2012 Farm Forward Recap

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2012 marks Farm Forward’s fifth year of changing the way America eats and farms, and with the help of our loyal supporters—all of you—it has been the most game-changing year yet! But don’t take our word for it—check out this list of the top five ways we’ve moved farming forward in 2012.

As you’ll see, we’re in an exciting and crucial phase of our organizational development. Our advocacy has reached new heights, and we can only sustain this growth with your ongoing support.


  1. Developing comprehensive farmed animal policy for the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). The ASPCA is the oldest animal welfare organization in the Western hemisphere and boasts more than 2.5 million supporters. Since 2011, Farm Forward has been consulting with the ASPCA to inform the development of their new farmed animal welfare policies. At the ASPCA’s request, we prepared 15 policy briefs, covering all major farmed animal species and based on the latest scientific research. These briefs are serving as the foundation for revamping the ASPCA’s approach to the most abused and forgotten of all animals.

    Factory Egg Farm

    The ASPCA has been so pleased with our work that they are continuing our consulting relationship into 2013. From analyzing animal welfare certifications to cutting-edge issues in poultry welfare, we’re helping “the A” gear-up for efforts that will transform the landscape of farmed animal advocacy. Stay tuned!

  2. Ensuring accountability and transparency in the factory farm industry through political action. The factory farm industry knows that its actions are indefensible and that its only hope for surviving is keeping the consumer in the dark. New York Times columnist Mark Bittman coined the term “ag-gag” 1 to describe the desperate efforts of the factory farm industry to restrict or ban undercover investigations through legislation. Last March, Farm Forward launched Ag-Gag.org to rally public opposition to these violations of basic free speech rights. More than 2,300 supporters answered our first call by signing the Stop Ag-Gag petition and we reached tens of thousands more through a series of targeted online advertisements and supporters who spread the word.


    Disturbingly, three states have passed “ag-gag” bills in recent years, 2 but advocacy efforts stopped seven other states from passing similar measures. 3 With massive financial backing from industry giants like Monsanto, a record thirteen to twenty states are expected to introduce similar legislation in 2013. If we are not vigilant, this legislation could reverse the progress we’ve seen. With your help, though, our ag-gag campaign is just getting started!

  3. Fostering the growth of high-welfare alternatives to factory farming. As we work to end the cruelty of the factory farm industry, it is crucial to also build alternative models that allow for the production of animals raised for meat in high-welfare conditions. To accomplish this goal, the ASPCA has awarded Farm Forward a grant of $150,000 to help build a true alternative to the factory farm poultry industry. With this grant, Farm Forward has created our innovative new loan program, Pay It Forward.

    Pay It Forward loans will be made available at below-market interest rates to industry-leading, high-welfare farmers who can play a key role in developing the alternative infrastructure that is crucial to the success of sustainable, non-industrial farming. The first Pay It Forward loan to Frank Reese Jr. at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch has helped build the nation’s most humane hatchery. This hatchery can ultimately help thousands of farmers break out of the factory farm stranglehold created by the industry’s virtual total control of poultry genetics.

    Frank Reese Chicken Barn

    Your ongoing support of Farm Forward will help us select the next farmer and make this loan program as sustainable as the farms it supports.

  4. Providing quality information about the realities of factory farming and alternative models of raising animals for food production. Farm Forward published dozens of cutting-edge articles in 2012 written especially for our unique constituency—folks like yourself! We continue to cover topics neglected in the mainstream media. For example, a recent piece compared the use of traditional breeds of chickens to the use of the hybrid breeds that constitute virtually all birds eaten in America today. We provided an overview of the ethical and nutritional implications of this important and underappreciated shift in the industry.

    Farm Forward Features

    Our commitment to keeping all information on our site up-to-date, well documented, and properly cited continues to make Farm Forward’s publications unique and especially useful for academics, students, and others who demand the highest levels of transparency.

  5. Partnering with culture-makers to raise awareness about the problems in animal agriculture and the deeper issues behind them. Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals is being adapted into a documentary produced by Academy Award®-winning actress and animal welfare advocate Natalie Portman. Christopher Quinn, the award-winning director of God Grew Tired of Us, will direct the film. Farm Forward CEO Aaron Gross recently met with Portman and is working closely with Quinn on the documentary, just as he did with Foer on the book. Farm Forward believes the film will reintroduce the traditional philosophy of high-welfare animal agriculture to a wider audience and build even greater momentum in the push to end the abuses of factory farming.

    Eating Animals documentary

    Also in 2012, we brought the message of Eating Animals to students in classrooms across the nation and across the globe through organizing "virtual visits" that brought Jonathan Safran Foer live and face-to-face with thousands of students.


We’ve also laid the groundwork for new programs that will appear in 2013. For example …

Creating a resource to educate consumers on poultry welfare and guide them to higher-welfare products. BuyingPoultry.com is a new website that Farm Forward is developing as the go-to source for consumers who want to buy more ethical poultry or find plant-based alternatives. From “Cage Free” to “Free Range,” BuyingPoultry.com will help consumers understand what the labels actually mean and let them know who’s best and who’s worst nationally and at their local grocery store. Mobile access on the iPhone and Android will be used to guide consumer decision making in real time. Check out a sneak peak of things to come, including a video message from Jonathan Safran Foer, here.

No other group is in a position to provide the unique thought-leadership and educational opportunities that your support makes possible. With your partnership, we resolve to continue to create meaningful change for farmed animals in 2013.

Help spread the word about our important work by sharing this recap with your friends and family.

Together we can transform the way America eats and farms. More precisely, we can continue moving that transformation forward! Thank you!

  1. 1. Mark Bittman, "Who Protects the Animals," The New York Times, April, 2011, available here.
  2. 2. Dan Flynn, "Five States Now Have 'Ag-Gag' Laws on the Books," Food Safety News, March 26, 2012, available here.
  3. 3. Dave Heller, "Bill to ban undercover video on farms defeated," Gannett News, May 16, 2011.

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Cows and Calves

Cattle are the only farmed animals that typically spend part of their lives unconfined and outdoors. Does that mean cattle raised for beef have the best lives of any farmed animal?

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More than 97 percent of America’s hog farmers have been driven out of business, but we’re producing more pork than ever. Genetically engineered pigs raised in intensive confinement have become the industry standard. How did it happen?

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Americans eat more than 100 times as much chicken meat as we did a century ago. But the whopping 9 billion chickens we eat each year are genetically engineered, drugged, and sick. What happened?

  • Anything Goes - Chickens are the most abused of all farmed animals, and yet they are completely unprotected under US federal law.
  • Chicken vs. Chimp - New studies suggest chickens have some intellectual abilities that surpass primates. Is it true?
  • Chickens and Turkeys Raised Right - Meet America’s last poultry farmer.

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Sea Animals

Fish factory farms and industrial fishing are emptying our oceans. In some industries, up to 98 percent of the sea animals caught are thrown back, dead, as "bycatch." Can we fish better?

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