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.
1.1 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.”2 Lewis 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.
1.2 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).
2. About the grant
2.1 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.
2.2 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).
2.3 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.
2.3.1 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.
2.3.2 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.)
2.3.3 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.
2.3.4 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.
2.4 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.
3. Plans for learning and follow-up
3.1 Goals and expectations for this grant
We hope this grant will enable CIWF USA to:
- 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.
- 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.
- Continue the existing trend toward cage-free eggs and begin securing broiler chicken welfare policies at major companies.
3.2 Internal forecasts
We’re experimenting with recording explicit numerical forecasts of events related to our decision making (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.
4. 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 Industry||Source (archive)|
|BusinessWire 2016||Source (archive)|
|CIWF USA, Broiler welfare in commercial systems||Source (archive)|
|CIWF USA, Our Food Business Program||Source (archive)|
|CIWF USA, Pastured Poultry Week||Source (archive)|
|CIWF USA, Resources: Broiler Chickens||Source (archive)|
|CIWF, 2014-15 Annual Review||Source (archive)|
|CIWF, Summary of USA strategy||Source|
|Global Animal Partnership, 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards||Source (archive)|
|Humane Society of the United States, Farm Animal Statistics||Source (archive)|
|Our internal estimates of cage-free pledges as of mid-February 2016||Source|
|Panera, Going Cage-Free||Source (archive)|
|Singer 2015||Source (archive)|
|Taco Bell, Cage-Free||Source (archive)|
|Trader Joe’s, About Trader Joe’s Offerings of Eggs||Source (archive)|
|Tyson Foods, 2013 Fact Book||Source (archive)|