The farm-raising of mink was pioneered in the USA more than 150 years ago, during the Civil War, at Lake Casadacka, New York. The first attempts to raise mink in Canada were recorded in the 1870s, by the Patterson Brothers, in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
USA: Today, some 275 mink farms in 23 states across the USA produce about 3 million mink pelts annually, with a farm-gate value of more than $300 million USD (2013). Wisconsin is the leading mink producing region, generating well over 1 million pelts. Other important mink-producing states include Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Minnesota.
Canada: There are now some 300 farms in Canada producing more than 2.8 million mink pelts worth $280 million CAD annually (2013). About half the mink produced in Canada are raised in Nova Scotia. Other important production centers include Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec.
Mink belong to the biological order carnivora – i.e., meat eaters. Within this order, mink belong to the family mustelidae (animals with scent glands), a group of efficient predators that includes skunks, martens, ferrets, fishers, wolverines and other members of the weasel family.
American mink (the species both raised on farms and found in the wild in North America) are classified as Mustela vison or Neovison vison.
More information on mink biology, behavior, range, reproduction
Through selective breeding over more than a century, North American farmers have developed a wide range of beautiful natural fur colors. Farmed mink are, in fact, quite different than their wild cousins. They are considerably larger and tamer.
From an ecological perspective, fur farming plays an important role in completing the agricultural nutrient cycle:
- farmed mink are fed leftovers from our own food-production; e.g., the parts of chicken, beef, or fish that humans don’t eat.
- In addition to fur, mink provide fine oils (“mink oil”) to protect and condition leathers, while manure and carcasses can be composted to produce a valuable organic fertilizer, biofuel, and in some areas, a new source of green electricity!
In other words, farmed mink recycle nutrients that would otherwise clog landfills, while producing a wide range of valuable natural products.
More about what it’s like to work on a mink farm
A year on a mink farm via Canada Mink Breeders Association
The farm-raising of foxes began in the 1880s in Prince Edward Island, Canada, when fur industry pioneers Sir Charles Dalton and Robert Oulton began raising fox pups they obtained from the wild.
Through countless generations of selective breeding for color, size, quality of fur, fecundity, docility, mothering ability, growth rate, and litter survival, the farm-raised fox has evolved to be very different from its wild counterpart. Good nutrition, veterinary care, and adequate, secure accommodations have resulted in a larger, more robust animal exhibiting a much quieter temperament.
Most farmed foxes are fed with commercially manufactured, dry pelleted feed similar to pet food. Many are fed with a diet made up of fish and meat packing house by-products and other “food wastes”, supplemented with a grain cereal, vitamins and minerals, just like farmed mink.
Modern day fox production in North America is quite small in comparison to mink. Today, Finland is the world's leading producer of fox pelts; with Canada producing ten to fifteen times as many fox furs as the USA.
For more information on fox farming, visit:
The Chinchilla has been prized for its luxuriously soft fur since the arrival of Europeans in South America. One of the defining features of this luxurious fur is its remarkably soft and velvety texture. This effect is caused by more than 80 individual fibers growing from each hair follicle (in contrast to most animals which produce just one hair per follicle).
The indigenous populations of the Andes were using chinchilla pelts more than 1000 years ago. The name chinchilla -- which was given by Spaniards who arrived in Chile in 1524 -- is believed to be a reference to the local “Chincha” people.
Wild chinchillas were trapped in large numbers, almost to extinction, in the 1890s and early 1900s. To preserve remaining populations, trapping was prohibited by the Chilean government in 1910 and the first attempts were made to rear chinchilla in captivity.
Mining engineer Mathias F. Chapman exported eleven live animals to the USA in 1922-23. The present farm populations of chinchilla derive almost exclusively from these first few specimens of Chinchilla laniger. Chinchilla are now raised commercially in North and South America, and in several regions of Europe (e.g., Hungary).
For more information on Chinchilla farming, visit CanChilla (International)
After furs are harvested on the farm, they are usually sent for sale at one of North America’s leading Auction Houses
Facts and figures about Farmed Fur
- About half the fur pelts produced in North America (and as much as 85 percent worldwide) now come from mink and fox farms.
- Wisconsin is the most important mink producing state in the USA, generating well over 1 million pelts per year. Other leading mink-producing states include Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Minnesota.
- With over 120 farms and 1,000 workers, mink farming is Nova Scotia’s largest agricultural activity and accounts for half of Canada’s total mink production. Other important mink-producing provinces include Ontario, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and Quebec.
- North America produces about 10-12% of the annual world production of farmed mink (i.e., about 6 million pelts of total global production of 50-60 million pelts. Europe is the most important farmed-fur producing region, with Denmark alone raising about 13 million mink pelts.
- While not the largest producers, North American farmers raise some of the highest quality farmed mink and fox in the world.
Farmed Fur in the News
California men accused of releasing 2,000 minks from Illinois farm. Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2014.
Mink Farming. Kris Sims, Sun News Network, June 3, 2014
Fur farmers celebrate as court throws out ban on mink farming. Dutch News, May 21, 2014.
Adventures in the skin trade. How the Danes became masters of the global fur business. The Economist, May 3, 2014.
Mink prices drop as global production rises. By John O'Connell, Capital Press, Apr. 28, 2014.
Member states add exceptions to invasive species banned list. Exceptions introduced for “species of economic importance” after heavy lobbying by mink breeders. By Dave Keating, European Voice, Feb. 2, 2014.
Danes lobby to keep mink out of EU's 'invasive species' list. EurActiv, Nov. 11, 2013.
Activists or terrorists? Group's release of mink is questioned. Editorial, The Tribune-Democrat, Oct. 2, 2013.
Behind the scenes at a mink farm. By Stephen Puddicombe, CBC Nova Scotia, Sept. 13, 2013.
Fur farms challenged at startup. By Ashley Fitzpatrick, The Telegram, Aug. 29, 2013.
On the fur farm. Industry sensitive to animal welfare concerns. By Ashley Fitzpatrick, The Telegram, Aug. 17, 2013.
Digby County mink manure project to help turn on lights. By Joann Alberstat, The Chronicle Herald, Apr. 3, 2013.
Demand for fur in China helps Wisconsin mink farms. Channel 3000.com, Mar. 21, 2013.
My mother’s mink. By Karen Stabiner, New York Times, Mar. 11, 2013.
The Velvet Underground: A report on Wisconsin's thriving mink industry. By Kristine Hansen, Milwaukee Magazine, Nov. 16, 2012.
- Fur Commission USA
- Fur Institute of Canada
- Fur is Green
- International Fur Federation
- North American Fur Auctions
- Canadian Mink Breeders Association
- CanChilla (International)