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Conditions sour for organic dairy farms

Dairy producers’ alliance responds to Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm

This essay is the latest installment in a debate between Ed Maltby and Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm. Maltby opened the debate with this post; Hirshberg responded here; Maltby's response follows below. We are airing the debate at length because we think our readers should know that our organic dairy farmers have reached a crisis point -- squeezed by production costs that are rising much faster than the price they receive in the market. ----- I want to thank Gary Hirshberg for replying so quickly to some of the points that we have been raising for the last six …


U. of North Carolina students say no to Smithfield pork

Pushing for ‘fair food’ on campus in the land of hog factories

Last year, a bunch of students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill got tired of the industrial dreck served up in the cafeteria. They discovered that the landscape around them was producing some amazing, chemical-free meat and produce and set about figuring out how to get some in school dining halls. Photo: iStockphoto Led by seniors Sally Lee and David Hamilton, they declared themselves FLO Food (FLO = fair, local, organic), and began negotiating with Campus Dining Services in earnest. CDS took them seriously and negotiated respectfully, but a key gap in understanding between the two groups …

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Stonyfield Farm responds

Gary Hirshberg argues that his company is doing a lot to support organic dairy farmers

The following is a response to a post by Ed Maltby, executive director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance. ----- Gary Hirshberg Londonderry, N.H.: These are difficult times for the organic dairy industry, and as we have demonstrated consistently for over a decade, we are deeply engaged in the effort to find solutions that balance escalating supply costs with the need to keep organic product prices within the average consumer's reach. Stonyfield has consistently fought for farmers' interests, despite the pressures of the marketplace to reduce or hold prices for our yogurts. Over the past five years, the pay …


How now, organic cow?

As energy, healthcare, and feed costs skyrocket, organic dairy farmers get squeezed

The following is a guest post by Ed Maltby, executive director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance. ----- Deerfield, Mass.: What is more important to Stonyfield Farm and HP Hood, market share or the health and welfare of their organic family farmers? Photo: iStockphoto If you ask 24-year-old Mark Ouellette Jr., who supplies organic milk to HP Hood that is sold under the Stonyfield label, his answer is very clear: market share. "I'm losing up to 60 cents per gallon producing milk for the Stonyfield brand. I've used up my line of credit, I'm close to maxing out my …


Feeling peckish?

Moby’s new video pokes at KFC

Bald techno-greenie Moby sends a chicken pimp after the Colonel in his "Disco Lies" video: "Disco lies" from Moby on Vimeo.

Read more: Food, Living


Admit it: fish is meat

Would Jesus eat fish during Lent?

Jennifer Jacquet of the Sea Around Us Project just published a solid and timely essay with Science & Spirit magazine. The piece begins by asking: If Jesus can turn two fish into enough to feed five thousand people, now would be a good time to intervene. According to researchers, each American ate nearly a half-pound more seafood last year than the year before. As we reach the end of the Christian season of Lent -- the period in which seafood consumption is at its highest -- scientists predict that, if the trend continues, wild marine fisheries will disappear in the …

Read more: Food, Living


Small-scale, community-owned biodiesel goes global

An honest, interesting statement from Piedmont Biofuels of North Carolina

I'm a fierce critic of biofuels, but I've always had a soft spot for small, region-based biodiesel projects that create fuel from local resources, providing jobs in the bargain. (I proudly ran Emily Gertz's feature on the topic in our 2006 biofuels series.) The income from such projects remains within communities, rippling around and building wealth. Rather than being just another conduit for transferring cash from communities into the pockets of global investors, fuel becomes an engine for real economic development. Insofar as they involve community members in making and distributing fuel -- from the feedstock to the gas tank …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


Rising food prices hit home around the world

Is a change coming to your cart? Photo: iStockphoto Hey you, in the supermarket line -- yeah, you, the one with the stuffed cart. Are you ready to pay up for those groceries? You'd better be, pal. That's the message from Bill Lapp, former chief economist for the food giant Conagra. "I think [U.S.] consumers are more prepared than we realize to accept higher prices on food and I think that's part of our future," Lapp recently declared. "It's largely been set in stone for us already." For decades, average Americans have spent just 10 percent of disposable income on …

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Bush: Not a Gristmill reader

President hails cellulosic ethanol as a panacea

I'm offended: President Bush evidently hasn't been following my string of posts about how cellulosic ethanol probably won't ever be viable. Addressing a renewable-energy conference, the president fretted that the ethanol boom he set in motion is "beginning to affect the price of food." He added: "So we got to do something about it." And what we "got to do," evidently, is throw more cash at cellulosic ethanol. Here's how The New York Times summed up his statement: [Bush said] the solution was not to back away from ethanol, but to develop ways to make ethanol from agricultural wastes, wood …


Meat Wagon: Beef behemoth

If deals go through, three firms will own 90 percent of the U.S. beef market

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. You'd be hard-pressed to find an industry more consolidated than beef-packing. Just four companies slaughter 83.5 percent of cows consumed in the United States. In standard antitrust theory, a market stops being competive when the four biggest players control 40 percent. The beef industry's extraordinary concentration gives the Big Four massive leverage to dictate how beef is raised and sold. Their economies of scale give them power to squeeze their smaller competitors, who have to scramble to keep costs down to survive. Their suppliers, known …