October 20th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Much has been written about cows’ role in producing greenhouse gas emissions. (Think burps and farts.)
A 2006 United Nations report stated that livestock were responsible for 18% of these emissions. To be fair, this statistic also included land use and degradation, deforestation, pesticide use and water pollution. Cow flatulence, however, continues to incur blame (not to mention really dorky jokes).
Fear not, bovine lovers: Researchers at the University of Arkansas and Michigan Technological University have found that the dairy industry is responsible for only about 2% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Using 2007 and 2008 data from more than 500 dairy farms and 50 dairy processors, as well as data from more than 210,000 round trips transporting milk from farm to processing plant, Arkansas researchers examined the trail of carbon emissions—from dairy farms to the milk in your coffee. They concluded that total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the fluid milk Americans consume were lower than previously reported.
Read More:Dairy Cows Produce Fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions Than Previously Reported
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
January 31st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
A farmer may have more than 1,000 cows on his land, which create a steady stream of revenue—and manure.
In fact, a dairy cow typically produces 150 pounds of manure per day. Multiply this by scores of cattle, and you get a large—and odoriferous—waste situation.
Concerned about groundwater contamination and fecal-borne disease, farmers are continually on the lookout for ways to ensure safety and make cleanup easier.
One approach involves methane digesters, which operate on an old technology and handle cleanup effectively. As an added bonus, they produce electric energy.
By definition, a methane digester is a wastewater and solids treatment technology, according to Sustainable Conservation, a San Francisco-based environmental advocacy organization. When used on a farm, a digester processes animal waste under anaerobic conditions, yielding methane gas and reducing the volume of solids and treated liquids. The methane can be sold or used to generate electricity on the farm. The solid matter left behind is a valuable soil amendment. And the liquids become an easily applied fertilizer, with plant-available nutrients and low pathogen levels.
Typically, large farms will store liquid and solid manure produced by livestock in large waste ponds. The manure is later pumped back onto fields as a source of fertilizer.
But this type of storage scenario poses a host of problems, including strong odors, pathogens in the manure, and flooding of ponds and land when heavy rains or storms occur (allowing manure to reach local water sources). A methane digester provides a workaround solution, and harnessing the methane—a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide—benefits the environment.
To offset costs, the U.S. government has started giving subsidies to farmers who wish to install methane digesters. Some, however, believe digesters may not be the best solution for small farms. Other communities fight large-scale digester installation because of their industrial appearance and added traffic from waste haulers.
Nonetheless, many environmentalists say the positives outweigh the negatives.
- Organic Dairy Powered by Methane Digester (Straus Family Creamery)
- Manure Power: Dairies Harness Methane to Create Renewable Energy (Checkbiotech)
- Idaho Energy Czar Aims to Harness Cow Pie Power (Associated Press)
- A Refreshing Idea for Barnyard Odor (Boston Globe)
- A German Town Embraces Manure Energy (Fast Company)
- Introduction to Methane Digesters (Oregon Department of Agriculture)
- Energy Savers: Anaerobic Digesters for Farms and Ranches (U.S. Department of Energy)
- Anaerobic Digestion of Animal Wastes: Factors to Consider (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service)
Read More:A Possible Solution to the Methane Menace
November 4th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
I’m serving a special five-course meal to the intellectually challenged members of Congress who support Big Agribusiness and predatory insurance companies over the health and safety of the American people.
Let’s review the menu:
First Course: Double Cheeseburger
Sourced from: San Diego Meat Co. On Oct. 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared a Class I recall on 925 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli.
As a refresher, dear legislators, a Class I recall is 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.”
Cases of ground beef patties and bulk ground beef were shipped to restaurants and caterers in San Diego. Fly to SoCal, and eat up, guys! You can barf later on Shamu.
Second Course: Beef Tongue
Sourced from: Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., Milwaukee. The affected 5,522 pounds, recalled Oct. 17, may include tonsils, which means the company failed to comply with USDA regulations. Tongue tissue may be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad-cow disease).
No worries, guys. It’s a Class II recall, which means there’s a “remote probability of adverse consequences.” You like to gamble with people’s lives, so dig in!
Third Course: Chicken & Apple Sausage
Sourced from: Vatran’s Fine Foods, Inc., Tracy, Calif. Approximately 11,500 pounds of assorted meat and poultry products were recalled on Oct. 16 because they were produced without the benefit of federal inspection. It’s another high-risk Class I recall, affecting pork, chicken, turkey and lamb sausages, as well as veal frankfurters and other products. Chow down, wieners!
Fourth Course: Beef Butt Steak
Sourced from: Crocetti’s Oakdale Packing Co. (doing business as South Shore Meats, Inc.), Brockton, MA. Some 1,039 pounds of fresh ground beef patties derived from bench trim, as well as mechanically tenderized beef cuts, may be contaminated with E. coli. The USDA declared a Class I recall on Oct. 26. Hope that nice slab of butt is extra juicy!
Fifth Course: Meatballs
Sourced from: Fairbank Farms, Ashville, NY. This is a biggie: a Class I recall Oct. 31 of 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef products. This one aggravates me even more because it includes Trader Joe’s Butcher Shop Fine Quality Meats and the Wild Harvest Natural brand. So far, 28 people have been sickened, and at least one person has died.
You’re expected to clean your plates. Luckily, you have great health insurance—you know, the kind of coverage you refuse to provide to your constituents.
Read More:Serving Spoiled Meat to Lawmakers
October 29th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Can David Asper’s research help protect our global food and water supply?
A graduate student in veterinary microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan, Asper is working on a new cattle vaccine that may potentially stop E. coli at its source.
Asper’s research builds on the work of his supervisor, Andrew Potter, PhD. As director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization–International Vaccine Centre, Dr. Potter helped create the first cattle vaccine against E. coli O157, which prevents bacteria from attaching to, and colonizing in, a cow’s intestines.
Human illness occurs when meat becomes contaminated during slaughter or if feces mix with groundwater, thereby polluting drinking water, swimming water and/or food supplies. Infections can be mild, but some are severe to life-threatening.
“The E. coli O157 vaccine is the first of its kind worldwide and is expected to significantly lessen the amount of E. coli O157 present in food products and also in the environment,” Dr. Potter says.
But O157, while the most prevalent E. coli strain in North America, is one of hundreds of bacteria that cause disease by producing Shiga toxin (STEC). Even healthy cows can carry STEC bacteria, so identification of infected cattle can prove difficult.
“Right now, STEC bacteria is the No. 1 cause of renal [kidney] failure in children around the world,” Asper says. “It affects adults, too, but children are the most susceptible.”
Asper’s vaccine prototype could protect cattle against several non-O157 bacteria. It will be tested on mice and cattle over 3 to 5 years.
“We can protect humans by vaccinating animals before they come in contact with the pathogen,” he says. “I think that’s very important work that will lead to a lot fewer infections.”
Beef and dairy producers could also benefit from Asper’s work. When STEC is found in just one meat sample, beef processors are required to destroy the entire shipment—a significant cost to farmers.
Photo by Scott Bell
Read More:Stopping E. Coli at Its Source
October 12th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Leanne Skelton, chief of the Fresh Products Branch of the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service, is working with the FDA to help develop new food safety rules.
Through this coordinated effort, the FDA will gather information and feedback from the fresh produce industry—including small and organic farmers—on the impact food safety rules have on their businesses.
“President Obama, like most Americans, wants immediate improvements in our food safety system,” says Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “As such, we are pulling together all our best resources—state and federal—to improve the safety of our foods and to work with growers to protect and promote the health of our nation.”
“The USDA and the FDA have joined together on listening sessions and farm tours, and are eager to develop a system of regulation that will work for American families and the growers,” adds the USDA’s Rayne Pegg.
In media statements, the Feds are emphasizing that they want to speak with local growers across the country to hear their ideas, concerns and experiences.
Time will tell whether local and organic farmers get the attention they deserve.
Read More:Feds Reach Out to Organic Farmers
October 7th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
My community supported agriculture is winding down. It’s been slim pickings lately, mostly lettuce and a little squashes.
I think we’ve only got a few weeks left, and then it’s off to finding cheap deals at the grocery store and farmers markets.
But people in southeast Kansas are still enjoying locally grown vegetables.
Josh Mitchell, proprietor of The Mitchell Family Farms in Kansas, has seen his customer base grow to nearly 50 members this year.
His CSA costs $400 for a full share and $200 for a half share, and goes for 20 weeks. Despite the price of community supported agriculture, Josh says more people are realizing it is better to go natural and avoid all the chemicals.
CSA’s may be getting more mainstream, but some stereotypes still hold true, most of the people I see picking up their share are dressed in earth tones and wearing sandals.
Via Fox 14.
Image credit: sallycinnaminn
Read More:Kansas Residents Digging Local Community Supported Agriculture
October 4th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Farm Aid’s 2009 Concert begins at 5 p.m. today (ET), with sets from Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, Gretchen Wilson and Jason Mraz, among other performers.
DIRECTV will exclusively broadcast the event live and in HD on The 101 Network. The company has also pledged to match customer donations up to $50,000 through Oct. 31.
The concert will be streamed live on Farm Aid’s website. To make a $5 donation that helps family farmers, text FARMER to 90999 during the concert. Click here to donate online. To follow the event on Twitter, click here.
Farm Aid has partnered with St. Louis businesses to help achieve zero waste goals during the concert and add to the established Verizon Wireless Amphitheater recycling program.
With the help of Replenishing the Earth and Route 66 Organics, all compostable waste will be turned into agricultural material. Volunteers will help concertgoers differentiate between landfill-bound trash, recyclables and compostables.
The energy used to produce the concert will be offset by purchases of renewable energy certificates through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Farm Aid’s concert greening initiatives are underwritten by Horizon Organic and Silk Soymilk.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve Inc. 2008; courtesy of Farm Aid
Read More:Support Family Farmers Tonight!
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 24th, 2009 - Laura Klein
Leader of the free world? Not when it comes to food production…
Both Russia and China – not the most progressive countries when it comes to environmental and social service issues – have imposed bans on American poultry and pork.
As recently as March, 2009, Russian inspectors uncovered antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs from three U.S.-based plants including Sanderson Farms in Hammond, La., a Peco foods facility in Canton, Miss., and a Tyson Foods plant in Cumming Ga.
Sadly, this isn’t new news. A rep from the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences explained that the reason Russia imposed a ban on all poultry from the U.S. back in March, 2002, was because U.S. poultry producers use such large doses of these drugs that they accumulate in the tissues of the birds. “It is dangerous,” he said, “especially for children and older people.”
And just this month, China has banned imports of meat from two U.S. poultry plants and three U.S. pork plants. Although a specific reason wasn’t given, we can assume safety is at the core.
That’s why it’s so important for the Senate to reject HR 2749 – the Food Safety Enhancement Act – when they consider it upon their return from summer recess. The bill simply doesn’t do enough to get huge agribusiness to provide safe food for the public at large.
Clearly, Russia and China would agree that we have a ways to go in the realm of food regulation.
HR 2749 also makes smaller producers subject to the same regulations as huge, industrial firms…a one-size-fits-all approach that simply doesn’t make sense.
What do you think about Russia and China banning poultry and pork from the U.S.? How does it make you feel? Let us know – we love hearing from you!
Read More:Russia and China Say Thanks, But No Thanks, to U.S. Poultry