Livestock operations are “food factories”. “We don’t nurture animals as much”. “It’s all about money.” “I don’t like the chemicals animals are fed.” “I don’t like to see animals shut in all the time.” “Small farms are good; animals on big operations don’t have such a good life.” “I don’t like to think about it.” These were quotes from consumers in a video Terry Fleck, executive director of the Center for Food Integrity (CFI), showed at the Food System conference.

Fleck discussed research from CFI’s SITE® Report on food animal well-being and media coverage of the topic. The SITE system monitors over 44,000 resources with 300 key terms. This report pulled 261,307 references on animal welfare from 218,155 articles in a 12-month period. The highest volume of article mentions during those 12 months included “vaccination”, “avian influenza” and “antibiotic.”

Also highlighted in the 12 months was the Mercy for Animal undercover video of euthanization of male chicks, and the United Egg Producers was the top non-governmental organization linked to animal welfare during the past 60 days of media coverage.

“There is increasing consumer concern with humane treatment of food animals,” said Fleck. “Over 19,000 articles mentioned animal welfare. From last May on, the intensity on animal welfare topics increased, and in the last 60 days it went up to 2678 articles per month.”

Fleck noted that when welfare is discussed, other terms that are linked to it include animal rights/euthanasia, slaughter, abuse, exports, food safety, molting, antibiotics and castration.