Frequently Asked Questions

On this page, you will find brief answers to the questions most frequently asked of FCUSA. If you do not find the answers you are looking for, please contact us.

Click on the buttons below to see answers.

How important is animal welfare in mink fur farming?

As any dog or cat owner knows, a healthy coat is one of the best indicators of their pet’s health. And since a fur farmer’s livelihood depends upon producing top-quality fur, nothing is more important to him than the health of his animals.

Raising furbearers is a challenging profession, and only people with expert knowledge of their welfare needs will succeed. These are live animals which must be cared for every day – weekday, weekend or public holiday.

Farmers without a real interest in their animals’ welfare will soon suffer themselves in the form of poor financial return.

See also AMVA Guidelines on Euthanasia.

How is the North American fur industry regulated?

Fur farming in the US “is regulated by local, State, national, and sometimes international humane regulations” (Industry & Trade Summary : Fur Skins, US International Trade Commission publication 3666, p17, January 2004).

The production of wild furs is likewise regulated by state and federal government authorities.The status of farmed mink and fox as domesticated animals is recognized in US federal law (US Code Title 7, Chapter 7, § 433) and, in common with all livestock, domesticated furbearers such as mink and fox come under the jurisdiction of state departments of agriculture, not the federal government.

Since there are human health concerns, the federal government does oversee in the regulation of the slaughter of food animals, e.g. the Animal Welfare Act.Statutes and codes are developed by legislators, veterinarians, farmers and concerned citizen groups, based on research and recommendations published by recognized scientific and veterinary bodies.

While much of this work, particularly in the areas of disease control and nutrition, is carried out with industry funding, the fur industry also interprets and incorporates into its practices information from reports of independent experts in disease control, animal welfare and humane euthanasia, notably the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Meanwhile, any furbearing animals taken from the wild, for any reason, come under the jurisdiction of state departments of natural resources or state fish and wildlife agencies. In developing statutes and codes for the taking of wild animals, advice is also sought from wildlife managers, biologists, hunters and trappers.

In the animal welfare department, state statutes cover everything from mistreatment and neglect, to intentional cruelty, and reports are investigated by the appropriate local and/or state agency, oftentimes both.

Under current anti-cruelty statutes, anyone who mistreats an animal faces investigation, prosecution, fines, jail time and even the loss of his animal(s). (More information on state animal cruelty laws can be found at: the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to AnimalsMichigan State University College of Law, and Pet-Abuse.com. Or visit the Library of Congress for general state government information.) State statutes also ensure the humane euthanasia of furbearers, since they are not food animals.

The North American fur trade is a responsible industry based on the sustainable use of renewable resources. This is a principle that is promoted by conservation organizations around the world, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF).

This means that the furs used come only from abundant species. And when you buy fur you are supporting people on the land, with a direct interest in protecting vital wildlife habitat.

Recent agreements between the European Union and major fur-producing countries (the USA, Canada and Russia) ensure that wild furs are taken in accordance with scientifically verified and internationally accepted humane standards.

The accurate identification of fur products for consumers is assured by the Fur Products Labeling Act (USA) and the Competition Act (Canada). (See FCUSA’s compilation of rules and regulations relating to labeling for more resources specific to fur, both in the US and internationally.)

Taxes are collected at the local, state and federal levels on income earned at all stages of fur production, from farming to retail. This ensures that government agencies are able to properly oversee and regulate fur clothing production (just as is done with all natural fiber production) in accordance with local, state and federal laws, and with international treaties.

Other relevant regulations include statutes that:

  • Protect the environment: Local and national governments enforce laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. (Click here for resources relating to water use, and manure and nutrient management plans in the US.) Local county zoning ordinances determine where agricultural pursuits, including fur farms, may or may not be situated;
  • Protect the consumer: Textile Fiber Products Identification Act, the Wool Products Labeling Act and the Fur Products Labeling Act;
  • Ensure science-based sustainable wildlife management: the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
  • Ensure humane farming practices: Recommendations in the 2007 report AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia are incorporated into humane laws at the state and local level, and into industry codes of practice.

For an overview of mink farming in the United States, click here. For information on fur farming regulations in Europe, visit Farming regulations at the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF). For a global perspective on management programs for wild furbearers, visit the IFTF’s section on Wild fur.

What do farmed mink eat?

Farmed mink primarily eat the by-products (or waste) from the production of food for humans, in particular such high-protein ingredients as dairy, fish and meat.

In 2009, US mink farmers produced 2.86 million pelts. Since one farmed mink eats about 140 lbs during its life, all those mink consumed 400,400,000 lbs – or 200,200 short tons – of waste. A fully laden Boeing 747 weighs 900,000 lbs, and US mink eat the equivalent of 445 of them every year!

Looked at another way, a full-length mink coat containing 40 pelts represents 5,600 lbs of waste, and a jacket made of 20 pelts, 2,800 lbs.

Is the whole mink used? What happens to the rest of the animal after the pelt has been removed?

Mink have a thick coat of fur and a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, disguising the fact that they are really quite skinny – not much more substantial than rats!

As the price of biodiesel equipment falls, and petrochemical fuel prices remain high, more farmers are investing in equipment to convert fat to energy for on-farm use. However, currently, the best value for mink fat is realized by refining it to cosmetic grade oil for use in hypo-allergenic facial oils and cosmetics.

The oil is also used to condition and preserve leather. Mink oil can be purchased at some pharmacies, on the Internet.

Mink carcasses are rarely eaten by humans as the scent gland gives the meat a distinctive flavor which most people don’t enjoy. However, they are not wasted. Some farmers trade them for fish offal with fishermen who use them as crab bait. Crabs love mink meat, but seals hate it!

Other farmers give the carcasses to people who raise birds of prey or run wildlife preserves, zoos or aquariums. Yet others use them to make organic compost. Or they may be bought and rendered down to provide raw materials for a wide range of products, from tires and paint to makeup and organic fertilizers.

Are farmed furbearers wild or domesticated?

Livestock on American mink farms are domesticated descendants of wild animals, some caught almost a century ago. They have been selectively bred to be healthy and thrive in a farm environment, and to provide the most desirable fur quality and a variety of colors. This is the same way all breeds of domestic livestock, pets, animals used in medical research, and animals in zoos and aquariums, have evolved and are continuously improved.

As with sheep, cows and pets, farmed furbearers are totally dependent on man for their needs, and rarely survive long if released into the wild.

The status of farmed mink as domesticated animals is also recognized in US law (see US Code Title 7, Chapter 7, § 433).

Do minks make good pets?

No.

Domesticated mink do not make good pets. If you have heard that mink make good pets, it’s misinformation.

While dogs and cats have been selectively bred for pet-quality traits over thousands of years, domesticated mink are livestock that have been bred for clothing and oil and life on a farm.

Domesticated mink retain many of their aggressive traits. Mink have very sharp teeth and claws and can inflict nasty injuries on their handlers. They are also carnivorous and so need a high protein diet. Given the chance, mink will eat your pet guinea pigs, rabbits and goldfish.

We only know of one owner who successfully raised a mink in his home, and even he has been unable to reproduce that success with other mink from the same and subsequent litters.

Mink have not been selectively bred for pet-quality, so FCUSA does not recommend you attempt to hold and raise them as pets unless you are willing to give, at the minimum, 20 years to the project.

If ferret-like pets are what interest you, consider a ferret (if ownership is legal in your state). Ferrets have been raised for pet quality for thousands of years. That said, they are still not for everyone. Dogs and cats are infinitely better choices.

Why are fur coats so expensive?

From pelt production, to dressing, design and manufacturing, every stage in the production of a fur coat is labor-intensive and requires skilled craftsmanship.

In all, it takes about one full year from the time a trapper or farmer sends his furs to auction to the time the finished fur garment is ready for the consumer. Production of the finished garment alone may take 40 hours, which is longer than it now takes to make a car! It is this skilled labor that is the major component in the final cost of a fur garment. See Fur: The Fabric of a Nation, produced by the Fur Council of Canada.

For more information see Fur Facts (PDF).

How can I determine the quality of a mink pelt?

Most mink pelts are traded through auction houses (see above), where they have been graded by highly trained professionals.

A layperson would have a hard time matching their skills, but for general pointers on grading your own mink, see Fur Farming Special Feature: Grading Mink.

For other types of fur, see Fur Types in Brief.

How should I care for my fur?

Any fur will last longer, while looking better, if given appropriate care by a professional furrier. This is true both when you are concerned about damage, and when it is simply a matter of storing for the summer.

  • Storage: Cedar closets have traditionally been vaunted as home-storage facililties, but while they protect against insect damage, they cannot match a specialized, climate-controlled “fur vault” that prevents insect damage and stops the leather from drying out. Fur vaults are generally set at between 40-50°F, with humidity at 45-55%. Furriers either have their own fur vaults or rent space from specialized storage facilities. When choosing a storage facility, make sure it has the correct temperature and humidity settings.If you decide to store your garments at home, smaller items such as hats can go in a refrigerator (not the freezer), while scarves and stoles should be suspended on a padded roll hanger with the fur side up. Larger items should go in a protective bag made from silk or cotton. Also advisable for coats are hangers with broad or padded shoulders to maintain the garment’s shape.Make sure your fur has plenty of air and space around it, but no direct light. Never store it in a plastic bag, or use moth balls or other insect repellents, as these will cause damage
  • Cleaning: Furs gather dirt and should be cleaned annually by a furrier to maintain their luster. This is also the ideal time to have the garment checked for any small tears or other needed repairs. Cleaning is done by tumbling furs in a drum of sawdust soaked in a special solution, then glazing them to bring out the sheen and make them soft and fluffy. Flat, curly furs such as broadtail are pressed with waxed paper to give them added sheen. Never attempt to clean a fur at home with a commercial dry cleaner or solvent, as this may leave the fur flat or even cause hairs to fall out. Fur-trimmed garments and accessories should be treated like furs and cleaned only by a furrier. White and pale furs require special treatments, since exposure to the sun can give them a yellow tint over time. To remedy this, furriers add a special bleach to white furs or a brightener to pale furs.
  • Water exposure: Rain or snow in moderation will not harm your fur. Simply shake it out as soon as is convenient, and hang it up to dry in an airy, cool place. Never place it near heat as this will make the fur dry and dull, and make the leather brittle. If it gets absolutely soaked, take it to your furrier. If, after drying, your fur smells and the odor remains, take it to your furrier. Do not use perfumes or odor solvents as these may damage it. If matting occurs (more common with sheared furs), take it to a furrier for proper treatment.
  • Other liquids: If your fur is exposed to liquids other than water, in particular staining or sticky liquids, dab the excess moisture away. Do not rub. Then leave the rest to a furrier.
  • Fluffing: To fluff a garment, shake it out gently. Never use a comb or brush.

See also:

I have an old fur that I don’t need anymore, or which I’d like restyled or recycled. What should I do with it?

Most furriers do not purchase old furs.

However, they may arrange for it to be restyled or recycled into pillows or plush toys. Visit  Furs by Graf for help in creating something special.

Surplus furs and damaged pelts can also be transformed into beautiful teddy bears that are then given to charity fundraisers.

Where do I buy raw or dressed pelts at wholesale?

Contact American Legend Auctions and/or North American Fur Auctions.

These North American auction houses are producer-owned marketing cooperatives selling wild and farmed fur pelts to buyers from around the world.

I inherited a fur garment. I would like to identify the type of fur and have its value appraised.

Information about the type of fur should already be contained in the fur’s label, if it still carries one. Click here, for resources on the labeling of furs.

Failing that, a visit to a furrier is the best option. Most will be happy to examine your fur personally, and also to put an approximate value on it.

Visit the website of the Fur Information Council of America, which represents fur retailers,manufacturers and designers, to find a furrier near you, or contact info@fur.org.

I’m a student or journalist writing a report on fur farming. Where do I start?
I am a researcher or farmer looking for scientific information on domesticated furbearers. Whom should I contact?

Contact Fur Commission USA for further information, or mail us your request on the official letterhead of your company or educational institution, accompanied by a brief C.V.

FCUSA will then forward your request to our Research Committee for their consideration.

What publications are available for fur farmers, and how do I subscribe?

FCUSA publishes Fur Animal Research, a quarterly research journal, and a newsletter, Fur Farm Letter, also quarterly.

The Fur Farm Letter contains more general information of interest to fur farmers, such as political and social commentaries, and reports on the activities of FCUSA itself. Fur Farm Letter also accepts classified and commercial advertising.

To subscribe to either of the above, please supply your full contact information info@furcommission.com. If you are not a working fur farmer, include some information on who you are, your area of interest, and either your C.V. or a reference from the fur trade. You might also want to visit our Career Information section.

FCUSA’s website includes highlights from Sandy Parker Reports, Weekly International Fur News, reproduced with permission. Sandy Parker has been covering the fur industry for over 40 years. For the last 30 years he has published a weekly newsletter, detailing the results of all the major international pelt auctions, wholesale price trends, business developments and movements within the trade, as well as economic and political activities that may impact on it. To receive these reports either in print or electronically, subscribe to Sandy Parker Reports, PO Box 348, Merrick, NY 11566; Tel: (212)947-1144; Fax: (516) 379-4379; SParker@SandyParker.com; www.sandyparker.com.

For links to other fur farming organizations with their own publications, please visit our Links section. For information on fashion trend magazines, contact the fur retailers’ organization: Fur Information Council of America (FICA), 447a Carlisle Drive, Herndon, Virginia 21070 USA; Tel: (703) 471-5238; Fax: (703) 471-6485; info@fur.org; www.fur.org.

I want to supply feed, equipment or services to fur farmers. How do I start?

Since most fur farmers work at home and the farm address is their home address, FCUSA does not release their addresses to the public.

We are happy to contact them on your behalf. Please contact us and we will pass your information on to the appropriate parties.

Information on Mink Farming