds able to sleep till 6h00 in natural light. Birds predominantly remain in barn but have access to outdoors through pop holes. Shade should be provided in outdoor area in the form of shade cloths or birds are able to take shelter from heat under housing. Commercial breeds that are grown for rapid growth should be discouraged. Birds who have undergone genetic selection to the point that their welfare is negatively affected should be prohibited. Birds should be chosen with consideration of their ability to thrive in the prevailing climatic conditions of the farm. At least 2 square feet of indoor floor space should be provided per bird. Nest boxes or perches are generally not provided in the barn. Feed is never provided outdoors. Diet is largely based on commercial feeds, fed inside. Antibiotic use should only be for sick animals and not administered routinely or “non-routinely”.

✸ The SA Poultry Code of Practice
Requires that the barn where the free range chickens sleep provides at least 1m² of floor space for every 15 chickens. External shade by way of either trees or artificial structures must be provided at the rate of 4 square meters shade per 1000 birds.
SAPA guidelines for caged broiler production is 450cm per bird (4 weeks to slaughter). Cage height shall permit standing chickens free head movement. See SAPA’s code of practice here: http://www.sapoultry.co.za/pdf-docs/code-practice-broilers.pdf

✸ Barn Raised Layers/Cage-Free
Thousands of layers can inhabit a barn with many of the layers never seeing the outdoors although they have access through popholes. Nest boxes or perches are generally not provided in the barn. Mutilations performed without painkiller, including, debeaking may be permitted, along with killing of male chicks alive in grinding machines. Diet is largely based on commercial feeds, fed inside.

SAPA guidelines for caged layers 300cm per bird http://www.sapoultry.co.za/pdf-docs/code-practice-layers.pdf

Encouraged
Egg layer farmers to source from hatcheries that can provide them with birds that have not been de-beaked.
Rotational grazing encouraged. The chicken range should be divided into several parts and the chickens allowed to graze at one “paddock” at a time. This way, damaged ground can easily recover and there is less buildup of pests and parasites.
Purchasing birds at an earlier age or breeding on the farm is recommended.
Hatcheries on the farm.
Spent layers sold to reputable dealer or slaughtered on farm.
The use of birds derived from traditional breeds.
The use of dual purpose breeds so that male chicks can be raised as meat type birds and female chicks can be raised as laying hens is recommended.

 

RUMINANTS
(cattle/sheep/goats)

Pasture-Raised
Indicates the animal was raised outdoors on pasture and that it ate grasses and food found in a pasture or natural veld. Pasturing livestock is a traditional farming technique that allows animals to be raised in a humane, ecologically sustainable manner. This is basically the same as grass-fed (below), though the term pasture-raised indicates more clearly that the animal was raised outdoors on pasture and not fattened or kept in paddocks.

Grass Fed (Free Range)
All livestock production must be pasture/ grass/forage based. Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage consisting of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g. Legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain by-products (starch and protein sources) and must have continuous access to pasture. All livestock produced under this standard must be in veld, pasture, or in camps for their entire lives. This means that all animals must be maintained at all times on land with at least 75% forage cover or unbroken ground. Animals must not be confined to a pen, feed-lot or other area where forages or crops are not grown during the growing season. Livestock produced under this standard may be fed hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources while on pasture during periods of low forage quality or inclement weather. Animals may not be given hormones or growth stimulators. Antibiotics may be administered only if animal is ill. (Adapted from Definition by American Grassfed Association). Note: In 2007, the USDA adopted final rule requiring a 100 percent grass or forage-based diet standard for use of the “grass-fed” claim.

No urea permitted or chicken manure as feed.

Other recognised MOP claims:

Certified Karoo Meat of Origin
The Certified Karoo Meat of Origin certification mark guarantees the origin of Karoo lamb and mutton meat. Farmers need to provide evidence that their farms are located in the Karoo region as identified by KMO. The distinctive character of the meat of the Karoo derives from free range grazing or production on indigenous veldt vegetation. Hence only lamb that feeds freely from indigenous veldt, in sizable camps representative of the identified typical Karoo vegetation, and that has access to clean water, qualifies for use of the name KAROO LAMB. (Note grain is permitted during dry season, GMO status not disclosed.) See standards here: http://www.karoomeatoforigin.com/karoo-standards/)

DAIRY
(goat guidelines to come)

Pasture-Raised (cows)
This is basically the same as grass-fed (below), though the term pasture-raised indicates more clearly that the animal was raised outdoors on pasture and not kept in paddocks.

ENCOURAGED:
Dairy calves should not be weaned from milk before they are 12 weeks of age.
Husbandry systems that allow young stock to remain in the herd with their mothers until weaning occurs naturally are recommended. Weaning in this standard means the removal of milk not the separation of mother and calf.

Grass Fed (Free Range) (cows)
As per Ruminants.
Plus: Animals who have undergone genetic selection to the point that their welfare is negatively affected are prohibited. Animals must be chosen with consideration of their ability to thrive in the prevailing climatic conditions of the farm, in pasture-based, free range, outdoor systems. Non-therapeutic use of substances to induce estrus (heat) is prohibited. Heifers must not calve before the age of two years. Dairy calves must not be weaned from milk before they are six weeks of age. If foster cows are used the number of calves must be adjusted to the amount of milk the cow can produce and the number of foster calves she will accept. Calves may be reared as part of a group. Calves living in groups must be fed milk or milk replacer no less than twice a day. Raising individual calves in isolation is prohibited. Provision must be made for calves to go outside and graze in season. All calves must have continuous access to high quality fresh forage from seven days of age onwards. Newly weaned or separated calves must be kept in groups of familiar animals. Calves, two months or younger, may be dis-budded using hot iron cauterization by a person who is proficient in the process. Hot iron cauterization must be preceded and followed by administration of appropriate anaesthetic and sedation. De-horning and tail docking is prohibited. Dis-budding of calves after two months of age is prohibited.

✸ Barn Raised (cows)
Massive sheds in which the cows live. These sheds claim to have a special design, which helps funnel hot air out and keep the cows cool and dry. Cows have access to the under roof and outdoor sections, usually sand paddocks. Cows are milked three times a day. Always fed indoors in sheds. Feed can include grain. GMO status not disclosed. Dry cows may get to graze outdoors. Cows spend most of their time walking on concrete floors or standing on sand.

ORGANIC

Over the years, the Organic Consumer Association in the U.S. has organized a series of national campaigns to safeguard organic standards. We must make sure organic means what it is supposed to.
Labeling food as being “organic” identifies products as deriving from a set of verified organic standards. The advantage of the organic approach is continued improvement of soil fertility, protection of natural physical and biological processes in the soil, and minimal environmental disturbance. Building long-term soil fertility is the kingpin of organic farming and gardening. The health of the soil is connected to the health of grass plants, animals and ultimately man. The nourishment of the soil is at the root of all health.

Phrases which promote non-certified organic are unacceptable, such as ‘grown to organic standards or ‘non-certified organic’ etc. We do not accept organic claims unless PGS organic endorsed or third-party certified.

In the case of organic products of animal origin, minimum standards are defined by specifications for the conversion process, housing conditions, animal nutrition, care and breeding, disease prevention, and veterinary treatment. Organic MOP and standards do not necessarily always have the highest animal welfare standards. Occasionally, animals are barn raised for their entire lives.

South Africa has no organic legislation, but the South African Organic Sector Organisation (SAOSO) has launched a set of organic standards. The SAOSO Standard covers the areas of general organic management, crop production (including plant breeding), animal production (including beekeeping), wine making, wild collection, processing and handling, labelling and marking, approval and certification, and social justice.
It is still very important that consumers ask for the organic seal of approval. Third-party certifier standards also differ, so don’t assume all standards are equal. The EU Organic Standard is known to be basic as most government standards are. Third party organic certifier Soil Association (https://www.soilassociation.org/certification/farming/what-is-certification/our-standards/) has proved to have the clearest and most valuable animal welfare standards, but they do not have a presence in South Africa.

According to the international organic umbrella body IFOAM, the Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) and third-party certification systems are complementary and strengthen each other. PGS programs are focused on and better suited to small-farmers and direct markets, which brings many farmers that wouldn’t have considered third-party certification into a system of committed organic production. In this way, it provides a greater number of consumers with access to affordable, quality-assured organic products that would not otherwise have been available.

IFOAM is the international umbrella body for organic production and the Family of Standards is the core of the IFOAM Organic Guarantee System and contains all standards officially endorsed as organic by the Organic Movement.

 

Sonia Mountford

Sonia Mountford lived as an expat in the Middle East for a number of years and enjoyed travelling and exposure to third and first world cultures. Her interest in food security began while visiting in Sri Lanka after floods and discovering the politics around Food Aid. As a co-founder of Grass Consumer Action and the only full time member, she spent four years researching the dysfunctional food system in South Africa, investigating, questioning and exposing misleading claims. Although her interests range from food politics to toxins in our food, including harmful ingredients in processed foods and Big Food influence; she soon came to realize that the most important part of the food journey begins on farms. For that reason she spends much of her time visiting farms, learning and talking about constraints and concerns in production methods with farmers. Passionate about nutritional food security she believes higher animal welfare farming practices are not only necessary for ethical reasons but also for human health. She is an ambassador for SOIL, BEES and healthy WATER. Mountford started EATegrity (eategrity.co.za) “Helping You Find Integrity in the Food Chain” in 2015. Her aim is create greater consumer awareness about the food chain and to encourage transparency in the South African food industry.

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