Factory Farms


New food reporting project dives deep into pork drug

A new report on the use of a growth-promoting drug in pork production -- and its impact on international trade -- is just the tip of the iceberg for the Food and Environment Reporting Network.


Can healthy food come from unhealthy workers?

From cramped, unclean housing to a lack of paid sick days, more and more evidence is linking poor treatment of workers in the food chain to unsafe food.


Deep impact: The toll your protein takes on the Earth

As part of our ongoing protein series, we take a broad look at the environmental impact of some of the most high-protein foods.


‘Antibiotic-free’ pork has the same rate of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

We really do try to Pollan it up and do the whole “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” bit. But “mostly plants” obviously means “sometimes bacon.” And maybe the farmers’ market wasn’t open, so we bought that bacon at the store. Oh, but it was good bacon! “Raised without antibiotics” bacon! That’s something, right? Nope, not really, according to a new study from a group of University of Iowa scientists. This group tested 395 samples of pork from 36 stores in Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey. Of those, 6.6 percent had creepy, drug-resistant staph bacteria (shorthand: MRSA) on them. …


Meating halfway: Americans opt for less

The good news: Americans are consuming less meat. The bad news: The meat industry is still a terrible place to work.

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 class of antibiotic used in humans to treat pneumonia and certain infections. That's a good step towards keeping factory farms from becoming breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant microbes -- or anyway, it would be, if it weren't for the fact that effectively zero percent of farms use cephalosporins in the first place.

Factory Farms

Will the Butterball raid yield any real results?

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.) The raid has not yet produced confirmed arrests, but if the events of the past year …

Factory Farms

Scrooged: FDA gives up on antibiotic restrictions in livestock

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled a Scrooge move just before Christmas. The agency published an entry in the Federal Register declaring that it will end its attempt at mandatory restrictions on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. The agency isn’t advertising the shift, though: This news would have remained a secret if not for Maryn McKenna’s Superbug blog over at Wired. McKenna, who specializes in writing about antibiotics and their link to pathogens, caught the Federal Register notice. This is a sorry end to a process that began in 1977 (!), but McKenna created an excellent timeline …


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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