October 7th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Here’s a special message for the United Egg Producers: Get over yourselves.
The group is threatening consumers with a 25% hike in egg prices if cages are banned, while blaming animal-rights activists for snatching school breakfasts from the mouths of needy children.
The egg producers’ ultimate threat: importing eggs from overseas.
“I don’t think American consumers really want to play Russian Roulette with every carton of eggs they buy, which is essentially what would happen if we allow special interest groups to force a ban on the most modern, sanitary egg housing systems in the world,” said UEP President Gene Gregory in a hyperbolic press release. “Those systems are used to produce 95% of the eggs that American consumers buy every day.”
And therein lies the problem. California has already banned battery cages—a move that prompted Gregory to tell a U.K. audience that voters were “uninformed.”
I, for one, am willing to pay more for eggs that don’t require hens to be abused. As a child, I would accompany my mom to the local dairy farm in suburban New York, where we would buy our milk and eggs. Watching the chickens and cows roam free was the highlight of the trip. Somehow, the farm managed to get it right.
Am I willing to boycott egg producers who cage their hens? In a New York minute.
Want to get involved in the cause? Farm Sanctuary is pressing for national legislation to prevent animal cruelty.
Read More:Dear Egg Producers: Get Over Yourselves
September 21st, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Compassion Over Killing (COK), a Washington, DC-based nonprofit animal advocacy group, has exposed cruelty at an egg factory farm owned by Michael Foods, one of the nation’s largest egg producers and a major supplier to Dunkin’ Donuts. (Click here to view the video.)
While employed at the facility in August, an investigator with a hidden camera shot footage of farm conditions for more than 1 million birds in battery cages, including:
- Hens immobilized in the wires of their cages, unable to access food or water
- Decomposing and “mummified” corpses left in cages alongside live birds
- Severe feather loss
- Untreated injuries
- An employee decapitating a hen
“No responsible company should support this animal cruelty,” says Erica Meier, COK’s executive director. “Dunkin’ Donuts can—and should—make the right decision by removing eggs from its doughnuts and offering more humane vegan menu items.”
Earlier this year, COK asked the donut chain about how the hens in its supply chain were treated and whether the company could offer egg-free donuts.
Dunkin’ took no action, so COK launched DunkinCruelty.com. You can protest the ongoing hen mistreatment by completing an email form.
Photo courtesy of DunkinCruelty.com
Read More:Caught on Tape: Hen Horrors
August 31st, 2009 - Laura Klein
I’m a huge proponent of grass-fed beef, from birth to market (not finished on grains). Cows, biologically, are created to graze on grass – not feast on nutrient-poor grains. Grain-fed beef is the result of large agribusinesses wanting to fatten up cows as quickly as possible, regardless of the harm it does to their health (not to mention how grain diminishes the nutritional quality of the meat consumers wind up eating!).
Another reason I love grass-fed beef is that it’s simply cleaner.
Feedlot cattle stand all day long in dirt and manure. You can imagine how much harder it is to remove all the fecal contamination given that scenario.
Pasture-raised animals are much easier to clean “because they come from small herds raised in relatively clean pastures,” according to Meat Marketing and Technology’s associate editor. Most U.S. cattle, he said, “are raised in far larger numbers in congested and typically less sanitary feed lots.”1
The E. coli Question
E. coli contamination occurs when manure from an animal comes in contact with meat in the slaughterhouse. The less manure on an animal when it enters the slaughter house, the less likely the meat will become contaminated.
Some studies show that grass-feeding (vs. grain feeding) may reduce the number and acidity of E. coli in the digestive tract of cattle.
Another study shows that E. coli from grass-fed cattle is more likely to be killed by the natural acidity of our digestive tract and therefore might be less likely to survive and make us ill. The reason for the greater persistence of E. coli from grain-fed cattle, the researchers speculated, is that feeding grain to cattle makes their digestive tracts abnormally acidic. Over time, the E. coli in their systems become acclimated to this acid environment. When we ingest them, a high percentage will survive the acid shock of our digestive juices. By contrast, few E. coli from grass-fed cattle will survive because they have not become acid-resistant.2
Science and the Senate: HR 2749
Time after time, scientific evidence proves that it’s industrialized animals that spread E.Coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella. Let’s hope that the senate, who will soon be voting on HR 2749 – the so-called Food Safety Enhancement Act – take these types of facts into consideration.
1“The Future of Food Safety,” by Joshua Lipsky. Meat Marketing and Technology, April 2001
2 Russell and Diez-Gonzalez (Microbes Infect 2, No. 1 (2000): 45-53.)
Read More:Don’t Eat Dirty Meat!
August 28th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Farm Aid is sponsoring a petition that calls on the U.S. government to suspend taxpayer funding of factory farms.
As the petition states:
Factory farms pose a real danger to our communities, our natural resources and the livelihood of hardworking family farmers. A current USDA program is funneling taxpayer money to fund new and bigger factory farm operations that lead to the gross overproduction of hogs and poultry. So much livestock is being churned out that it has caused a long-term depression of producer prices, forcing family farmers out of business.
The longer the USDA continues this misguided policy, the greater the threat to small farmers who are already being squeezed in this economy.
By signing the petition, you’ll add your name to a letter that will be sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. It urges the USDA “to suspend all direct or guaranteed farm ownership or operating loans for the construction or expansion of specialized hog or poultry production facilities.”
In other Farm Aid news, there’s still time to order tickets to the Oct. 4 concert in St. Louis, where performers like Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews, Neil Young and Willie Nelson will rock the house. And if you’re a photography buff, consider entering the Farm Fresh Pics photo contest; the winner will receive an expenses-paid trip and two front-row concert tickets.
Read More:Sign Farm Aid’s Petition Against Factory-Farm Funding
August 5th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Food historian and self-described “full red-blooded carnivore” Betty Fussell understands that Americans are “caught up in the romance of beef.”
As she writes in Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef:
I felt that when I ate steak, I was sinking my teeth into the myth of the Frontier—the Marlboro cowboy busting his bronc, the cast-iron skillet on an open fire, the smell of tobacco and burnt coffee, a soft neigh or two from a tethered horse, the clank of a metal spur, the wheeze of a harmonica, a black sky full of stars.
But Fussell also acknowledges the stark realities of factory farms and slaughterhouses, animal cruelty, E. coli, mad cow disease and the toll meat production takes on our environment.
She talks with folks like Connie and Doc Hatfield of Country Natural Beef, who prove it’s possible to raise cattle humanely, without feeding them hormones or antibiotics, and without polluting the environment.
This makes Raising Steaks a fascinating anthropological read for organic foodies, whether you’re a meat eater, vegetarian or flexitarian.
Read More:Raising Steaks
July 18th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Farm Aid’s 2009 concert will be held Oct. 4 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, MO.
Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews are scheduled to appear, and other artists will be announced soon.
Tickets will go on sale 10 a.m. Saturday, July 25, and are exclusively available at livenation.com, the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater Box Office, participating Blockbuster stores or by calling (877) 598-8703.
“Farm Aid has deep roots in the Midwest that reach back to our first concert in Illinois in 1985,” says Nelson, the organization’s president. “I’m looking forward to bringing my friends together on the Farm Aid stage to celebrate family farmers and the crucial work they do. Farmers do so much more than bring us the good food we all want to eat. America needs family farmers to revitalize our economy and make our country healthy.”
Presented by Horizon Organic, the event will once again feature HOMEGROWN concessions, with foods from regional family farms and local organic growers. The HOMEGROWN Village will host hands-on activities that give concertgoers a chance to meet family farmers and get their hands dirty.
“Family farmers are innovative entrepreneurs who safeguard our food, environment and health,” says Carolyn Mugar, Farm Aid’s executive director. “Since the beginning, Farm Aid has worked with family farmers in the Midwest to keep them on the land, especially in the face of factory farms that have threatened to take over food production. At Farm Aid, concertgoers will reap the benefits of this work and will experience food grown by Missouri’s family farms.”
Read More:Farm Aid 2009 Set for October
June 30th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Right before Memorial Day, as Americans prepared for holiday barbecues, I informed you of a recall involving 96,000 pounds of ground beef potentially contaminated with E. coli.
Now, with Fourth of July barbecues only days away, we face another beef recall. JBS Swift Beef Co., based in Greeley, CO, has recalled approximately 380,000 pounds of assorted beef products that may be contaminated with E coli. Not surprisingly, its a huge factory farm.
Once again, this is a Class I recall, defined as “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
The CDC is investigating 24 illnesses in multiple states; 18 appear to be associated with the recalled beef.
The beef products were produced on April 21 and were distributed both nationally and internationally. Click here for a PDF file that lists recalled products.
As noted yesterday, multiple recalls have eroded consumer confidence in the food industry.
From Our Organic Blog: DIY Ground Beef
Read More:New Beef Recall Announced
June 9th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
You may recognize Nicolette Hahn Niman’s last name.
Her husband, Bill, founded Niman Ranch years before they met, and it has become a leading supplier of natural, humanely raised beef, pork, lamb, and specialty products like bacon and hot dogs.
Mrs. Niman served for six years as an environmental attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance, the grassroots advocacy group chaired by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He asked her to take the reins of the organization’s hog campaign, which investigated inhumane treatment of animals at factory farms and the environmental pollutants these operations dump into our land, water and air.
In her new book, Righteous Porkchop, Niman compares the humane and inhumane practices she has witnessed at farms. She clearly demonstrates that sustainable meat can be produced cost-effectively and ethically.
The book delves beyond Big Pork, examining the importance of choosing sustainable seafood, beef, poultry, dairy and eggs.
“Many people assume industrial farming is the only realistic option for producing food these days,” Niman writes. “They are resigned to it as a necessary evil…But the inevitability of industrial animal production is a myth. It’s not inherently more economically efficient than traditional farming, and nothing is unavoidable about it.”
Read More:Righteous Porkchop
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?