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Compassion in World Farming USA — General Support (2016)

CIWF USA Food Business Manager Rachel Dreskin (left) and CIWF USA Executive Director Leah Garces at White Oak Pastures. (Photo courtesy of CIWF USA)
Organization Name 
Award Date 
Grant Amount 
For general support
Topic (focus area) 

Published: July 2016

Compassion in World Farming USA staff reviewed this page prior to publication.

The Open Philanthropy Project recommended a grant of $550,000 over two years to Compassion in World Farming USA (CIWF USA) for general support.

CIWF USA is a farm animal welfare organization that shares our belief that incremental reform through corporate campaigns is one of the most likely paths to reducing farm animal suffering in the U.S. CIWF USA’s work focuses on two issues that we believe are likely to account for the majority of terrestrial farm animal suffering: the treatment of egg-laying hens and of broiler chickens raised for meat. CIWF USA’s Executive Director Leah Garces has built relationships with major food companies and we think she has a compelling vision for advancing broiler welfare reforms.

CIWF USA is a small organization with an annual budget of roughly $450,000. This $550,000 grant over two years will allow it to hire two new corporate engagement staff, one operations staff member, and a public engagement manager. We expect this expanded staff to enable CIWF USA to engage many more companies, while also allowing the executive director to increase the amount of time spent on her core task of securing corporate reforms.


The cause

Farm animal welfare is one of our focus areas within U.S. Policy. CIWF USA’s work focuses on reducing the suffering of egg-laying hens and broiler chickens in the United States.

In our page about a grant made to The Humane League (THL) for work on cage-free egg campaigns, we wrote in greater depth about the benefits of cage-free systems and the track record of cage-free campaigns. In short, roughly 260 million hens are currently confined in battery cages in the U.S.1 Peter Singer has called these hens “the most closely confined, overcrowded and generally miserable animals in America.”2Lewis Bollard explained why we support corporate cage-free campaigns on our blog.

Roughly 9 billion broiler chickens are raised on farms in the U.S. each year, making these chickens the largest group of non-marine farm animals.3 To date, we believe very little work has been done to improve their welfare. CIWF USA has developed a broiler chicken welfare program that focuses on five main areas:

  • Lower stocking density4

  • Higher welfare breeds, including slower growth rates5

  • Reduced lameness6

  • Increased environmental enrichment, including better lighting7

  • Less cruel slaughter systems, including moving away from electrical waterbath stunning systems.

CIWF USA has published summaries of this research on its website.8

We are not yet convinced that these five areas are the right things to focus on in poultry welfare, but we believe they represent a reasonable starting point. We anticipate more research in this area.

The organization

CIWF USA is the U.S. affiliate of a larger global farm animal welfare organization based in the United Kingdom (CIWF UK). CIWF USA is a small organization with only three staff members:

  • Executive Director Leah Garces, who works on corporate advocacy and fundraising.
  • A corporate engagement manager.
  • A digital manager responsible for online fundraising and media.

CIWF USA seeks to improve the welfare of chickens raised for food via its Food Business program, which engages in corporate advocacy campaigns.9 We believe this program has a reasonably strong track record (more below).

About the grant

Proposed activities

CIWF USA believes, and we agree, that scaling up would allow it to become a more effective organization.10 CIWF USA’s proposed budget calls for hiring two additional corporate engagement managers, an operational support staffer, and a public engagement manager. The need for a larger staff is primarily a result of CIWF USA’s approach to corporate outreach, which is more labor-intensive than that of other farm animal welfare groups with which we are familiar.

CIWF USA is focused both on cage-free egg campaigns and broiler chicken welfare. It plans to run campaigns focusing on both producers and retailers. Campaigns with retailers will seek to persuade target companies to commit to sourcing their chicken from producers raising breeds with higher welfare traits in less cruel conditions.

Budget and room for more funding

CIWF USA has an annual budget of roughly $450,000, while CIWF UK has an annual budget of £6,477,213 (about $9.4 million).11 It is our understanding, based on a conversation with Leah Garces, that CIWF USA receives a majority of its current funding from the global headquarters, though it aims to eventually be self-sufficient from U.S.-based fundraising.

CIWF USA plans on using the $275,000 per year provided by this grant to hire two new corporate engagement staff, one operations staff member, and a public engagement manager.

Absent our funding, we are reasonably confident that CIWF USA would not expand significantly in the near future. CIWF USA has a history of steady but slow revenue growth and few obvious alternative funding sources. In our view, the lack of alternative funding sources is likely caused by the relative dearth of donors focused on incremental welfare reforms (as opposed to, e.g., advocacy for veganism or sustainable agriculture systems).

Case for the grant

We see this grant as an opportunity to expand our support for organizations working to improve the living conditions of animals on U.S. factory farms beyond our early grants on cage-free corporate campaigns. CIWF USA broadly shares our approach to farm animal welfare and is in the early stages of expanding the scope of its work to include broiler chickens, which we (and as far as we know, the vast majority of animal advocates) consider an underserved population of farm animals. We are reasonably confident in CIWF USA’s track record and ability to implement its model at scale.

Scaling an organization aligned with us on farm animal welfare

This is an opportunity to scale an organization that is well-aligned with our approach to farm animal welfare. CIWF USA promotes incremental reforms to improve farm animal welfare, which we think is an effective approach to achieving meaningful improvements in farm animal welfare. It seeks to achieve reform primarily through corporate campaigns, which is an approach that we think is particularly promising and likely to be cost-effective.

CIWF USA's $450,000 annual budget is small, and this grant will substantially increase it. We expect the increased staff size to enable CIWF USA to reach more companies through its corporate engagement program. We also expect the work done by the new operations staff member and the public engagement manager to reduce the amount of time the executive director spends on operations and public relations, allowing her to focus on corporate outreach work.

Broiler chicken welfare

This is an opportunity to support work aimed at improving the welfare of broiler chickens. CIWF USA seems to us to be particularly well positioned to make progress on broiler chicken welfare because of its technical expertise, the relationships it has built through its UK office with multinational corporations, and the relationships Leah Garces has built in the U.S. with major chicken farming corporations.

When CIWF USA works with a company on broiler chicken welfare, its main goal is to persuade the company to adopt the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) certification standards for broiler chickens – preferably at GAP step three or above.12 We think this is a promising approach and believe that the GAP broiler standards comprehensively address the main welfare issues. (See our write-up of a grant to GAP for more.)

CIWF USA's track record and Executive Director Leah Garces

CIWF USA has a history of success, albeit a somewhat recent one, with its corporate cage-free campaigns. We believe that it played a major role in getting retail giant Delhaize America, owner of Food Lion and Hannaford, to pledge to go cage-free. 13 We also believe, based on a conversation with an independent animal welfare advocate, that CIWF USA played a major role in securing Trader Joe's recent pledge to source its eggs from 100% cage-free suppliers.14 In addition, we believe that CIWF USA likely played a role in the successful campaigns to convince Panera Bread15 and Taco Bell16 to agree to cage-free pledges. We also think that CIWF USA’s campaigns influenced other companies to pledge to source their eggs from cage-free hens, though we have limited information regarding CIWF USA’s role in these campaigns and cannot confidently attribute their success to its work.

CIWF USA’s Executive Director, Leah Garces, has consistently impressed us with her strategic approach and pragmatism. Our understanding is that she has extensive and practical experience working with major food companies on key farm animal welfare issues. Her approach involves:

  • Running day-long seminars on key animal welfare issues at major food companies.
  • Building strong relationships with personnel at the companies to ensure that they meet their commitments.
  • Launching creative campaigns when necessary to bring companies to the negotiating table.

Effectiveness of corporate campaigns

We generally have a very positive impression of the track record and cost-effectiveness of corporate advocacy. We believe that corporate campaigns have played a direct role in causing roughly 100 companies to make “cage-free” pledges, affecting roughly 60 million hens, in the past two years.17

If CIWF USA is able to achieve reforms that reduce the suffering of broiler chickens, it could affect a very large number of animals. For example, Tyson Foods slaughters roughly 2 billion chickens per year globally.18 Given the scale of the broiler chicken industry in the U.S., our best guess is that campaigns aimed at reducing the suffering of broiler chickens are likely to be roughly as cost-effective as cage-free egg campaigns. We have previously estimated that recent cage-free campaigns have spared approximately 120 animals one year of extreme confinement per dollar spent.

However, this analysis of the potential cost-effectiveness of broiler campaigns is speculative, and we would further caveat it by noting that we think there is a wider range of potential outcomes for broiler campaigns than for egg-free campaigns. It is plausible to us that CIWF USA’s broiler welfare campaigns could yield large returns or none at all.

Risks and reservations

There are a number of reasons we are uncertain about the impact this grant is likely to have (followed below, in some cases, by reasons we are not excessively concerned by them):

  • We’ve heard conflicting reports from CIWF USA and other movement actors regarding CIWF USA’s role in some past victories, which we expect to somewhat reduce our confidence in claims of impact that CIWF USA makes in the future.
  • Several people we spoke to expressed concern that CIWF USA’s successes are heavily driven by the work of Executive Director Leah Garces, and were skeptical that additional staff will allow CIWF to scale its successes without steeply diminishing returns. Even if this were true (which we do not find particularly likely), we expect one of the benefits of a larger staff to be that Ms. Garces will have more time to devote to corporate outreach.
  • In the past, CIWF USA has devoted some of its limited resources to projects which we do not think were cost-effective because they only affected small numbers of animals.19 However, CIWF USA appears to have now re-prioritized to focus almost exclusively on corporate cage-free and broiler welfare reforms.
  • The track record for the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of corporate advocacy campaigns promoting broiler chicken welfare is less well-established than the record for cage-free egg campaigns. CIWF USA believes that the main impediment to successful campaigns is the lack of consumer awareness regarding broiler chicken suffering, which is a principle reason why CIWF USA plans to use funds from this grant to hire a public engagement manager.
  • We think it is likely that some of the funding provided by this grant will serve to replace funding from the CIWF UK office, which provides a majority of CIWF USA’s existing funding. Given that the maximum amount that our funding could replace is still relatively small, and that we have a generally positive impression of CIWF UK’s work, we are not especially concerned about this.
  • We think it is possible that slowing the growth of broiler chickens – one of the primary goals of CIWF USA’s broiler chicken welfare work – may not reduce these chickens’ suffering enough to outweigh the increased suffering from prolonging their lives on inhumane factory farms. However, we think this is less likely if slower growth is accompanied by other improvements to the breed and living conditions of the birds, which CIWF USA also plans to work towards.

Plans for learning and follow-up

Goals and expectations for this grant

We hope this grant will enable CIWF USA to:

  1. Grow into a role similar to that which we see organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filling, working cooperatively with U.S. corporations to achieve farm animal welfare reforms.
  2. Persuade at least one major poultry producer (e.g. Perdue Foods, Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation) to adopt a meaningful broiler welfare policy, thereby setting a precedent in the industry.
  3. Continue the existing trend toward cage-free eggs and begin securing broiler chicken welfare policies at major companies.

Internal forecasts

We’re experimenting with recording explicit numerical forecasts of events related to our decisionmaking (especially grantmaking). The idea behind this is to pull out the implicit predictions that are playing a role in our decisions, and make it possible for us to look back on how well-calibrated and accurate those are. For this grant, we are recording the following forecasts:

  • 50% chance that CIWF USA will persuade at least one major poultry company to adopt a meaningful broiler chicken welfare policy.

  • 75% chance that CIWF USA will play a major role in securing five or more new corporate cage-free pledges.

Our process

We previously considered making a grant to CIWF USA for work on cage-free campaigns. We decided not to make that grant because CIWF USA’s work did not neatly fit into the specific framework of cage-free campaigns, and because we were concerned about its history of also working on less cost-effective campaigns.

A few months later, we re-considered CIWF USA for a one-off general support grant. Based on conversations with Ms. Garces and a number of animal advocates, we decided to move forward.


American Egg Board, About the U.S. Egg IndustrySource (archive)
BusinessWire 2016Source (archive)
CIWF USA, Broiler welfare in commercial systemsSource (archive)
CIWF USA, Our Food Business ProgramSource (archive)
CIWF USA, Pastured Poultry WeekSource (archive)
CIWF USA, Resources: Broiler ChickensSource (archive)
CIWF, 2014-15 Annual ReviewSource (archive)
CIWF, Summary of USA strategySource
Global Animal Partnership, 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating StandardsSource (archive)
Humane Society of the United States, Farm Animal StatisticsSource (archive)
Our internal estimates of cage-free pledges as of mid-February 2016Source
Panera, Going Cage-FreeSource (archive)
Singer 2015Source (archive)
Taco Bell, Cage-FreeSource (archive)
Trader Joe’s, About Trader Joe’s Offerings of EggsSource (archive)
Tyson Foods, 2013 Fact BookSource (archive)
  • 1. American Egg Board, About the U.S. Egg Industry:

    • “Table egg flock size on January 1, 2016, was 288 million layers.”
    • “As of September 2015, the total U.S. Cage-Free Flock totaled 8.6 percent or 23.6 million hens.”

  • 2. Singer 2015
  • 3. Humane Society of the United States, Farm Animal Statistics
  • 4. CIWF USA, Broiler welfare in commercial systems:
    • “The negative effects of stocking density on broiler welfare are manifested in relation to poor litter quality, poor walking ability, foot pad dermatitis and behavioural restriction, as reviewed by the European Commission (SCAHAW, 2000). Here they stated ‘It is clear from the behaviour and leg disorder studies that stocking density must be 25kg/m2 or lower for major welfare problems to be largely avoided and that above 30 kg/m2 , even with very good environmental control systems, there is a steep rise in the frequency of serious problems’.” Pg. 1

    • “Static requirements vary from 25 to 33kg/m2 at 1.5 and 3.5kg, respectively, equivalent to 17birds/m2 at 1.5kg and 9.5birds/m2 at 3.5kg. Active space requirements vary from 19 to 25kg/m2 over the same weight range, equivalent to 12.5birds/m2 at 1.5kg and 7birds/m2 at 3.5kg. Setting maximum stocking density as a flat rate across the various bodyweights of broilers, leads to overstocking of the lightweight and understocking of the heavy weight birds. Static space for a 2.5kg bird is 30kg/m2 and is the required density in our Good Chicken Award. Ideally, we would like space allowance (hence calculated stocking density) to be viewed allometrically; as this takes numbers of birds and bodyweight into account.” Pg. 2

  • 5. “Liveweight and growth rate were entirely responsible for the differences in walking ability of 13 broiler genotypes with a wide range of growth potentials (Kestin et al., 2001). Despite genetic progress for leg health in chickens, poor walking ability is still prevalent though highly variable between flocks, with multi-factorial risks (Bradshaw et al., 2002). Primary risk factors in healthy flocks are those of high growth rate (Knowles et al., 2008) and poor environmental control (Jones et al., 2005). Slowing early growth and increasing activity, via introducing longer dark periods (see below), feeding less nutrient dense diets (Letterier et al., 1998; Welfare Quality, 2010) and feeding mash as opposed to pelleted feed (Brickett et al., 2007a), can improve leg health and walking ability.” CIWF USA, Broiler welfare in commercial systems, pg. 2
  • 6. CIWF USA, Broiler welfare in commercial systems:
    • “… increasing stocking density from 30kg/m2 also led to a deterioration in walking ability …” Pg. 1
    • “Liveweight and growth rate were entirely responsible for the differences in walking ability of 13 broiler genotypes with a wide range of growth potentials (Kestin et al., 2001). Despite genetic progress for leg health in chickens, poor walking ability is still prevalent though highly variable between flocks, with multi-factorial risks (Bradshaw et al., 2002). Primary risk factors in healthy flocks are those of high growth rate (Knowles et al., 2008) and poor environmental control (Jones et al., 2005).” Pg. 2

  • 7. CIWF USA, Broiler welfare in commercial systems:
    • “A period of darkness is required for proper sleep patterns and diurnal behavioural rhythm (Appleby, 1994), and sleep is required for physiological recuperation in terms of energy conservation, tissue regeneration and growth (Malleau et al., 2007). Shorter days improved welfare through fewer skeletal problems (Classen et al., 1991), less mortality (Rozenboim et al., 1999; Bricket et al., 2007b; Schwean Lardner and Classen, 2010), improved walking (Santora et al., 2002; Bricket et al., 2007a; Knowles et al., 2008), and increased behaviour and reduced fearfulness (Sanotra et al., 2002). Based on maximised behavioural expression (increased activity, feeding, drinking, comfort, maintenance and exploratory behaviours) optimal welfare was achieved under a 16 to 17 hour light programme (Schwean-Lardner et al., 2012).” Pg. 5
    • “Access outdoors allows for foraging and exploration, and increases the range of environments, food sources and activity, creating the potential for improved welfare.” Pg. 5
    • ” Artificial shelter, outdoor drinkers, and dustbathing areas are required by assurance schemes in an attempt to make the outdoor environment more attractive to the birds. Tree provision with good canopy cover further enhances the outdoor environment and increased the ranging of Label Rouge (Mirabito et al., 2001), and fast growth broilers (Jones et al., 2007).” Pg. 5

  • 8. CIWF USA, Resources: Broiler Chickens
  • 9.

    “Since 2007, Compassion in World Farming’s Food Business team has been working with some of the world’s biggest food companies - retailers, producers, manufacturers and food service companies - to place farm animal welfare at the forefront of their corporate social responsibility agendas. The companies we work with are a key part of the drive towards a more ethical and sustainable food supply, through their procurement policies and support of higher welfare farming systems.

    We have a team of specialist staff who engage with leading food companies, inspiring progress through prestigious awards and supporting products and initiatives which represent tangible benefits for farm animals.” CIWF USA, Our Food Business Program

  • 10. “Our established European program has acted as a springboard into the US and our initial Food Business focus over the past 2 years demonstrates that leading US food companies are receptive and ready to engage with us. However, to meet the growing demand for our services from the US food industry, advance our program and, thereby, increase our impact, we need to expand and scale up our US operation as a matter of urgency.” CIWF, Summary of USA strategy
  • 11. CIWF, 2014-15 Annual Review, pg. 8
  • 12. “Generally, chickens raised in Step 1 systems live in a permanent housing structure and are provided the space to express natural behavior. In Step 2, they live in an enriched indoor environment. Chickens in Step 3 systems have seasonal access to the outdoors with provisions that encourage ranging and foraging. In Step 4, they live continuously in an enhanced outdoor environment during daylight hours, with access to housing; when they may be at‐risk outdoors due to climatic conditions, the chickens have continuous access to a covered outdoor area with foraging material and natural light. In Step 5 and Step 5+, chickens live continuously outdoors in an enhanced environment during daylight hours and may only be housed during extreme weather conditions. At Step 5+, chickens spend their lives from placement on a single farm.” Global Animal Partnership, 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards
  • 13. ”As part of the company’s continued commitment to sustainability and animal welfare, Delhaize America announced today that it will work with suppliers to reach a 100 percent cage-free shell egg assortment by 2025. … Delhaize America works closely with a number of animal welfare consulting groups, including Compassion in World Farming.” BusinessWire 2016
  • 14. “As we continue to listen to our customers, and as the supply-side of the egg business evolves to keep pace with a growing cage-free preference, we have set the following goals: to have all the eggs we sell in western states (CA, OR, WA, AZ, NM, and CO) come from cage-free suppliers by 2020 and all the eggs we sell nationally to come from cage-free suppliers by 2025. If market conditions allow us to accomplish these goals earlier, while still providing our customers outstanding value, we will do so.” Trader Joe’s, About Trader Joe’s Offerings of Eggs
  • 15. “At Panera®, we’re on a journey to ensure the highest possible animal welfare standards. As a part of that journey, we’ve announced our commitment to moving to using only cage-free eggs by 2020.” Panera, Going Cage-Free
  • 16. “Taco Bell® today extended its long-standing promise to delivering quality food at great value by announcing that 100% of its more than 6,000 U.S. corporate and franchise-owned restaurants will exclusively serve cage-free eggs by December 31, 2016.” Taco Bell, Cage-Free
  • 17. Our internal estimates of cage-free pledges as of mid-February 2016
  • 18. “FY13 Average Weekly Production: Chicken: 40.9 million chickens”. Tyson Foods, 2013 Fact Book

    40.9 million chickens/week * 52 weeks/year = ~2.1 billion chickens/year

  • 19. For example, Pastured Poultry Week (CIWF USA, Pastured Poultry Week).