Letter to the editor
Cow horns: the confirmation after many decades.
I read your article 'Cow horns, more than a decoration' with great interest. After many decades it confirmed my father's firm belief that cows have horns for a reason and that they are extremely valuable.
I was born in 1922 in Engi, Canton of Glarus, at a small, unprofitable farm on a steep mountain. We had one cow that we children loved like a sister. She spent the summers on the alp in a big herd and we often went to visit her. She always recognised us from far away and happily came to greet us. Every time my father was glad to see that our ‘Flori’ was well and her beautiful horns unscathed. He told us again and again how important this was. I am delighted that, after so many decades, you have confirmed his opinion for me.
My heartfelt thanks,
Afra Endtinger-Baumgartner, Basel
News - October 2008
Pig farming: less cruelty, more quality.
1.3 million male piglets are castrated in Switzerland every year, often without being numbed. This is done because a small percentage of the cooked meat of boars that are not castrated has a strong smell, which makes selling the meat difficult. New animal protection laws will regulate this process from 2010. Castration will only be allowed if the piglets are numbed, or through immuno-castration, an immunisation which suppresses the natural function of the testicles.
The physical integrity of the animals is one of the main aims of the Demeter Association. It co-operates with ‘Bio Suisse’ and ‘kagfreiland’ in campaigning for cruelty-free pig farming, as it is already successfully practised on some Demeter and Bio Suisse farms.
Market research surveys by the domestic animal protection organisation ‘kagfreiland’ show that consumers are very satisfied with the quality of the meat. In interviews with 156 consumers 59% said the meat was ‘excellent’, 36% said it was ‘very good’.
Many wine growers who care about the quality of their wines use biodynamic preparations.
The grape-vines seem to be particularly susceptible for their positive effects.
The grape-vine and the taste of the ‘Terroir’
Swiss Demeter wine growers in co-operation with the ‘Research Institute for Organic Agriculture’ (FiBL) have started an on-farm research project to document the effects of biodynamic preparations on the grape-vine and the quality of the wine.
More research, more taste
To judge the quality of the wine, samples are produced from the grapes of the different trial areas, professional wine tasters then test the quality of the wine. First results are expected in autumn 2009. The study is set up according to practical requirements. The wine growers follow the scientific guidelines given by the FiBL, they keep written records of the different steps they take in tending to the plants and meet regularly with the FiBL to exchange experiences and discuss preliminary results.
A life span that is two to three times longer than average for laying hens, and tastier chicken for the consumer - these are the central points of the Demeter research project.
The chickens used in modern large-scale chicken farming are especially bred for laying large amounts of eggs and below-average feeding. They start to lay eggs on a daily basis at an age of about 21 weeks and continue to grow until they are about 33 weeks old. After a life span of about 60 - 70 weeks egg production decreases rapidly, the chickens are exhausted. They are slaughtered and the meat is used for animal food.
Longer life span, higher quality of life
In co-operation with the ‘Research Institute for Organic Agriculture’ (FiBL) and the ‘Lehmann Mill’ Demeter has started a research project. The first aim is to find a chicken breed that is robust, lives for two to four years and produces a good amount of eggs during that time. The second aim is to keep all chicks alive. Today it is common practise to separate the one-day-old chicks and kill the male ones using them as animal food.
A break from laying to renew the life forces
Chickens renew their life forces by stopping to lay eggs once a year. For 2 – 3 weeks they take hardly any food, don’t lay eggs and lose their feathers. Then they start feeding, the feathers grow back and they lay eggs again. It is possible to have a whole flock of chickens enter this process at the same time by deliberately reducing the amount of food they get.
One trial group of chickens at the Demeter research project has already had two of these breaks and the hens are now laying eggs again regularly. By mid-October these hens will be 118 weeks, i.e. more than two years old and they are in good health.
The second aim of the research project is to keep all chicks alive and to sell the grown male chicks for human meat consumption. Preliminary trials have shown that their meat is slightly more muscular, but at the same time has a more intense taste. Official trials are due to start in summer 2009.