Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ted talks about how cattle are mistreated

If you¹ve tuned into the news media in the last 24 hours, you may have heard
about a graphic video release that shows sick cattle being chained by the
legs and dragged to slaughter, or being mauled by a forklift before behind
carted to the kill floor in a meat packing plant in California.

This video was shot by a Humane Society of the United States employeeworking undercover at the packing house and it shows in horrifying detail the inhumane treatment of cattle inside the facility. (You can find the link for the video here.)

The treatment goes against any conceivable standard of humane care of farm animals, and it also raises questions about the potential spread of dangerous diseases in the food supply. Downed cattle are currently banned from the food supply
because they are suspected of carrying Mad Cow Disease. Dragging the cattle through their own excrement increase the chances that, when slaughtered, E.
coli or other food borne pathogens will contaminate the meat.

The United States Department of Agriculture has appropriately stepped in to
suspend its contracts with meat suppliers purchasing from the offending
plant. That¹s good. But viewing such disturbing pictures cannot help but
give a person reason to worry over the general healthfulness of our
industrialized meat supply. Numerous descriptions of the dangers of the way
our high-speed meat processing facilities operate, and expose consumers to
various pathogens have appeared in the media over the years. Video like the
clip released today only confirms are deepest fears about meat processing
and our own health.

Fortunately, there are today ways for many of us to side-step the industrial
model by finding local farmers producing grass-fed and naturally raised
cattle. These farmers are often direct marketers, selling at farmers
markets, or right from their farm. There are even some naturally-raised and
grass-fed brands showing up at supermarkets. This more localized approach
to buying not only give our family farmers an economic boost, they can go a
long way toward ensuring some health related peace of mind for our families.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Jen has a (Voting) Eater’s Manifesto

There’s an interesting article on Michael Pollan over at the San Francisco Chronicle. Pollan has been an inspiration (and fantastic source of information and riveting reading) to those of us working on food and farm issues. I’m looking forward to reading his new book "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto,” the follow up to Pollan’s best seller, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which exposed the truth behind our food system. “In Defense of Food” is intended to help us decide what to eat in light of the facts of what the industrial food system is trying to sell us. In the Chronicle article, Pollan expresses reluctance to take on the role of leader of the food and farm movement:

"Emerging as a food movement leader "makes me uncomfortable. I'm a journalist," Pollan says. "But just because I'm a journalist I don't give up my rights as a citizen."

Becoming a leader makes him uncomfortable for other reasons too, he says. When people ask him what a new crop subsidy policy should be, he keeps having to say, "I don't know. I'm a journalist. I hope I can shine a light on it."

He goes on: Rachel Carson, whose book, "The Silent Spring," launched the modern environmental movement, "didn't write the Clean Air Act. She started a conversation and then politicians take over. And that's how it's supposed to work. The question here (on farm policy reform) is: Where are the politicians?"

Our politicians, of course, are either still wrestling with a Farm Bill that doesn’t do much to change our current system of agriculture (the one that favors corporations over family farmers), or campaigning, making promises to bring change. If you’re looking to choose the next president based, at least in part, on their stance on food and farm issues you’re going to have a tough time getting any information from their websites or campaign literature (trust me, I’ve looked!). If you’re still making your choice for our next President, call the candidates and ask them where they stand! Let’s make food and farming the issue that it should be. I, for one, would like to see the food and farms issue up there with discussions of social security and homeland security. Food security is just as important to our future.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Glenda and Carolyn find good food in Argentina!

Carolyn and I love to travel, and when we do, we try to visit farms, find organic food, and meet some farmers! We got to do all of that in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last week!

Here are a couple of highlights:

This photo is taken at a farm where a community is growing vegetables to share among themselves. The tomatoes looked luscious, but most of them weren’t ripe yet. The community is also doing education about the prevalence and threat of genetically modified (GMO) foods. (They’ve got a lot of GMO soy and corn in Argentina, much of it for export.)

I saw a wonderful “what’s in season” menu in a restaurant. You can build your own salad of selected organic ingredients, listed down the left of the menu. Across the top is the month of the year, and if a box on the grid is checked, that vegetable is available for your salad!

And we got to hang out with Pipo Lernoud, an organic activist, and sometime farmer. He is vice president of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Movements). Besides being a guy with serious agricultural knowledge, he is a funny, creative poet, and a writer for a major rock music magazine. Pipo’s wife owns El Rincón Orgánico, a home delivery service of organic food. What a concept!

It’s gratifying to know that around the world, people are growing their own while resisting industrial agriculture. Viva la agricultura orgánica!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jen now says there may be cloned meat already in our food supply!

Despite the fact that meat and dairy products from cloned animals was only just approved this week, at least one cattle producer says he’s been selling his cloned animals’ semen for quite some time and the calves produced from those clones may have already entered the food supply.

One hates to be a cynic, but really, is anyone actually taking food safety seriously? I know the answer for me: my local family farmers are! If there’s one good thing that might come from this latest food concern, it’s more demand for good food from family farms.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jen questions the safety of eating cloned animals

How's this for rigorous scientific study? The Washington Post carried this story about cloning.

The FDA studied a whopping 600 cloned animals and determined that they would all be safe to eat; which, by their logic, means that all cloned animals must be safe to eat! The scientists ran into wrinkles during the study but ultimately determined that
they should use the same method that farmers (raising NORMAL animals that haven't been CLONED) have used all along: If a farm animal appears in all respects to be healthy, then presume that food from that animal is safe to eat.

The real question is: Does anyone think we really need this? Is there really
a shortage of cattle, goats, and pigs? Whose interest does this serve?