Okay, this research might make animal rights activists wince! Making babies sleep on animal fur in their first three months of infancy can potentially reduce the risk of asthma in childhood.
According to a study finding, exposure to the microbial environment in animal skin and fur might act as a shield against asthma and allergies.
Researchers analyzed data from a German birth cohort called Lisaplus. The cohort included over 3,000 healthy newborns that were mostly recruited in 1998.
The team examined the exposure of the newborns to animal skin during the first three months of life. They also assessed the information on the health of children until the age of 10 years. Researchers took information of 2,441 children into account and noted that 55 percent of these included sleeping on animal skin in the first three months of life.
The analysis showed that sleeping on animal skin reduced the risk of a number of factors associated with asthma. The team found that the risk of developing asthma at the age of 6 years was 79 percent less in children who slept on animal skin after birth. Moreover, the risk decreased to 41 percent as children reached the age of 10.
“Previous studies have suggested that microbes found in rural settings can protect from asthma. An animal skin might also be a reservoir for various kinds of microbes, following similar mechanisms as has been observed in rural environments. Our findings have confirmed that it is crucial to study further the actual microbial environment within the animal fur to confirm this association,” said Dr Christina Tischer, from the Helmholtz Zentrum München Research Centre.
The findings of the research were presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in Munich.
The USDA has released its mink production report for 2013 and once again Wisconsin leads the nation. See the full report here for each year, going back to 1970
According to a new study, the global fur trade has now been valued at more than $40 Billion worldwide – roughly the same as the global Wi-Fi industry.
The research is the first to analyze the highly fragmented fur sector, looking beyond retail sales at the immense worldwide economic value of fur farming and production – which have historically been very difficult to measure. The study revealed that global fur retail sales are estimated at $35.8 Billion, farming is valued at $7.8 Billion and total employment in the sector at over 1 million.
The data comes from an independent study into the value of the fur industry, commissioned by the trade association International Fur Federation (IFF), and carried out in 2012-13 by Price-Waterhouse Cooper Italy. In countries such as Greece, Russia, China and Denmark, fur is a leading contributor to the national economy and employs tens of thousands of people.
Mark Oaten, CEO of IFF, comments: “These figures, unveiled for the first time, show that it’s been a great couple of years for the industry. While of course there have been challenges, such as the recent economic slowdown in China and the fluctuating price of fur at auction, the recent cold weather in America and its increasing popularity on catwalks globally has once again thrown our sector into the spotlight.
“This study demonstrates the unquestionable value the fur trade brings to the global economy. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions the business can generate, but the truth is that the fur trade is an economic cornerstone in Europe and beyond. Much of the fashion and increasingly the soft furnishings world relies on fur – and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”
About the IFF
The International Fur Federation was founded over 60 years ago and represents 42 national fur trade associations and 35 organizations. Members are drawn from the entire supply chain: from farmers and trappers, to designers and sales and marketing organizations. The IFF protects the interests of the fur sector, upholding the regulation on the welfare of all animal species, farmed or not, through accurate scientific research. It furthermore guarantees that it does not trade in endangered species.
Dutch News: Fur farmers celebrate as court throws out ban on mink farming
Wednesday 21 May 2014
A court in The Hague on Wednesday overturned a new law to ban breeding animals for fur from 2024.
The law will have a ‘serious financial impact’ on breeders and it is totally unclear if they will be given proper compensation, the judges said in their verdict.
The legislation to phase out fur farming was passed by the senate at the end of 2012, three years after it was agreed by the lower house.
Five million pelts
Fur farmers described the decision as ‘historic’, saying the ban would have meant the end of an economically successful sector, news agency ANP reports.
The Netherlands has some 160 fur farms producing five million pelts a year. The sector employs some 1,400 people.
The Netherlands is the third biggest fur farming nation in the world behind Denmark and China.
Junior economic affairs minister Sharon Dijksma said she will appeal against the court decision.
However, D66 parliamentarian Gerard Schouw called on Dijksma to revise the decision and take the courts comments on compensation for farmers into account.
Earlier, researchers at Wageningen University said the the cost of the ban would be €651m.
Animal rights groups said they were very disappointed at the court ruling.
‘It has been clear to breeders for years that a ban was in the offing,’ said a spokesman for animal protection group Dierenbescherming. ‘It would be awful for animals if the ban now takes even longer.’
- See more at: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/05/fur_farmers_celebrate_as_court.php#sthash.ZYJ57vHQ.dpuf
By HELENA BOTTEMILLER EVICH | Politico
4/16/14 12:05 AM EDT
Expired marshmallows, broken crackers, stale donuts, even orange peels are among the billions of pounds of would-be waste that help feed livestock every year.
By regularly diverting its waste in this way, the food industry prevents millions of tons of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere, but an obscure proposal under a 2011 food safety overhaul could inadvertently send much of the reusable food back to landfills.
Food manufacturers send the vast majority of their waste to be turned into animal feed, which many view as a significant achievement considering that more than 30 percent of all food in the United States is thrown away. But the Food and Drug Administration has proposed placing new sanitation and record-keeping requirements on feed production that could increase compliance costs and paperwork — mandates that many in the industry and on Capitol Hill warn could make it too expensive for businesses to continue recycling.
“World food needs are going to increase dramatically,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), ranking member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said at a recent hearing on the FDA’s budget.
Blunt urged FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to revise the proposed animal feed rule, which was required under the Food Safety Modernization Act, to give more consideration to food byproducts used in feed.
“Normally, we’d think about how we need to produce more food, but [we also need to] more effectively use the food and food products we have,” Blunt said, adding, “I think this is a big issue.”
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 300 top food companies and supports the food safety overhaul broadly, is raising alarm about the feed proposal. The group has said the FDA’s approach would be costly, bad for the environment and provide little or no food safety benefit.
“Of course, our members do not want to use landfills except as a last resort, but they may have no other option if compliance costs are too high,” the group said in 88-pages of comments on the proposed regulation. Tonnage sent to landfills “could drastically increase,” the group warned.
Food manufacturers kept about 44 billion pounds of food waste out of landfills in 2011, including such discards as French fry potato peels and granola bar trimmings, according to data compiled by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a collaboration between GMA, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association.
In its own economic analysis, GMA has estimated that nearly 70 percent of the waste stream from food manufacturers goes into animal feed and only 5 percent is dumped in landfills. The bulk of the remaining waste is composted or applied to land.
Those numbers would change dramatically if the FDA proposal becomes law, the group said. The proposed regulation would require manufacturers to create food safety plans for all of the byproducts going into feed, a potentially costly mandate that would likely prompt companies to divert as little as 22 percent of their food waste to feed and almost 28 percent to landfills in order to save money and avoid the hassle, GMA estimated.
Overall, the rule would cost food manufacturers about $444 million a year, GMA said, which is more than three times what the FDA estimated for the human, livestock and pet food industries combined. That includes $100 million in lost revenue from animal feed buyers and $344 million in increased landfill and compost fees.
In environmental terms, carbon dioxide emissions would increase by 4.7 million metric tons annually — the equivalent of adding about a million passenger cars to the roads, the group said.
“It is bad public policy for FDA to put companies in the situation of having to decide whether to incur significant expenditures for compliance, with minimal, if any, augmentation to the health of humans or animals, or to engage in a practice that it known to be environmentally unsustainable,” GMA said in its comments on the rule.
The industry group has asked the FDA to overhaul its proposal and cost-benefit analysis and conduct an environmental impact assessment, which the agency has argued isn’t necessary. The FDA’s analysis found that the proposal would provide “potential improvements” to public health by reducing contamination in animal feed and the animal products that people consume, but the agency did not provide figures and said it is “unable to quantify the benefits of the proposed rule.”
David Plunkett, a senior attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said he believes it’s unlikely companies will divert their food to landfills and that such concerns are overblown.
“Trade associations have the job of constructing the ‘worst case scenario’ to minimize the impact of regulations, but the reality is often very different,” Plunkett said. “Companies are accustomed to [hazard control] plans for food safety, and it is unlikely that pet food and animal feed are going to disappear into landfills simply because of this rule’s minimal requirement to practice safety and keep good records.”
Responding to pushback on several of its food safety proposals, the FDA announced in March that it plans to issue “revised language” for the feed rule, and top officials have said that they’re committed to finding a practical solution to food waste concerns.
At the recent Senate appropriations hearing, Commissioner Hamburg told Sen. Blunt that she has brought the waste issue to the attention of her team.
“We want to support sustainable agriculture practices,” Hamburg said. “It makes enormous sense. We do believe this can be addressed in a practical, sensible way.”
Meanwhile, the EPA has developed a “food recovery hierarchy” to guide food waste policy. Its top priority, aside from reducing waste, is to feed hungry people and, after that, to feed animals.
ConAgra Foods, which owns such popular brands as Chef Boyardee and Reddi-wip, used the EPA recommendations to develop its waste-reduction strategy, Gail Tavill, the company’s vice president for sustainable development.
“Our strategy was really to move up that value hierarchy,” Tavill said. “Feeding animals, for us, is a huge part of our strategy.”
Tavill pointed to shelf-stable pudding as a key example. Typically, the company will produce some initial batches of pudding cups to ensure the process is sterile before making cups to ship to consumers.
“For many years, those finished cups were going into the landfill,” Tavill said. But then ConAgra Foods started working with another company that could separate the pudding from the cups to use in poultry feed and recover energy from the plastic. Cost was not a significant factor in pursuing this relationship, she said. While it did deliver a small savings, the real driver was working toward keeping valuable materials out of landfills. Today, ConAgra Foods diverts about 87 percent of its total food waste stream to animal feed, she said.
Tavill expressed concern that FDA’s proposal will prompt companies to discontinue their recycling efforts. Compliance will be especially difficult for manufacturers who handle multiple products or those with a lot of ingredients, such as soup and pot pies, she said.
“[The regulations] are pretty prescriptive,” Tavill said. “What is the problem that the rule is trying to solve? Where’s the risk that they’re trying to solve? … Is the effort to comply with the requirements equal to the risk?”
Dozens of other companies also are expected to weigh in on the proposed feed rule. Food giant Cargill told POLITICO that it supports the food safety law, but “believes that the regulation should have some flexibility due to the broad nature of the animal food, feed and ingredient space.”
Despite the problem that food waste presents, recycling hasn’t attracted as much high-profile attention in the United States as it has in other countries. In the United Kingdom, for example, celebrities advocate feeding discarded food to pigs under a campaign dubbed “The Pig Idea.”
Taking a cue from across the pond, the Agriculture Department and EPA launched the less-cleverly titled U.S. Food Waste Challenge this past summer to raise awareness of the need for more recycling.
“The food industry in general is starting to pay more attention to the waste stream and find ways to capture value from what they previously threw away,” said Jonathan Bloom, author of the food-waste treatise “American Wasteland.” “As the cost savings become clear, more and more companies are looking at it,” he said.
Consumer awareness of the issue is also growing, he said.
“People are becoming increasingly interested in where their food comes from, and a natural offshoot of that is to ask, ‘Where does it go when we’re done with it or when we don’t use it?’”
Mink prices soared to historic heights at the season’s first North American sale in Toronto, in what was described as the biggest mink offering in North American history. Chinese and Russian buyers spearheaded the demand, in order to satisfy the still-growing appetites of people back home. The February sale at North American Fur Auctions attracted over 700 buyers, its biggest attendance ever, and at times it was standing room only.
The bidding was spirited, sending prices to historic highs for North American mink, fully 20% over the same sale last year, according to the company. Buyers agreed, calling prices firm to the record levels achieved elsewhere for comparable goods. Hong Kong/China, as expected, was the dominant buyer throughout, with strong support from Greece, Russia and Korea. Chinese buyers, whose ranks have been growing at each successive auction on both sides of the Atlantic for several years – in line with the expansion of their domestic market at the manufacturing and retail levels – quickly dominated the action.
This also was the biggest-ever offering of mink at a North American sale, some 3.9 million pelts, including international goods. The entire collection was snapped up at strong prices, attesting to the demand at the retail level, particularly in China.
Sandy Parker Reports
Volume 36, Issue 46
February 11, 2013
As expected, mink prices resumed their upward movement as the new auction season got into full swing at Kopenhagen Fur last week amid signs the trend is likely to continue at the sales elsewhere in the weeks ahead. Hong Kong/China, to no one’s surprise and with even greater representation than before, took the lead from the outset and set the pace virtually throughout the auction. Although this actually was Kopenhagen’s second sale of the season – the small December event intended mainly to meet the trade’s immediate needs – the buying now reflects planning for the year ahead.
The Chinese fur trade, aided by one of the coldest winters in that country’s history, has been enjoying a banner season and has been steadily expanding at all levels. There are no official figures but, according to sources close to that market, the past year has witnessed sizable increases in the ranks of manufacturers not only in the established production centers, but elsewhere in the country as well. Similarly, new retail operations have been blossoming out around the country to cater to the increased demand from a newly-monied population that now can afford what previous generations could not. And, while the bulk of China’s domestic fur business is still in hats, trimmings and inexpensive garments, there also is growing demand for jackets and coats of mink and other fine furs. That mink prices are still rising despite the recent increase in world production – and the emergence of China as the largest producer – can be attributed to its huge increase in consumption.
The steady expansion of its industry has been accompanied by an increased Chinese presence at the major auctions. Not only do they now occupy most of the seats in the salesroom, but there are said to be an increasing number of manufacturers and retailers doing their own bidding, rather than through dealers or brokers as they formerly did. Kopenhagen’s training programs apparently are bringing results.
As to how big China’s fur industry has already grown, there are no official government figures. According to data gathered by the China Leather Association, fur sales rose 22.4% from the previous year and are expected to reach 16.42 billion yuan ($2.64 billion U.S. at the current rate of exchange) in the next two years.
This week’s sale attracted almost 800 buyers, Kopenhagen reported, with Hong Kong/China accounting for about 500 and dominating throughout. The 5.7 million mink were all sold at prices as much as 14% over December levels in Danish kroner.
“The growth in inland China is really what’s driving growth at the moment and we think for the next 10 years or so that will continue to rise,” IFTF Chief Executive Mark Oaten said. “There are 90 cities in China that buy as much fur as New York.” Sales in North America were $1.3 billion last year, a third more than when anti-fur protest movements were at their height in the 1990s, according to IFTF figures.
American counterterrorism officials consider those who commit violent acts in the name of the environment and animal rights a serious threat to homeland security. Senator James Inhofe noted that radical actors affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front had caused more than $110 million in damage between approximately 1995 and 2005.
Mink pelt production in the United States in 2011 totaled 3.09 million pelts, up 9 percent from 2010. Wisconsin, the largest mink producing State, produced 1,050,580 pelts. Utah, the second largest producing State, produced 698,960 pelts.
Value of pelts produced during the 2011 crop year was $292 million, up 25 percent from $233 million a year ago. The average price per pelt for the 2011 crop year was $94.30, up $12.40 from $81.90 in 2010.