Digest: Packer ban, organic schism, organic cloning, “ethical” foie gras

Meat monopoly busters: A new "packer ban" bill introduced by Senators Charles Grassley and Tom Harkin seeks to prohibit the large meatpackers from buying and raising their own livestock, which leads to price gouging and shutting out small farmers and ranchers. This is really big news, as it would basically force Tyson, Smithfield, etc to change at least some of their objectionable business practices. Similar bills have failed in the past, however. Chicago Tribune

Little vs. Big Organic: Leading with Dave Evans of Marin Sun Farms, the Chronicle has a massive long feature on the state of the organic food industry, in particular the growing ideological clash between small local organic and massive, industrial organic. One thing we didn't know and are disturbed to learn: a rider on the 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill legalized the use of synthetic substances in the processing and post-harvest handling of organic foods. The rider, which was backed by Kraft and other big processed-food manufacturers, was attached secretly after the committee had adjourned. San Francisco Chronicle

Organically cloned: Post biotech reporter Rick Weiss looks into whether meat and dairy from cloned animals could be labeled organic, given current guidelines (which do allow in vitro and artificial insemination). "Over my dead body" says a Union for Concerned Scientists rep; consumers are likely to agree. Washington Post

Holy Grail of foie gras: More about the Spanish company Pateria de Sousa, which makes "ethical" foie gras by relying on geese's seasonal gorging in preparation for migration. Critics say it's not really foie gras, but it has won awards — from the French, no less. BBC magazine

SOS! Somebody call Slow Food International!: Rural Romanian villagers have until midsummer to make their locally produced cheese, milk, eggs, and meat conform to the EU's strict food safety standards (read: industrially hygienic) or they will be shut down for good. They can register as "traditional producers," but the paperwork is daunting. If ever there was a job for Slow Food heroes officials, this is it. BBC (Thanks Jack)

Escape the maize: Economist Paul Krugman gets right to the kernel of the ethanol vs. conservation debate. New York Times (Select)

Simon says: An interview with Michelle Simon, author of "Appetite for Profit," which exposes the duplicitous tactics of the processed food industry. Here's Simon on Big Food's "personal responsibility" defense: "How can we even begin to talk about making better food choices when the food industry is spending $36 billion a year to market the wrong kind of food? It seems rather disingenuous for a company to spend that kind of money and then turn around and blame the consumer when that marketing actually works." Alternet

Windy City CSAs: Community-supported agriculture programs are sprouting all over the Chicago area. Chicago Tribune

Pulled Thai: Trader Joe's is pulling a Thai chicken pasta salad from several West Coast locations for possible listeria contamination. ABC News

Bok choi to the future: The market for "ethnic" vegetables is booming. USA Today (AP)

Dining uncommons: The University of Rochester is a leader in sustainable campus food services. Democrat & Chronicle (NY)

To all the fuels I've loved before: Willie's wife Annie Nelson on the couple's involvement with biodiesel. Truthdig

Dining with stars: A dinner with restaurant raters Tim and Nina Zagat. Slate

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