Karolina is co-founder and Director of Research at Charity Entrepreneurship. She also serves as a Fund Manager at the EA Animal Welfare Fund, and as a board member and consultant for various nonprofits and think tanks.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karolinasarek/


Why we want to start a charity fortifying feed for hens (founders needed)

One point that I feel that we haven’t communicated well enough on is that cost of $27,000 per farm we have in the CEA doesn’t literally mean that we will pay the farm $27,000. As mentioned in the post, “this aims to set a conservative minimal threshold for cost-effectiveness. A high-scale, lower cost strategy (e.g. outreach through farmers associations) could further increase cost-effectiveness.”.  We want to test in our CEA the worst possible scenario and it doesn’t mean that this will be the strategy. I will make a note to structure our reports differently in the future to avoid the confusion that what we test under “charity report” is literally also an implementation that the organization is going to go with. 

“However, I couldn't see any mention in the report of how the initial work with individual farms could be translated into policy change.”

Sorry if we don’t include the details about the implementation in the charity ideas report. We usually follow up those reports with an “implementation report” to discuss long-term strategy, etc. Those are shared with co-founders who often contribute to them. Still, we prefer not to share them publicly for two reasons i) we don’t want the details of the strategy to potentially negatively affect the campaign ii) the strategy outlines the uncertainties that co-founders have to test at the beginning and how they should adopt the strategy to that, so because the plans are to some extend flexible they could change so we don’t want to create confusion. 

More specifically to your point, 

“It seems likely that it would increase profits in the Indian egg industry by paying for something (at an estimated cost of $27,000 per farm according to the model) which will likely increase the overall profitability of farms”. 

The approach that charity will take is to first try to achieve success for cage-free and feed fort through multiple means that don’t require any support from us and put costs on the producers (e.g., outreach through farmers’ associations and partnership building ). If that would be unsuccessful (e.g., because there is no proof of concept), then try to subsidize an additional cost that farmer would have to take to have a higher level of nutrients in the feed (e.g., if low-nutrient feed would cost 1$, and high-nutrient feed would cost $3, we would subsidize the $2 difference between them). That way, the new situation is that producers’ costs are the same as before the intervention, and hens have a higher nutrient feed at the same time. No change in costs = no change in price = no major change in long-term profitability. If there is still resistance to fortification, only then would we consider a higher level of subsidization to achieve proof of concept and then when more widely adopted. That would be the case only until enough farmers operate like that to push for more systemic change, e.g., new mandatory feed standards in state regulations that are not subsidized at scale. What we model in the CEA is the absolute worst-case scenario, not the scenario that is most likely. 

"Although the animal advocate understands that these problems could also be problems for the cage-free campaigns, they think that cage-free is a better ask because it tackles one of the underlying issues of intensive factory farming (confinement), where feed fortification doesn’t."

I agree with this advocate’s opinion that behavioral restrictions (like foraging and movement deprivation) caused by conventional cages and enriched cages are the biggest welfare problem, as you can see on the graph we linked from Cynthia Schuck-Paim and Wladimir Alonso’s forthcoming book, Quantifying Pain in Laying Hens. But keel bone fractures are the second biggest issue in conventional and enriched cages and the biggest in cage-free/aviary systems. 

That’s why in places where there is no cage-free production (e.g., in India), we would recommend a focus on cage-free and feed fort, and in places where the shift to cage-free already happened, we want to work on feed fortification to avert keel bone fracture. 

When speaking with advocates about it, we only spoke about feed fort in India, instead of cage-free + feed fort in India, so maybe that created confusion. 

Why we want to start a charity fortifying feed for hens (founders needed)

Hi Gordan! Happy to respond more in-depth but first, I have two clarifying points.

This intervention is for egg-laying hens, not broiler chickens. Egg-laying hens are not used for meat, but I could address your question from the perspective of egg quality. Is that fine? 

Also, are you making an argument that feed fort will specifically be more prone to “humane-washing” compared to, e.g. cage-free/broiler campaigns or that all welfare-focused interventions that aim to improve the conditions on the farms are prone to “humane-washing” and therefore may be net-negative in the long term?

Why we want to start a charity fortifying feed for hens (founders needed)

Hi Jamie! Thanks for engaging with the research. 

  • On flock size, yes you are understanding this correctly. You make a good point, although the model doesn’t rely much on this factor so I wouldn’t expect it to greatly alter the endline cost-effectiveness. But to double-check, I went back to our model and replaced the current estimate of flock size in 2019 with a range from 25,500 to 59,000 hens (capturing the possibility that flock sizes remained the same as in 2007 and all hens were placed in new farms, as well as the possibility that no new farms were built and existing flock sizes increased). With this adjusted flock size, we get an updated cost-effectiveness of 32 WP/$ and 1.4 chickens helped/$, so the intervention still looks promising. It is likely the endline cost-effectiveness isn’t greatly affected by this change to the flock size number as subsidization costs play a big part in the cost-effectiveness of this intervention. Although a smaller flock size will mean fewer chickens helped per farm, it will also mean less money spent per farm. 
  • On the “humane-washing”, this advocate’s concern applied to all welfare-focused interventions that aim to improve the conditions on the farms e.g. cage-free, broiler campaigns and fish welfare campaigns. As with those, a similar long-term strategy will apply to the feed fortification organization. The end goal is a change of law to establish mandatory regulation on optimal nutrition for hens (similarly to cage-free asks, which aim at a complete ban on cages for hens. We’ve done some research into policy change for feed fortification in India and concluded that because of problems with enforcement and other barriers we would like to provide a proof of concept and transition part of the industry to production with optimal feed first. But in the long term, we would like to see legal requirements that hens are in cage-free systems with optimal feed. 
Why we want to start a charity fortifying feed for hens (founders needed)

Hi Tobias, thanks for your questions! 

My sense is that the producers are fortifying the feed a little bit, but to maximize production rather than for better welfare. What is optimal for those two goals diverges. A couple of reasons for that:

  • Feed cost is the largest single item in poultry production and accounts for 60 to 75% of the total production cost. So producers fortify the minimum amount possible that will still make the calculation of cost and benefits positive for them to make a profit, but not necessarily what would make a hen more healthy and happy. 
  • There is also sometimes a lack of knowledge about optimal feeding, because producers only learn about something if a feed company has an incentive to market it. Since there’s no money to be made in e.g. changing calcium timing / particle size, that knowledge doesn’t get passed from the scientific literature to producers. 
  • What is optimal for profit doesn’t equal what is optimal for welfare, and we see a difference in current nutrients and what we found to be optimal. More specifically, we looked at optimal for welfare vs current fortification of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3 standards of the top five egg-producing countries. This table shows the difference between their nutrient standards and the optimum nutrient levels (all sources can be found in Supplement B of our full report, section 2.2.):
  • Perhaps more important than the mortality is that bone fractures are a leading source of chronic pain for hens, and keel bone fractures aren’t visible to the naked eye. Producers probably fortify their feed enough to keep a sufficient number of the hens alive (again to maximize profit, because some mortality rate is just assumed to always happen and is written into the cost-benefits of production). Mortality may be low enough that the costs of them dying vs the expense of feed isn't worth it.
Why we want to start a charity fortifying feed for hens (founders needed)

Thanks for the question! I generally believe that it is hard/impossible to reliably compare CEAs done using different methodologies and approaches. For example, Saulius’ CEA has a different goal than ours and takes into account the overall, average cost-effectiveness of all historical work on cage-free campaigns. In contrast, we look at the marginal, future cost-effectiveness of a feed fortification ask. Naturally they will differ a lot. I would expect that marginal cage-free $ would be lower impact than average historical cage-free $. 

It’s more informative to compare CEAs within the same methodology, and this intervention is one of the most cost-effective we found. For our future research, we plan to estimate the value of marginal $ spend on an additional cage-free/broiler campaign to have a better sense of the counterfactuals. 

That said, to try to answer your questions, I’ll make a back-of-the-envelope calculation (BOTEC): 

If I read correctly Saulius estimated that outside of the US 63-210M hens were affected by cage-free pledges for an average of 15 years of impact with a follow-through rate of 76% for an average = 48M-170M hens helped. He estimated that all global cage-free work costs $36-84M. I didn’t find in his estimates how much of that amount was outside the US. Let’s assume that the cost outside the US was half the total cost, so $18M-42M.

Let’s assume that both the impact and the cost are distributed equally among 7 major orgs. That gives us an effect of 6.8M-24M hens helped for $2.6-6.1M per org. That assumes an impact over 15 years. In our CEA we assume 10 years, so let’s adjust the impact for 10 instead of 15 years – that will be 4.5M-16Mhens per org (6.8M-24M*0.66). 

That gives us BOTEC CEA of 1-4.5hens per $, compared to our estimate of approx. 1.8 hens per $. It is generally true that the more extensive the CEA, the lower the estimated cost-effectiveness. So given that BOTEC and our prior research I believe that feed fort alone will be comparable with cage-free, and feed fort + cage-free (something we suggest for India) could have ~twice the impact. 

Why we want to start a shrimp welfare charity (founders needed)

Hi Dan! Our CEA is built off the theory of change for this intervention that focuses on the animal welfare effects. We will likely add more cross-cause calculations to our CEA when the results of our work on moral weights by Rethink Priorities come back. Although human welfare doesn’t feature in our CEA, we do consider it in our report more broadly. We believe that this intervention could be a win-win, improving the lives of shrimp and of farmers. For example, an expert informed us that farmers would be keen to work with such an organization, since the intervention could help them improve their resilience to climate change.

On a more object level, based on GW’s research I would expect that there are more cost-effective interventions to increase household income that have less detrimental effects on animal welfare. We recommend that a new organization should avoid an increased stocking density, because we would expect high stocking densities to be overall net-negative from a species-neutral utilitarian framework. However, if it does increase slightly, I’m glad it would have a positive effect on farmers’ income. 

RCTs in Development Economics, Their Critics and Their Evolution (Ogden, 2020) [linkpost]

Thanks, Aaron! I read quite a lot of papers of this type, so I will consider posting more summaries or excerpts.

AMA: Holden Karnofsky @ EA Global: Reconnect

What are some of the most common misconceptions EAs have about Open Phil grantmaking? 

AMA: Holden Karnofsky @ EA Global: Reconnect

In each cause area, what are high-quality funding opportunities/project ideas that Open Phil would like to fund but that don’t currently exist? 

AMA: Holden Karnofsky @ EA Global: Reconnect

A follow-up question: What would this chart look like if all the opportunities you want to fund existed? In other words, to what extent does the breakdown of funding shown here capture Open Phil’s views on cause prioritization vs. reflect limiting factors such as the availability of high-quality funding opportunities, and what would it look like if there were no such limiting factors?

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