Report finds farmers’ animal care continuously improving

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WASHINGTON—A recent report from the Animal Agriculture Alliance found that livestock producers are making strides in animal care, environmental sustainability and food safety.

Advances in Animal Ag highlights the agriculture industry’s commitment to continuous animal care improvement. “The animal agriculture industry is broad and diverse, and it can be hard to stay on top of all the progress being made,” explained Kay Johnson Smith, alliance president and CEO.

The alliance is a nonprofit organization that helps bridge the communication gap between farmers and consumers by sharing modern animal agriculture practices with food industry stakeholders. The group’s membership shares a commitment to protecting animal agriculture and preserving consumer choice in the marketplace and is comprised of individuals and companies, including the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“Our Advances in Animal Ag report helps key influencers such as the media, restaurant and food service leaders, legislators and dietitians learn about animal agriculture’s commitment to innovation and advancement.”

For example, the report found that dairy farms producing more than 98 percent of the U.S. milk supply belong to the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management program. The program oversees uniformity in dairy care.

Dairy cows are occasionally treated for diseases, so to certify that no animal medications enter the milk supply, all milk is screened before a processing plant accepts it. The report found that in 2016 only .011 percent of milk tanker samples tested positive for animal medication residues. Between 1996 and 2016, milk tanker samples testing positive for residues declined by 89.4 percent.

The U.S. dairy industry conducts almost 4 million tests annually on milk entering dairy plants. If any trace of medication is found, the entire tank is dumped, and the dairy farmer must pay for the load of milk. This costs approximately $15,000, so there is a financial incentive to ensure no antibiotic-treated dairy cows are milked, the report said.

The alliance also found that more than 63,000 farmers and farm employees are certified through the pork industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus program. Farmers who are PQA-certified use best practices to care for their animals and follow proper feed biosecurity protocols to ensure safe, wholesome pork products.

The health of U.S. broiler chickens also continues to improve, according to the report. Using scientific advancements in genetics, management and nutrition, growers have been able to reduce bird mortality rates from 18 percent in 1925 to 4.8 percent today.

“There is a lot of misinformation being shared about food and agriculture—often by people who are generations removed from agriculture—furthering the communication gap between farm and fork,” Johnson Smith remarked. “Our report explains how the industry shares the same values as today’s consumer with its never-ending commitment to animal care, food safety, sustainability and responsible antibiotic use.”

Media: Contact Johnson Smith at 703-562-5160.

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