August 21st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
I wish I could tell you that the ongoing egg recall is under control, with all affected egg brands clearly delineated and successfully pulled from market shelves.
Unfortunately, Iowa-based Wright County Egg sold its products to a slew of major grocery chains, retailers and distributors, and additional recalls are likely to be announced. To wit: Hillandale Farms of Iowa yesterday issued a new recall, as did Los Angeles-based Country Eggs, Inc. on Thursday.
Investigative journalist David Kirby, author of Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment, noted in Thursday’s Huffington Post that cheap eggs are destined to make us sick. As he writes:
“Salmonella is largely a problem for factory-farmed eggs. Laying hens raised in organic or sustainable conditions are allowed to peck around outdoors for grubs and high-quality feed provided by farmers who are as concerned about animal health and the safety of the food they sell as they are about keeping their costs—and prices—to a minimum. These eggs are less likely to carry disease, and to me at least, they taste a whole lot better.”
Be sure to check out Kirby’s July 15 post, American Factory Farming: You Owe It to the Animals to Watch This (Video). It makes a trip to McDonald’s all the more maddening.
Photo: George Grinsted
Read More:Egg Recall Highlights Benefits of Going Organic
August 2nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Farm Aid, celebrating 25 years of protecting local and organic family farms, has just announced that its annual benefit concert will be held Oct. 2 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The artist lineup will be announced soon. Tickets ($39.50 to $97.50) will go on sale 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 14 (CDT) and are available at the Milwaukee Brewers box office, by phone at (414) 902-4000 or online.
The all-day festival will once again feature HOMEGROWN concessions: local and organic foods from family farms. Attendees can meet farmers, get their hands dirty, and learn how family farmers are connecting us to our roots.
“For 25 years, Farm Aid has worked to keep family farmers on the land,” says cofounder and legendary country artist Willie Nelson, who will perform at the concert. “This anniversary concert is a chance for everyone to join with Farm Aid to support the family farmers who are growing hope for America through the good food they produce, the economies they build, and their care for the soil and water. Family farmers are the backbone of our country, and right now we need them more than ever.”
“Midwest farmers share the same struggle as family farmers across the country,” adds cofounder and rocker John Mellencamp, who will also perform. “They are survivors, and they’re on the land creating solutions for America’s most pressing issues. Since 1985, Farm Aid has been a way for everyone in this country to step up and be part of the solution because nobody is going to solve these problems on their own. It’s going to take all of us working together.”
Photo © Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve, Inc.
Read More:Farm Aid Announces 25th-Anniversary Concert
May 27th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Grocery giant Safeway has announced it will increase sales of cage-free eggs—from 6% to 12%—over the next 2 years.
The decision follows a study published last month in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization, which reveals that California’s Proposition 2—legislation passed in 2008 that outlaws cages for hen-laying eggs by January 2015—had “a significant effect on consumer preferences for eggs, increasing demand for cage-free and organic eggs by 180% and 20%, respectively.”
The study shows that “the very act of putting an issue like Prop 2 on the ballot affects consumers’ preferences—likely because consumers are largely unaware of, and have incorrect beliefs about, modern agricultural practices,” concludes author Jayson L. Lusk, PhD, a professor of agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University.
Dr. Lusk found that, despite higher prices, demand for cage-free and organic eggs increased 180% and 20%, respectively, in response to news stories about Prop. 2, even as overall egg demand remained the same.
“California egg producers have an opportunity to thrive by meeting this demand and abandoning cruel cages,” says Jennifer Fearing, who managed the YES! on Prop 2 campaign for the Humane Society of the United States.
Safeway’s 1,712 North American stores include the Vons, Pavilions, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Carrs and Randalls grocery chains.
Read More:Safeway Responds to Demand for Cage-Free, Organic Eggs
May 23rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
At Thursday’s meeting of McDonald’s shareholders, Paul Shapiro, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ factory farming campaign, urged the fast food chain to decrease its use of eggs from caged hens.
Most competitors, including Burger King, Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr. and Sonic, have gone cage-free, but egg products sold by U.S. McDonald’s restaurants come from hens confined to battery cages—enclosures so small that birds cannot spread their wings or move freely.
In contrast, cage-free hens have 200% to 300% more space per bird, the Humane Society notes.
McDonald’s stores in the UK have already gone the cage-free route, and franchises throughout the European Union will follow suit this year.
To jumpstart a transition in the United States, the Humane Society specifically proposed that the chain, with 13,000+ American locations, commit to procuring 5% of its eggs from cage-free suppliers by next January. This meant Ronald McDonald could continue to buy 95% of his eggs from regular suppliers.
But the board urged shareholders to vote against the resolution, arguing it “would not enhance our existing policies and practices regarding the welfare of egg-laying hens and is not in the best interests of shareholders.” (Translation: McD’s makes less money, as a cage-free egg costs about 14 cents more, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)
The board added: “As we have examined this issue over the years, we have determined that there is no agreement in the global scientific community about how to balance the advantages and disadvantages of laying-hen housing systems.”
Not so fast.
Numerous studies indicate cage-free hens contribute to a safer food supply, and reputable independent research organizations like the Pew Commission have long urged agribusiness to phase out inhumane production practices.
“McDonald’s could reduce the suffering of the hens in its supply chain by starting to phase in cage-free eggs in the U.S.,” Shapiro says. “Consumer trends, legislative activities, McDonald’s competitors and even many McDonald’s operations outside the U.S. all favor cage-free egg production.”
Read More:McDonald’s Board Rejects Cage-Free Eggs
May 12th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
What do multiplatinum-selling musician Moby and Global Animal Partnership Executive Director Miyun Park have in common?
They’re coeditors of the new book Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety, an info-packed guide to the consequences of factory farming.
Gristle covers “the rarely publicized ramifications of industrialized farmed animal production and meat, egg and milk consumption on the environment, human health, communities, workers, taxpayers, zoonotic diseases, global warming, global hunger and, of course, the animals themselves,” Moby writes. “There are huge and egregiously well-financed interests who want to keep the truth of animal production hidden.”
The book’s contributors include:
At 144 pages, Gristle is a fast and enlightening read. Order through Amazon, and you’ll save 25%. (Pay $10.49 instead of $13.95.)
Read More:Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety
February 4th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Singer Neil Young was honored Friday as the MusiCares Person of the Year for his artistic accomplishments and philanthropic work with Farm Aid and The Bridge School, a California organization that assists disabled children.
A Farm Aid cofounder and board member, Young has worked for decades to help family farmers compete against Big Agribusiness.
“For 25 years, my friend Neil has been an impassioned champion of family farmers,” says Farm Aid President Willie Nelson. “He rallies concertgoers year after year at our show, and he relentlessly calls on Washington to reverse the bad policies that force family farmers off their land. He’s stubborn, passionate and persistent—just like family farmers.”
Grant Money for Family Farms
In December, Farm Aid provided $503,500 in grant money to 72 family farms and rural service organizations. The funding:
- Helps farm families stay on their land
- Builds new market opportunities for farmers and increases consumer access to good food
- Increases institutional buying of family-farm food
- Confronts the threat of corporate concentration in agriculture
- Recruits and trains new farmers
- Supports farmer-to-farmer programs for more sustainable agricultural practices
“Farm Aid is proud to support the crucial hands-on work happening all over the country to keep family farmers on the land,” says Executive Director Carolyn Mugar. “2009 has been a tough year for everyone, but farm families especially have struggled with low prices, tight credit and bad weather. These grants will help address the immediate needs of family farmers and continue to grow and strengthen the sustainable, family farm-based food system that helps us all thrive.”
To make a tax-deductible contribution, click here.
Click here to purchase organic T-shirts that read “Stop Factory Farms.”
Get Some Neil!
- Greatest Hits
- After the Gold Rush
- Rust Never Sleeps
- Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography
Photo by Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve Inc. 2008; courtesy of Farm Aid
Read More:Join Neil Young and Help Make Factory Farms History
January 28th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
“Warning! General Mills Destroys Rainforests.”
This text recently appeared on a 30’ x 70’ banner (above) held outside the company’s Minneapolis headquarters by 42 activists who say the company is irresponsibly sourcing palm oil.
More than 100 General Mills products, including brands like Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, Hamburger Helper and Toaster Strudel, contain palm oil or its derivatives, according to the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
Demand for the oil has steadily increased worldwide in recent years, and palm-oil plantations are expanding rapidly into tropical forests, RAN notes—growth that contributes to climate change, species extinction, and the displacement of indigenous and local communities.
“Palm oil is a leading cause of rainforest destruction in places like Indonesia,” says RAN representative Ashley Schaeffer. “As long as General Mills is using irresponsibly sourced palm oil, their customers will have to worry that they are contributing money to rainforest destruction.”
“Worldwide, the degradation and destruction of tropical rainforests is responsible for 15% of all annual greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon emissions resulting from Indonesia’s rapid deforestation account for around 8% of global emissions—more than the combined emissions from all the cars, planes, trucks, buses and trains in the United States. This huge carbon footprint from forest destruction has made nonindustrialized Indonesia the third-largest global greenhouse-gas emitter, behind only the U.S. and China.”
But General Mills is defending the way it sources palm oil. A prepared statement reads, in part:
“We have analyzed our use of palm oil,” said Gene Kahn, General Mills’ global sustainability officer. “General Mills does not purchase any palm oil directly. However, we do purchase ingredients produced from palm oil from suppliers. Overall, we calculate that General Mills’ use of palm oil and palm derivatives is modest—approximately .0004% of world exports.”
Click here to sign the General Mills petition.
Click here to watch the video “Does Your Breakfast Cause Rainforest Destruction?”
Photo by Mercury Miller/RAN
Read More:Campaign Targets General Mills’ Use of Palm Oil
June 3rd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
As university researchers study the best ways to house America’s egg-producing hens, numerous organizations have signed on as coalition stakeholders, including the American Humane Association, American Veterinary Medical Association and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
One prominent stakeholder may surprise you: fast-food behemoth McDonald’s, which reaps a nice share of profits each morning from scrambled eggs, Egg McMuffins and egg-based biscuit sandwiches.
It sure sounds good on paper: The eggs produced in the study are expected to be used in McDonald’s U.S. restaurants, as researchers strive to determine whether cage-free and free-range chickens fare better than those cooped up in factory farms.
Dan Gorsky, McDonald’s senior VP for North America supply chain management, says his company wants to consider “all of the sustainability impacts when it comes to buying eggs—not just animal welfare, but environmental, food safety and economic factors. It is our intention for eggs produced as part of this study, including cage-free eggs, to partially supply McDonald’s USA by 2011.”
Some critics, however, believe McDonald’s is dragging its feet in purchasing sustainable eggs. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) notes that numerous national restaurant chains have already gone the cage-free route, including Burger King, Wendy’s, Quiznos, Denny’s, Hardees’s and Carl’s Jr.
“There is already an abundance of science demonstrating that battery-cage confinement of laying hens is detrimental to animal welfare, and McDonald’s shouldn’t use another long-term study as an excuse to delay implementing the same modest reforms so many of its competitors have already adopted,” says Paul Shapiro, senior director of HSUS’ factory farming campaign.
HSUS is encouraging mainstream and organic consumers to call (800) 244-6227 to urge McDonald’s to switch to cage-free eggs now.
Photo courtesy of McDonald’s
Read More:Chickening Out?
June 1st, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Researchers at Michigan State University and the University of California, Davis, are leading a national study of housing alternatives for egg-laying hens.
Scientists will analyze tens of thousands of hens to determine how different housing environments affect animal health and well-being, safe and affordable food, the environment and worker welfare.
Researchers will look at cage-free, free-range and “enriched” (nests and perches) housing. As organic consumers already know, any of these alternatives is preferable to factory farms.
“The coalition anticipates a multiyear study to factor in seasonal shifts, bird life cycles and other factors,” says Janice Swanson, PhD, a professor of animal behavior and welfare at Michigan State.
Read More:A Better Life for America’s Hens?
March 19th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Studies show minorities in America eat way too much junk food, resulting in higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, but yet many McDonald’s commercials seemed aimed to inner city youth.
Where’s the social responsibility? What about compassion for the consumer? Clearly profits win out.
Agribusiness is no different. The market for organic foods is growing. So big corporations like Monsanto rig the game, influencing food regulations and making it impossible for small independent farmers to operate:
And how will those who contaminate our country’s food with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and more, do that? Why, by setting standards for “food safety” that are so grotesquely and inappropriately and even cruelly applied to a local, independent farmers and ranchers that there is no way they can manage. Imagine your being faced with a 100 page IRS form and facing a million dollar a day penalty for screwing up. That would be in the ball park of the impossible complexity mixed with threat facing our farmers. Imagine having the government and corporations deciding every single thing you can do and must do in your kitchen and backing that up with the threat of 10 years in prison for screwing up – though you have never made anyone sick, and those corporations have. Imagine being surveilled 24 hours a day by GPS tracking devices that feed into…a corporate data bank, one they have now moved out of the country so no one here can have legal access to see what is in it.
Imagine the devil himself – or a whole boardrooms of them, dressed in suits – defining the only safe and healthy food in this country as dangerous and burdening hard working farmers with more work then anyone could bear, while his own, their own, food is so dangerous at this point that in the last 10 years alone, diabetes has gone up 90%.
And how did they get this far with such a scheme to apply insane industrial standards to every farm in the country? Through fear of diseases and of outbreaks of food borne illnesses, both of which they cause themselves.
Read More:Big Agribusiness Dictating U.S. Food Safety