Factory Farms

gleaning your plate

Ask Umbra on how much food Americans waste, and what to do about it

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, Do you have a reliable source/figure for the total amount of food wasted by Americans?  I read somewhere that up to 40 percent of the food we buy may be thrown away. That means people spend an additional 66 percent on food products they don’t/can’t actually consume. Most of this “subsidy” goes to food processors, not to mention packaging, transporting, fertilizer, and, of course, agro-corps like Monsanto. Do you know if those figures are accurate? Professor IkeWichita, Kan. Someone has too much food on their plate …Photo: jbloomA. Dearest Ike, It’s true …

panda burgers

World Wildlife Fund gets in bed with McDonald’s, gives birth to darling sustainability program

McDonald’s is going to be less bad for the future of life on Earth, it promises. With the help of the World Wildlife Fund, the 32,000-store chain has pledged to do the following to improve its sourcing of raw materials: Ban beef that comes from within the “Amazon Biome,” aka Brazil’s rainforest. No more soy from the deforested remnants Amazon Rainforest, either. Soy is used in chicken feed. (The bad news is, we’ll still be eating chicken nuggets that were originally soybeans.) “Coffee and wood fibers for product packaging will also be sourced from third-party certified, sustainable sources.” Switch from …

Meat wagon

Think tainted Chinese pork is scary? Check out the nearest supermarket meat case

Now, what dodgy stuff did Philpott say was on this? In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. ——— Over in China, the nation’s burgeoning pork industry has been been busted for churning out meat tainted with an illegal and quite dodgy growth-enhancing chemical, The Washington Post reports. The banned chemical, clenbuterol, is said to “reduce a pig’s body fat to a very thin layer and makes butchered skin pinker, giving the appearance of fresher meat for a longer time.” When people ingest it from eating the resulting pork, they suffer “symptoms such …

Just like how granny didn't do it

Forget farmers markets — I want to sell my pastured meat at Price Chopper

This pastured piggy went to Price Chopper.Photo: Kevin SteeleIt is time to make local passe. It is time to make regional the new local. Enough of farmers markets, CSAs, and direct on-farm sales. Yes, they are exciting — they feel like they are getting us somewhere. And, to be honest and give them their due, they have gotten us somewhere. The reality, however, is that they will never get us there, whither goest we must if we want to make a change — real change. I will say it as straight as I can: I want to see my pork …

Meat wagon

Poultry industry smothers immigrant farmers and abuses antibiotics

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. ——— Cheap shot: a sale currently in effect at Randall’s stores in Texas. The U.S. meat industry offers some of the biggest bargains you can find: stuff like “boneless skinless chicken breasts” for just two bucks a pound; or a “Crispy Chicken Sandwich” for a dollar. But when you dig beneath the marketing jargon and the coupon fliers, you start to see that all that cheap bird flesh has a much heftier price tag than meets the naked eye. In all my writing about the …

Muckbreaking

Another week, another attempt to shield factory farms from public scrutiny

Above: Last spring, a Humane Society of the United States investigtor, posing as an employee, got a camera into an egg factory to film conditions there. If Iowa lawmakers have their way, such muckraking will be illegal. ——— It’s not just Florida. In what appears to be a growing movement, industrial farmers have convinced Iowa state lawmakers to move an anti-whistle-blower bill through the state legislature. This bill, unlike the rather clumsy and probably unconstitutional Florida bill aimed at photographing farms, focuses on undercover attempts to film inside industrial livestock facilities (via ABC News): Angered by repeated releases of secretly …

Berry patch

USDA chief flatters industrial ag while Obama honors its greatest critic, Wendell Berry

A year and a half ago, I complained that President Obama’s food and ag policy was “giving me whiplash,” because the administration seemed to keep zigzagging between progressive change and the agrichemical status quo.   Since then, a definite pattern has emerged: The administration puts real policy power behind the status quo — see, for example, the recent deregulation of controversial genetically modified crops — and deploys what the political scientists call “soft power” (usually through Michelle Obama) to hector people to eat a little better and chide corporations to clean up their junk food a bit. Two events last …

Meat the new boss hog

Factory-farmed pork: it’s the inspirational other white meat!

Be inspired!: Near a giant hog factory in North Carolina, downed pigs fester while sprayers spread untreated manure onto fields. Photo: Steve WingPork has a new-and-improved slogan. In an announcement that is guaranteed to avoid mockery or satire, the National Pork Board (NPB) has shifted from declaration to exhortation. No longer will pork’s tagline be “The Other White Meat.” From this day forward, the NPB demands that, as regards pork, we must “Be Inspired” (via NPR): Board officials said after nearly 25 years, it was time to move on from the old message that compared pork to chicken and instead …

Don’t be chickensh*t

Time to end the insane practice of lacing chicken feed with arsenic

As a jaded observer of the meat industry, even I’m flummoxed by this fact: It’s standard practice on factory chicken farms to dose those unfortunate birds with arsenic. The idea is that it makes them grow faster — fast growth being the supreme goal of factory animal farming — and helps control a common intestinal disease called coccidiosis. The industry emphasizes that the arsenic is applied in organic form, which isn’t immediately toxic. “Organic” in the chemistry sense, that is, not the agricultural sense — i.e., molecules containing carbon atoms as well as arsenic. Trouble is, arsenic shifts from organic …