Forced Molting

UPC Campaign to Ban Starvation of Hens

Molting Closeup
“Reduced feed and water intake is the most detrimental and universal aspect of disease.”
– Egg Industry Magazine, June 1999

Issue: Starving hens to manipulate egg production--the practice known as forced or "induced" molting--causes hens' immune systems to break down under the stress. In "Salmonella Control and Molting Of Egg-Laying Flocks--Are They Compatible" (July 1994), the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida said that the standard molting procedure of starving birds for 10 to 14 days "unavoidably stresses the birds. Their immune system is therefore suppressed and the flock's susceptibility to salmonella infection is increased."

“While unmolted hens usually have to ingest about 50,000 Salmonella cells to become infected, molted hens need fewer than ten.”
– World Poultry, Vol 12, No 9 (1996)

Campaign/Information Update: In April 1998 United Poultry Concerns and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights petitioned the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to ban forced molting. FDA has jurisdiction to ban farm practices that harm human health. In June 1999, the Animal Legal Defense Fund wrote to FDA urging that a decision be made on our petition (Docket No. 98P-0203/CP1). We await that decision and urge our members to keep up the pressure!

In July, the US General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report to Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois entitled "Food Safety: U.S. Lacks a Consistent Farm-to-Table Approach to Egg Safety." Between 1985 and 1998, "over three-quarters of Salmonella Enteritidis outbreaks were linked to eggs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." Causes cited in the report are "heavy rodent populations" and "forced molting."

We are pleased to report that the August 2 issue of U.S. News & World Report published letters to the editor about forced molting from United Poultry Concerns and The Humane Society of the United States in response to the magazine's article, "A Crackdown on Bad Eggs" (July 12).

United Egg Producers (UEP is the US egg industry trade group) has formed an advisory committee to review the industry's animal welfare guidelines. Why? "Recent campaigns have been mounted by United Poultry Concerns and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights. A letter writing campaign resulted in several thousand letters being received at the UEP office. . . . '[W]e have been criticized by animal rights groups and questioned by government agencies,' said Gene Gregory, UEP senior vice president." --Poultry & Egg Marketing, May-June 1999.

What Can I Do?
  • We wish to thank everyone who responded to our August Action Alert urging the Food & Drug Administration to reduce egg borne diseases by prohibiting forced molting. (Submission deadline was Sept 20.) Here is yet another opportunity to make your voice heard. The President's Council on Food Safety is seeking public input on ways to reduce foodborne illness in the nation's food supply. There is no deadline, but don't wait! Citing the appropriate docket number in order for your letter to be counted, write to the Department of Agriculture and the Food & Drug Administration:

    For US Dept of Agriculture: DOCKET No. 98-045N

    USDA/FSIS Hearing Clerk
    300 12th Street, SW
    Room 102 Cotton Annex
    Washington DC 20250-3700
    For FDA: DOCKET No. 97N-0074
    FDA/Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305)
    5630 Fishers Lane
    Room 1061
    Rockville, MD 20852
    For electronic submission: DOCKET NO. OPP-OO550

    Electronic comments must be submitted as a ASCII file avoiding use of special characters and any form of encryption.

  • Urge the US Food & Drug Administration to grant United Poultry Concerns' petition to ban forced molting. Citing DOCKET NO. 98P- 0203/CP1, Write:
    Dockets Management Branch
    Food and Drug Administration
    Department of Health & Human Services
    12420 Parklawn Drive, Room 1-23
    Rockville, MD 20857
feed withdrawal from turkeys and chickens “has long been shown to markedly increase contamination with both Salmonella and Campylobacter, The birds look for other food sources during feed withdrawal, eating litter [the contaminated material the birds are forced to live in] when they are hungry.” Since hens being starved in their cages do not have access to litter, they are driven to “pluck and consume” cage mates' contaminated feathers (Avian Diseases 1995, 39:248)
– Food Chemical News, July 26, 1999, reported on a recent meeting of the National Turkey Federation