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Meating halfway: Americans opt for less

meat shoppingPhoto: This Year's Love In a New York Times op-ed, Mark Bittman flagged this story from the Daily Livestock Report that notes the USDA is now projecting that U.S meat consumption will continue to drop, representing a 12 percent decrease from 2007. While American beef consumption has been dropping for some time, the story says chicken and even pork are now suffering a similar fate.

The Daily Livestock Report, a trade paper, pins the blame on rising feed prices (thank you, ethanol), growing exports -- which reduce domestic supply -- and, remarkably, "the fruition of 30-40 years of government policy." The paper continues:

If the federal government and its agencies decide to wage war on a product and continue that war for long enough, it will eventually have an impact. And the feds have indeed waged war on meat protein consumption for many years.

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FDA regulates 0.3 percent of antibiotics in livestock

So if you were the FDA, and you wanted to regulate the feeding of antibiotics to livestock -- which you don't, but bear with me -- there would be a couple of ways you could go. You could regulate the ones that are the most widespread and cause the most problems. Or you could regulate the ones that a tiny and decreasing number of people use in the first place. The second one is less effective, but it's easier! So that's what the FDA is doing. The agency has announced that it will ban the agricultural use of cephalosporins, a …

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Will the Butterball raid yield any real results?

The Butterball facility in North Carolina that was raided on Thursday. (Photo by Mercy for Animals.) If turkey were beer, Butterball would have the brand power of Budweiser, Miller, and Coors combined. From six plants, the company produces 1 billion pounds of turkey each year and exports the meat to over 50 countries. Given this dominance, the Butterball brand has been a priceless asset to the company -- until Thursday morning. At about 9:00 a.m., officers from the local sheriff's office raided a Butterball semen collection facility in Shannon, N.C. (Industrially bred Broad-Breasted White turkeys must be artificially inseminated to reproduce.) …

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The bad food news of 2011

We continue digesting this year's food politics coverage below -- only this time we take account of the things that didn't go so well. (Tired of bad news? See the year's good food news instead.) 1.  Food prices have gone up, and more people need help feeding their families The fact that 46 million people -- about a seventh of the U.S. population -- now receive food stamps (i.e. help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)) should be enough to tell us that something is wrong with America's food system. But thanks to the way public food assistance is …

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Ryan Gosling believes in treating chicks right

It may be time for a Chicken-Loving Ryan Gosling Tumblr -- "Hey girl, I just wanted to know how you like your eggs in the morning, because I like mine organic and cage-free." Perhaps because his name gives him an affinity with all fowl, but more likely because he is a decent and animal-loving person, Gosling has joined some less-impossibly-charming celebrities in calling for McDonald's to stop supporting inhumane egg production practices by purchasing eggs from suppliers that use battery cages. If you want to say you worked with Ryan Gosling on a project, you can also sign a petition at …

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Willie Nelson wants you to occupy Big Food

No less an authority than Willie Nelson is writing in the Huffington Post, calling on people to Occupy the Food System. Big Agriculture is just as one-percenty as the banks, says Nelson, with most of the resources concentrated in the hands of a few large corporations -- and the government isn't doing anything to help. Our banks were deemed too big to fail, yet our food system's corporations are even bigger. Their power puts our entire food system at stake. Last year the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Justice (DOJ) acknowledged this, hosting a series of workshops that examined corporate …

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Don’t look now, but some turkey has antibiotic-resistant superbugs

Not to put a damper on your Thanksgiving or anything, but there are two new studies showing that drug-resistant bugs like MRSA are showing up in farmed meat, including turkey. Farm animals get fed a cocktail of antibiotics, which can create resistant strains of bacteria. It's been hard (though not impossible) to determine whether that's happened in the U.S., but these studies are more evidence that it has. One study found 27 staph-tainted samples among 165 samples of beef, chicken, pork, and turkey. Only two cases, both pork, were MRSA, but the non-MRSA staph, which included seven tainted turkey samples, …

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McDonald’s appears to have at least one scruple about farming practices

If you thought it was impossible to get McDonald's to take abusive and unsafe farm practices seriously, prepare to be proved wrong! Turns out, all it takes for McDonald's to break ranks with a supplier is 13 violations of salmonella-prevention regulations, an FDA citation for "significant ... and serious violations," and undercover video showing unsanitary conditions and animal cruelty. Easy! McDonald's has said it will no longer accept eggs from Sparboe Farms, the subject of the expose above, given that it's apparently in flagrant violation of not only laws but also ethics. But that doesn't mean they've gotten rid of …

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No Secret Farm Bill and other things to be thankful for

Mark Bittman has provided the ultimate Thanksgiving guide for anyone interested in making our broken food system work again. His exhaustive list of the 25 people or groups for which he is most thankful is a must-read.* It starts with nutritionist and food system reform pioneer Marion Nestle and ends with "anyone who's started a small farm in the last five years, and anyone who's supported one; anyone who cooks, and especially anyone who teaches others to cook." That covers a good portion of Grist readers, I'd like to point out. So good on all of you, too. Heaven knows, …