Oprah takes on Big Chicken, today!

TV queen shows 10 million viewers the dark side of Chicken McNuggets

The chicken industry has had a rough year, its wings clipped by pricey feed, reduced demand, and financial trouble. Even after a recent rally, Pilgrim’s Pride — which slaughters and packs 24 percent of U.S. chicken — has seen its share price plunge nearly 90 percent. As if the industry didn’t have enough to squawk about, enter Oprah Winfrey, whose show today at 4 p.m. EDT peers into the dark heart of industrial poultry production, reportedly contrasting it with the organic, free-range system at Natural Acres Farm in Pennsylvania. This is potentially massive news for the sustainable-food movement. The talk-show …

Growing a new agriculture in Poland

Old breeds, new ideas are helping small farms

I just returned from a 10 day photo assignment covering the efforts of Heifer Project — Poland to return heritage/locally-adapted breeds of chickens, geese, cattle, and pigs to small farmers struggling to keep a foothold in this changing country. These breeds in many cases are already making a difference. One of these, the Polish Red Cattle, requires very little feed to produce milk with a super high cream content — an important attribute in regions like this with harsh climates. This program is a spot of good news for this heavily agricultural country — it has the highest percentage of …

'Food fighters'

NYT Magazine features Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Maverick Farms, Anna Lappé, and more

You know the Sunday New York Times Magazine issue I blogged about a few days ago, the "food issue" featuring a major essay by Michael Pollan? It also highlighted the farm I help run, Maverick Farms, in a section on "food fighters." We’re extremely flattered and delighted to be included in the same list as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group at the forefront of putting social justice at the center of the food movement. Grist contributor Anna Lappé is also featured along with her writing partner, Bryant Terry. You can also peer inside our fridges as we describe …

Pollock: Poster fishery on the brink

Most ubiquitous fish in American diet 50 percent below last year’s levels

Here’s a guest post from Jennifer Jacquet of the Sea Around Us project at the University of British Columbia, and blogger-in-chief of the Shifting Baselines Blog. —– Ask a scientist to give a good example of a well-managed fishery, and they often will cite the Alaska pollock fishery. But John Hocevar of Greenpeace-USA prefers to say that pollock is heavily managed, not well-managed. And new research shows he is correct. This year, acoustic surveys by NOAA Fisheries indicate the 2008 pollock population is almost 50 percent below last year’s survey levels. That’s bad news for pollock, which is America’s most …

Has the 'maverick' turned tail on farm and ethanol subsidies?

McCain’s ‘Farm and Ranch Team’ is chock full of agribiz heavies

In a recent Victual Reality column, I gave John McCain his due for holding fast to his positions against crop and biofuel subsidies — even if his overall farm policies generally suck. In an attempt to boost his flailing campaign and shore up support in the Farm Belt, the self-declared maverick may be abandoning those positions. Check out his recently announced Farm and Ranch Team [PDF]. The list veritably bristles with pro-agribusiness politicians and flacks, including may who have pimped for ag and biofuel subsidies. We find Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R.-Big Cotton), a man who has staked his career on …

Synthetic biology: Coming soon to a gas tank near you?

With little oversight, BP, Chevron, ADM, and Cargill cook up next-gen biofuels

Synthetic biologists, a brave new breed of science entrepreneurs who engineer life-forms from scratch, are holding their largest-ever global gathering in Hong Kong this week, known as “Synthetic Biology 4.0.” Although most people have never heard of synthetic biology, it’s moving full speed ahead fueled by giant agribusiness, energy and chemical corporations with little debate about who will control the technology, how it will be regulated (or not) and despite grave concerns surrounding the safety and security risks of designer organisms. Corporate investors/partners include BP, Chevron, Shell, Virgin Fuels, DuPont, Microsoft, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland. “Bankrolled by Fortune 500 …

Nourishing reading for the next president

Michael Pollan lays out a national food agenda

Food policy hasn’t exactly been a hot-button issue in the presidential election. And it’s not going to be. We’re sure to hear more about a vague acquaintance of Barack Obama, or a bush-league politician’s fantasy-world twaddle about energy independence, than farm subsidies or school-lunch policy. Knowing that full well, Michael Pollan has published a serious article on food policy the upcoming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine adressed not to the candidates but rather to the next president. Pollan deftly places food at the center of three key topics: climate change, energy, and healthcare. Anyone seriously interested in addressing those issues …

Has the ag bubble burst?

Tough times for agribiz giants — and likely soon for farmers

A few months ago, the "smart money" was pouring into all things agricultural. Corn was flirting with $8/bushel (up from less than $2 as recently as 2005), hedge funds were snapping up farmland everywhere from the Midwest to Africa, and that weird guy who babbles and blusters about stocks on cable TV — Jim Cramer — was bellowing the praises of fertilizer companies. People like me lamented the consequences: gushers of agrichemicals onto farmland and into air and water, expansions of monocrop agriculture into environmentally sensitive areas, all without any real increase in food security or food access for the …

Kibbles and fits

Is organic pet food worth the trouble?

In Checkout Line, Lou Bendrick cooks up answers to reader questions about how to green their food choices and other diet-related quandaries. Lettuce know what food worries keep you up at night. —– Dear Grist, I eat organic food; should my dog? What’s the deal with organic dog food and what’s the problem with conventional dog food anyhow? And most importantly, does organic dog food taste better? Not that my dog has ever been too picky about what he eats, but I’ve always wondered when I dump the same dry kibble in his bowl day after day if he actually …

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