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Factory Farms

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Nearly half of supermarket meat is tainted, says disgusting new study

Now would be a good time to go vegetarian, or demitarian, or just find a reputable butcher. A new study from the Translational Genomics Research Institute has found that 47 percent of tested samples of supermarket meat and poultry were infected with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which causes a range of health problems including skin infections and food poisoning. Half of the bacteria found in the study were resistant to at least three antibiotics. So if you buy meat at the grocery store, you've got a one in four chance of bringing home a drug-resistant superbug. As long as you're cooking …

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Ranchers struggle against giant meatpackers and economic troubles

All cattle, no hats.Photo: Rob CrowA sea of cream-colored cowboy hats, the kind ranchers wear on their days off, fills a sterile conference room at the Fort Collins Marriott. Banners from groups like the Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund and the Western Organization of Resource Councils add bright slashes of color, and warn that JBS, the world's largest meatpacker, now controls 24 percent of all cattle produced in the United States. It's August 2010, the night before a national workshop on competition in the livestock industry, and well over 500 ranchers, feedlot owners, and their allies are packed into this room …

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Minnesota next up to pass law banning undercover farm videos

If Big Ag has its way, even possessing this undercover image of a factory chicken farm would be illegal.Photo: Humane Society of the United StatesNPR had a report today on the anti-whistleblower laws in Florida and Iowa that would make it illegal to take photos or undercover videos of livestock facilities. (It's always nice to be NPR's assignment editor!) But it doesn't end in those two states -- this "campaign" by Big Ag to shield its production techniques from scrutiny is going national. Writer Will Potter -- author of the book Green Is the New Red about "how animal rights …

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Monsanto cash helped fund bill to stifle whistleblowers in Iowa

Monsanto: See no evil, speak no evil in Iowa's factory farms.Speaking of Monsanto, it turns out they are playing a role in Iowa's proposed anti-whistleblower bill -- a bill focused primarily on agriculture. Should the bill pass, it will become illegal to produce undercover videos at various types of agricultural facilities (as well as to get a job at a facility with the express intent of producing a video). Sarah Damian of the Government Accountability Project, a "whistleblower advocacy organization," observes over at the Food Integrity Campaign's blog that Monsanto has been throwing lobbying dollars behind Iowa's effort to draw a steel …

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The American diet in one chart, with lots of fats and sugars

This is a non-interactive version of the chart. Also check out the interactive version, by Civil Eats and the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism News21 course.Over on Civil Eats, Andrea Jezovit has put together a terrific interactive chart on the U.S. diet. Using USDA data for "average daily calories available per capita, adjusted for spoilage and waste," it tracks our eating habits since 1970, separating our foodstuffs into basic categories: grains, dairy, vegetables, fruits, proteins ("meat, eggs, and nuts"), added sugars, and added fats. For me, the most interesting categories are the latter two. They represent what could be called …

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Will the U.S. hog industry ever kick its reliance on low-dose antibiotics?

The editors of Scientific American recently encouraged U.S. hog farmers to "follow Denmark and stop giving farm animals low-dose antibiotics." Sixteen years ago, in order to reduce the threat of increased development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in their food system and the environment, Denmark phased in an antibiotic growth promotant ban in food animal production. Guess what? According to Denmark's Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries the ban is working and the industry has continued to thrive. The government agency found that Danish livestock and poultry farmers used 37 percent less antibiotics in 2009 than in 1994, leading to overall …

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Startling new report shines light on farm labor conditions — and they ain’t good

Like a factory in the field, except for the wage protections, benefits, and union. Photo: Vera ChangMost corporations involved in the food business quietly benefit from the invisibility of U.S. farmworkers. Bon Appetit Management Co., a U.S. subsidiary of the U.K.-based, transnational catering giant Compass Group, has done something odd: It has partnered with the nation's leading farm worker's union, the United Farm Workers of America, to produce a blunt, important report on the conditions of farm labor in the United States [PDF]. How weird is that? Well, most of Bon Appetit's peers in the food industry prefer not to …

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Ask Umbra on flatulence and climate change

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, The other day I was sitting on the couch after a day of eating an onion-rich diet and wondered ... how much impact can a person have on climate change by avoiding flatulence-producing foods? Resourcefully yours,Rob D. Troubled by your bubbles?A. Dearest Rob, I appreciate your desire to not turn the Earth into a Dutch oven, Rob. So let me cut to the cheese, if you will. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse of the National Institutes of Health, "most people produce about 1 to 4 pints a day and …

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Study: Organic chicken carries significantly lower salmonella risk

Want it free of drug-resistant salmonella? Make it organic.Photo: sierravalleygirlThis study from the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety came out in November and has bounced around the internet, but for some reason I'm just now noticing it. It's worth a look. The researchers looked at broilers -- chickens raised for meat -- from "three organic and four conventional broiler farms from the same company in North Carolina," and tested their manure for salmonella. They also tested samples of their feed. Here's what they found: 38.8 percent of the conventional birds were carrying salmonella, versus 5.6 percent for the …

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