Frequently Asked Questions
On this page, you will find brief answers to the questions most frequently asked of FCUSA.
How Important Is Animal Welfare In Mink Fur Farming?
As any dog or cat owner knows, a healthy coat is one of the best indicators of their pet’s health. And since a fur farmer’s livelihood depends upon producing top-quality fur, nothing is more important to him than the health of his animals.
Raising furbearers is a challenging profession, and only people with expert knowledge of their welfare needs will succeed. These are live animals which must be cared for every day – weekday, weekend or public holiday.
Farmers without a real interest in their animals’ welfare will soon suffer themselves in the form of poor financial return.
See also AMVA Guidelines on Euthanasia.
What Do Farmed Mink Eat?
Farmed mink primarily eat the by-products (or waste) from the production of food for humans, in particular such high-protein ingredients as dairy, fish and meat.
In 2009, US mink farmers produced 2.86 million pelts. Since one farmed mink eats about 140 lbs during its life, all those mink consumed 400,400,000 lbs – or 200,200 short tons – of waste. A fully laden Boeing 747 weighs 900,000 lbs, and US mink eat the equivalent of 445 of them every year!
Looked at another way, a full-length mink coat containing 40 pelts represents 5,600 lbs of waste, and a jacket made of 20 pelts, 2,800 lbs.
Is The Whole Mink Used? What Happens To The Rest Of The Animal After The Pelt Has Been Removed?
Mink have a thick coat of fur and a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, disguising the fact that they are really quite skinny – not much more substantial than rats!
As the price of biodiesel equipment falls, and petrochemical fuel prices remain high, more farmers are investing in equipment to convert fat to energy for on-farm use. However, currently, the best value for mink fat is realized by refining it to cosmetic grade oil for use in hypo-allergenic facial oils and cosmetics.
The oil is also used to condition and preserve leather. Mink oil can be purchased at some pharmacies, on the Internet.
Mink carcasses are rarely eaten by humans as the scent gland gives the meat a distinctive flavor which most people don’t enjoy. However, they are not wasted. Some farmers trade them for fish offal with fishermen who use them as crab bait. Crabs love mink meat, but seals hate it!
Other farmers give the carcasses to people who raise birds of prey or run wildlife preserves, zoos or aquariums. Yet others use them to make organic compost. Or they may be bought and rendered down to provide raw materials for a wide range of products, from tires and paint to makeup and organic fertilizers.
Are Farmed Furbearers Wild Or Domesticated?
Livestock on American mink farms are domesticated descendants of wild animals, some caught almost a century ago. They have been selectively bred to be healthy and thrive in a farm environment, and to provide the most desirable fur quality and a variety of colors. This is the same way all breeds of domestic livestock, pets, animals used in medical research, and animals in zoos and aquariums, have evolved and are continuously improved.
As with sheep, cows and pets, farmed furbearers are totally dependent on man for their needs, and rarely survive long if released into the wild.
The status of farmed mink as domesticated animals is also recognized in US law (see US Code Title 7, Chapter 7, § 433).
Do Mink Make Good Pets?
No. Domesticated mink do not make good pets. If you have heard that mink make good pets, it’s misinformation.
While dogs and cats have been selectively bred for pet-quality traits over thousands of years, domesticated mink are livestock that have been bred for clothing and oil and life on a farm.
Domesticated mink retain many of their aggressive traits. Mink have very sharp teeth and claws and can inflict nasty injuries on their handlers. They are also carnivorous and so need a high protein diet. Given the chance, mink will eat your pet guinea pigs, rabbits and goldfish.
We only know of one owner who successfully raised a mink in his home, and even he has been unable to reproduce that success with other mink from the same and subsequent litters.
Mink have not been selectively bred for pet-quality, so FCUSA does not recommend you attempt to hold and raise them as pets unless you are willing to give, at the minimum, 20 years to the project.
If ferret-like pets are what interest you, consider a ferret (if ownership is legal in your state). Ferrets have been raised for pet quality for thousands of years. That said, they are still not for everyone. Dogs and cats are infinitely better choices.
Why Are Fur Coats So Expensive?
From pelt production, to dressing, design and manufacturing, every stage in the production of a fur coat is labor-intensive and requires skilled craftsmanship.
In all, it takes about one full year from the time a trapper or farmer sends his furs to auction to the time the finished fur garment is ready for the consumer. Production of the finished garment alone may take 40 hours, which is longer than it now takes to make a car! It is this skilled labor that is the major component in the final cost of a fur garment. See Fur: The Fabric of a Nation, produced by the Fur Council of Canada.
How Can I Determine The Quality Of A Mink Pelt?
Most mink pelts are traded through auction houses (see above), where they have been graded by highly trained professionals.
A layperson would have a hard time matching their skills, but for general pointers on grading your own mink, see Fur Farming Special Feature: Grading Mink.
For other types of fur, see Fur Types in Brief.
How Should I Care For My Fur?
Any fur will last longer, while looking better, if given appropriate care by a professional furrier. This is true both when you are concerned about damage, and when it is simply a matter of storing for the summer.
Storage: Cedar closets have traditionally been vaunted as home-storage facilities, but while they protect against insect damage, they cannot match a specialized, climate-controlled “fur vault” that prevents insect damage and stops the leather from drying out. Fur vaults are generally set at between 40-50°F, with humidity at 45-55%. Furriers either have their own fur vaults or rent space from specialized storage facilities. When choosing a storage facility, make sure it has the correct temperature and humidity settings. If you decide to store your garments at home, smaller items such as hats can go in a refrigerator (not the freezer), while scarves and stoles should be suspended on a padded roll hanger with the fur side up. Larger items should go in a protective bag made from silk or cotton. Also advisable for coats are hangers with broad or padded shoulders to maintain the garment’s shape. Make sure your fur has plenty of air and space around it, but no direct light. Never store it in a plastic bag, or use moth balls or other insect repellents, as these will cause damage
Cleaning: Furs gather dirt and should be cleaned annually by a furrier to maintain their luster. This is also the ideal time to have the garment checked for any small tears or other needed repairs. Cleaning is done by tumbling furs in a drum of sawdust soaked in a special solution, then glazing them to bring out the sheen and make them soft and fluffy. Flat, curly furs such as broadtail are pressed with waxed paper to give them added sheen. Never attempt to clean a fur at home with a commercial dry cleaner or solvent, as this may leave the fur flat or even cause hairs to fall out. Fur-trimmed garments and accessories should be treated like furs and cleaned only by a furrier. White and pale furs require special treatments, since exposure to the sun can give them a yellow tint over time. To remedy this, furriers add a special bleach to white furs or a brightener to pale furs.
Water exposure: Rain or snow in moderation will not harm your fur. Simply shake it out as soon as is convenient, and hang it up to dry in an airy, cool place. Never place it near heat as this will make the fur dry and dull, and make the leather brittle. If it gets absolutely soaked, take it to your furrier. If, after drying, your fur smells and the odor remains, take it to your furrier. Do not use perfumes or odor solvents as these may damage it. If matting occurs (more common with sheared furs), take it to a furrier for proper treatment.
Other liquids: If your fur is exposed to liquids other than water, in particular staining or sticky liquids, dab the excess moisture away. Do not rub. Then leave the rest to a furrier.
Fluffing: To fluff a garment, shake it out gently. Never use a comb or brush.
I Have An Old Fur That I don’t Need Anymore, Or Which I’d Like Restyled Or Recycled. What Should I Do With It?
Most furriers do not purchase old furs.
However, they may arrange for it to be restyled or recycled into pillows or plush toys.
Surplus furs and damaged pelts can also be transformed into beautiful teddy bears that are then given to charity fundraisers. Call your local furrier.
Where Do I Buy Raw Or Dressed Pelts At Wholesale?
These North American auction houses are marketing cooperatives selling wild and farmed fur pelts to buyers from around the world.
I Inherited A Fur Garment. I Would Like To Identify The Type Of Fur And Have Its Value Appraised.
Information about the type of fur should already be contained in the fur’s label, if it still carries one. Click here, for resources on the labeling of furs.
Failing that, a visit to a furrier is the best option. Most will be happy to examine your fur personally, and also to put an approximate value on it.
Visit the website of the American Fur Council, which represents fur retailers, manufacturers and designers, to find a furrier near you.
I’m A Student Or Journalist Writing A Report On Fur Farming. Where Do I Start?
Follow these links to pages on this website that other visitors have found to be useful.
I Am A Researcher Or Farmer Looking for Scientific Information On Domesticated Furbearers. Whom Should I Contact?
Contact Fur Commission USA for further information, or mail us your request on the official letterhead of your company or educational institution, accompanied by a brief C.V.
FCUSA will then forward your request to our Research Committee for their consideration.
I Want to Supply Feed, Equipment Or Services To Fur Farmers. How Do I Start?
Since most fur farmers work at home and the farm address is their home address, FCUSA does not release their addresses to the public.
We are happy to contact them on your behalf. Please contact us and we will pass your information on to the appropriate parties.