The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a national nonprofit foundation established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, and the Open Philanthropy Project, which identifies high-impact giving opportunities and makes grants, launched a partnership today to improve the welfare and productivity of egg-laying hens and commercially raised pigs.
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is matching a $1 million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to support producers’ ability to adapt to a changing animal production landscape, partially driven by consumer demand for products such as cage-free eggs and increasing global demand for pork. FFAR will support the competitive research initiatives valued at $2 million in total.
“The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to partner with the Open Philanthropy Project to support farm animal welfare science,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., FFAR executive director. “Research funded through this exciting partnership has the potential to yield game-changing scientific advances that could improve livestock production practices.”
This grant program is the first initiative within the FFAR Protein Challenge, a suite of research programs that will support producers’ efforts to improve plant and animal production efficiency to meet the growing global protein demand while conserving natural resources.
“The AVMA strongly supports innovation, and applauds FFAR for funding research to address bone fractures in chickens raised in aviaries and to identify alternatives to surgical castration of male piglets,” said Cia Johnson, D.V.M., director of the American Veterinary Medical Association Animal Welfare Division. “The AVMA is committed to protecting animal health and promoting good welfare through evidence-based decision-making.”
One goal of the research initiative is to reduce bone fractures in egg-laying hens. Bone fractures, which cause pain and decrease egg production, are one known challenge to raising hens in cage-free housing systems. With all top 25 U.S. grocers and the majority of the top 20 fast food chains working to meet cage-free pledges, this issue is increasingly salient. Potential research to improve keel bone health might explore ways to increase bone strength through breeding or new dietary formulations and improving housing design.
Based on U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates of the number of hens needed to meet existing cage-free pledges, this research has the potential to improve the welfare and productivity of approximately 100 million hens by 2025.
Additionally, this competitive research will help to develop alternatives to castration, a global livestock production practice used to improve meat quality and make management easier and safer. Alternatives to castration, a painful procedure, are currently limited. Developing new alternatives has the potential to improve the welfare and productivity of more than 60 million piglets per year.
Researchers will be invited to respond to a Request for Applications, to be available on the FFAR website May 31. To learn more, visit http://foundationfar.org/challenge/protein-challenge/animal-welfare/.