New Fashion Pork asks people not to donate to HSUS [The Daily Globe, Worthington, Minn.]By Julie Buntjer, The Daily Globe, Worthington, Minn.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Jan. 31--JACKSON -- For years, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has pleaded with people for donations through advertising campaigns that tug at peoples' heartstrings. The videos flash pictures of a teary-eyed puppy or a malnourished cat, but what few Americans realize is that very little, if any, of their tax-deductible contribution to HSUS is used to save these pets.
The HSUS has earned a D from CharityWatch.org, an organization that rates nonprofit groups based on how they spend the donations given to them. In the case of HSUS, a large share of the money they collect is used to pay attorney fees and lobbyists pushing a vegan agenda, according to some farm groups who are pushing back.
"Less than 1 percent of their actual budget goes to animal shelters," said Brad Freking, owner of Jackson-based New Fashion Pork. "They're being investigated for false advertising, pulling on peoples' heartstrings ... when all they're really trying to promote is the vegan agenda."
Freking said the HSUS has done nothing to save local cats and dogs. Animal shelters in southwest Minnesota, and even the larger shelters in Sioux Falls, S.D., have never received funding from HSUS. That's why Freking and the staff at New Fashion Pork, Minnesota's second-largest pork producer, ask that if people are going to donate money to animal care, they do so by giving to their local animal shelters.
"It's very clear what (the HSUS) agenda is, and it has nothing to do with cats and dogs," Freking added.
New Fashion Pork has chosen to speak up now about the ongoing HSUS tactics after recently learning of a Jackson woman who "left everything" to HSUS after her death. A member of that family has since said if she knew what HSUS really was, that never would have happened.
"That's our goal, to let the general public know that (HSUS) is so deceptive," added Emily Erickson, animal wellbeing and quality assurance manager for New Fashion Pork. "If there's any questions as to the organization you're donating to, go to CharityWatch.org."
At the same time, they want other livestock producers to also take a stand against HSUS.
"They're trained to eliminate our business," Freking said. "They want to do away with animal agriculture as we know it."
"The HSUS agenda is to drive up food costs for animal proteins to make them less affordable and available to the average consumer," Freking said.
As more people become aware of the HSUS agenda, contributions to the organization have dropped, Freking said. While overall charitable giving increased by 6 or 7 percent in 2012, HSUS's total revenue has dipped by more than 10 percent.
Freking and Erickson hope that trend continues, and stress that if people want to donate money to help animals in need, they send their donation directly to their local animal shelter.
The HSUS playbook
The HSUS is behind initiatives that have passed in several states to eliminate the use of individual sow housing (gestation crates) in sow facilities. Its push to remove the individual sow houses and, instead, have sows gestate together in a pen setting is "Chapter 1 of a 10-chapter playbook," Freking said.
"Their agenda is to raise our cost of production over time so (pork) becomes less affordable to consumers, and therefore you decrease consumption over time," he explained. "To communicate and work with these people (at HSUS), we're 180 degrees apart. We produce animal protein. They want to eliminate that."
Freking said group gestation pens are considered more inhumane than keeping sows in individual sow houses.
"The University of Minnesota has researched sows in individual sow houses and group gestation pens and the data does not support group housing," he said. "It's a more stressful environment for the sows, that's what the research shows.
"Everybody knows how aggressive big sows are," he said, adding that research has shown the sows bite each other and attack each other when multiple sows are kept in the same pen.
"There's a reason boss sow came about," Freking said. "They fight for dominance. By moving to loose sow housing, we also expose our employees to a more dangerous work environment."
Today, nearly 99 percent of pork products come from animals housed in individual sow houses. New Fashion Pork has tried group gestation pens on one of its farms, and Freking said the farm has higher swine mortality rates and more injuries.
"From our standpoint, we don't see that as more humane," he said. "There's a disadvantage to animal welfare and employee safety. You lose the ability to individually care for the animal."
"There's been research done where they gave sows a choice -- they've inserted individual sow houses into group gestation pens and they chose the individual houses because they didn't have to fight for space," added Erickson. "Ninety percent of the time they'll spend in their individual space."
Fast-food chains add pressure
In February 2012, McDonald's Corp. announced it would seek to purchase pork product only from suppliers who could guarantee the meat came from animals not raised in individual gestation crates.
The company's announcement led to a flurry of similar statements from fast-food chains like Wendy's, Burger King and Sonic.
Assurances that product is indeed coming from swine not raised in individual pens will require tracing meat back to the processing plant, the farmers who finished the pigs and the farmers who supplied those finishing pigs from their farrowing facilities.
That work, combined with the added costs to producers to forego individual pens, will likely result in higher costs to those chains. It also shows restaurant chains aren't familiar with the science behind raising pork in pens.
"Producers have always been very science-based on their approach to production," Freking said. "Right, wrong or indifferent, science doesn't always sell well to the public.
"The National Pork Board is working extremely hard with the end users to educate them about common production practices, but we're behind. We're playing catch-up. We didn't view (HSUS) as the threat they are.
At the same time, Freking doesn't understand how people and companies can be swayed by HSUS.
"Unless McDonald's wants to supply a vegan menu, why would they work with HSUS?" he asked. "It's that type of awareness -- that type of knowledge -- that we're trying to educate to our end users."
The pork industry has a long history of promoting its product, and activities locally and at the state and national level continue to give consumers the facts about pork production. The Minnesota Pork Board conducts Oink Outings to expose people to farms and the daily practices of raising a quality product.
"Nobody cares for their animals more than farmers," Freking said.
History in pork production
Freking and his wife, Meg, founded New Fashion Pork in 1994, although both grew up in the pork industry on family farms.
Today, New Fashion Pork has 330 employees company-wide. Thirty of those individuals work in Jackson, where human resources, information systems and technologies, finance and accounting, transportation, construction, environmental resources and management, nutrition, feed mill management, vet services, production management and purchasing are based.
"We have everything here that's not associated with physically being on a farm," Freking said.
In January 2006, New Fashion Pork expanded its business with the opening of a pork processing facility at St. Joseph, Mo. The facility processes approximately 20,000 pigs per day, including 60 percent of the swine raised by New Fashion Pork growers in six Midwestern states.
Freking said the company chose to locate the processing facility in St. Joseph because of its close proximity to a major market of consumers -- Kansas City. The plant also is easily accessible to major interstate systems used to transport pork product to consumers on both coasts.
"We have a large population to draw on for employees," Freking said. "It's been nothing but positives from a community standpoint ... and it's also favorable, logistically, for the end product. We export a lot of product, and it's a good location to export to the West Coast and on to Japan."
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