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Factory Farms

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Organic matters

The Economist dismisses organic ag, while also making the case for it

This isn't the only way.I've been reading The Economist's "Special Report on Feeding the World" (intro here). So far, it's typical Economist: compellingly written and impressively broad in scope -- but largely uncritical of the status quo. The report doesn't bring much new to the table, especially to those of us who follow the gloomy macro-analyses of thinkers like Lester Brown. Predictably enough, The Economist's perspective on the "feed the world" question is guided by the assumption, never much examined, that only high-tech, massive-scale farming can tackle the task of feeding the 9 billion people expected to be on Earth …

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Super (gross) bugs

Flies and cockroaches carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria from factory farms, study finds

A fly's paradise: Near a giant hog factory in North Carolina, downed pigs fester while sprayers spread untreated manure onto fields. Photo: Steve WingWhat sort of antibiotic-resistant pathogens are growing on factory farms, along with all the cheap pork chops and chicken wings? And what level of threat do they pose to our health? Well, we know that in total, factory-farm animals consume a jaw-dropping four times as many antibiotics as do people in the United States, thanks to diligent reporting by Maryn McKenna and Ralph Loglisci and work by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). And we know that a kind …

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Male chauvinist pig farmers

Male-dominated Big Ag woos women with paternalistic marketing blitz

Marketing campaigns aside, the face of industrial-scale farming is male. Big Ag is big business -- and big profits. And when anyone raises questions about the billions of tax dollars lavished on the largest industrial growers of corn, soybeans, and other commodity crops or points out the harm that these perverse incentives do to the environment, Big Ag's lackeys lash out. But bullying your critics and worried consumers is not always the best public relations strategy. Sometimes you need to cultivate the softer sell. That must be why commodity growers' lobbies have launched fresh campaigns aimed at polishing their tarnished …

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Meat wagon

Chicken, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and regulatory independence

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. --------- Would you like that chicken tainted with salmonella with resistance to one, two, three, or four different antibiotics? We also have six and seven. Consumer choice! After my post Monday on aspartame's wild and wacky path from pharmaceutical-company lab to beverage sweetener for millions of people, I got into a back-and-forth on Twitter with star progressive bloggers Matt Yglesias and Adam Ozimek. They seemed shocked (and a little angry) by my suggestion that something approved both by the FDA and its European counterparts might …

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Grains of truth

Ask Umbra Book Club: Did Paleolithic hunter-gatherers eat healthier than we do today?

Corn of plenty? Maybe not so much.Photo: Big Grey MareDearest readers, Welcome to the second day of our conversation of At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. You can catch up on yesterday’s chat here. If you have yet to get a copy of the book, jump in anyway. As a quick catchup, you can listen to Bryson read the introduction here. Growing plants for food is really a very recent innovation. Early in the book, we learn that in Jericho, the "world’s first true city," people settled but did not farm. They stopped wandering and …