Digest: Slaughterhouse unionizing, Peter Pan recalled, breeding rare breeds

Slaughterhouse live: An excellent piece by AP writer Roxana Hegeman goes inside the world's largest slaughterhouses, where worker injuries are common and as a result, movements to unionize are once again popular. Interviews with immigrant workers reveal new facets to their plight. Associated Press

Salmonella outbreak in peanut butter : ConAgra is recalling jars of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter due to salmonella contamination that has sicked 300 people since August. Yes, since August — god forbid anyone ever targets the U.S. food system deliberately. Associated Press

We have to eat them to save them: Ever heard of a bagot goat, a lop pig, or boreray sheep? We hadn't either. But there's a movement afoot to prevent these rare U.K. breeds from going extinct. The Independent (UK)

The arc of the Dietgeist: Tom Philpott documents the history of Americans' alienation from food production, and argues that the resurgence of Julia-Child-driven "weekend cooking" in the '70s set the stage for today's back-to-the-dirt food movement. We're not so sure — we think the former was about class aspirations and the latter is more populist. But we weren't around then. What do you guys think? Grist

Integrity counts: An op-ed wants "organic" to continue to mean what we think it does. Wow — does China really have four times the amount of land in organic food production than the United States does? Mountain Mail (CO)

Pesticide payoff: Dow Chemical voluntarily paid a $325,000 civil penalty to the SEC for having bribed Indian government officials who held sway over regulatory approvals for the company's pesticides. Associated Press

GMO protest: U.S. genetically modified rice (Uncle Sam Texas Long Grain Rice) should not be for sale in Filipino supermarkets, says a cardinal. GMA News (Philippines)

Pigging out all over again: Yet another article on the year of the Pig (starts this Sunday) lauds the tastiness of heritage pork. New York Press

GM yeast: A proprietary genetically modified strain of yeast can supposedly reduce levels of the carcinogen ethyl carbamate in wine, beer and bread, according to its manufacturer First Venture Technologies. A case of the cure being worse than the risk? FoodNavigator

Farm Bill budget: Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he thinks the spending baseline for the 2007 Farm Bill will be about $18 billion less than the 2002 one, and unfortunately, that will make it hard to fund things like increased conservation efforts. Agriculture.com

Rah-rah for raw!: A farmer is challenging Maryland's opposition to raw milk in court, and the state's raw milk converts are pinning their hopes on his lawsuit. Washington Post

Whole Foods fans: Over 300 shoppers lined up in the freezing cold for the opening of a new Whole Foods in Portland, ME. Some even bought lobsters. Maine Today

Chocolate outsourcing: Hershey will ax 1,500 jobs over three years as part of a plan to scale back production and move some manufacturing to Mexico. USA Today

Let the Luddites have their label: A CoCo Times editorial says Sure, go ahead and labeled cloned meat and dairy if it'll shut the concerned foodies up. The paper's position is that the process is harmless and fears will soon die down, and anyway few products will actually be in the food supply. But what do they think happens to prize bulls and dairy cows when they die? Hamburger, not a pretty headstone. Contra Costa Times

Patriotic dining: Senator (and organic farmer) Jon Tester from Montana doesn't think the Senate's dining room should be serving Japanese beef instead of American, even if it is Kobe. Boston Globe

8 Responsesto “Digest: Slaughterhouse unionizing, Peter Pan recalled, breeding rare breeds”

  1. Tom Philpott says:

    Agreed that the cult of Julia was mainly about class aspirations. Ten affluent urbanites sit around a table in 1975 over someone's Child-inspired masterpiece. Nine think -- how cool; we're being European! One thinks, holy shit! This is incredible; never knew food could be like this. And maybe that one person digs deeper and traces the real origins of flavor back to the dirt, and then gets interested in the politics of the dirt. That's what I was trying to get at.

  2. My issue with cloning isn't so much nutritional as simply that, as a breeder of livestock, I see cloning as a dead end. Why bother? I'm working at continually improving our lines. If I used cloning all I would get would be the same animal. Remember Mother Nature's old adage, "Adapt or Die" - it's evolution time.

  3. DairyQueen says:

    Hi Walter: What about if you could keep breeding the same great boar year after year with ever-improving sows? would that interest you? Just curious.

    It's great to have an actual farmer reading and commenting, by the way, although I don't know how you find the time in between raising the pigs, building that addition, blogging, and being all over the Internet.

  4. I couldn't disagree more about your characterization of the "back-to-the-dirt movement" as populist. People on limited budgets want cheap food, full stop. With women mostly in the workforce, "quick" becomes at least as important an attribute as cheap.

    Only the affluent can afford to worry about heritage pork and 100-mile diets.

  5. DairyQueen says:

    Hi Rebecca: Cheap food doesn't have to mean processed crap — many states' farmers markets accept food stamps — and "quick" doesn't have to mean microwaveable. I think it's just as elitist to say that poor people aren't interested in being healthy and feeding their children healthy foods, or in overall questions of sustainability. We've been brainwashed to think of fresh vegetables and fruit as luxuries, and $1 hamburgers as staples.

    True, considerations of breeds that may become extinct, and the fuel costs involved in transporting food, might come long after those of price for some people. But if the so-called affluent don't support heritage pork and 100-mile diets, these options won't ever become commonplace and affordable enough for the less-affluent to even get a chance to consider them.

  6. I'm not arguing that we shouldn't support the "back-to-the-dirt movement", nor am I arguing that cheap food means processed crap. I've been a member of a CSA for the last 6 years, and my monthly food costs usually hover between the thrifty and low-cost USDA Food Plans, even buying mostly organic.

    On the other hand, I went years being so poor that, I only didn't buy the organic food, I didn't buy vegetables, period - I couldn't afford anything but rice and beans, So I understand what's it's like to care about eating well on a miniscule budget.

    My only assertion is that this isn't a populist movement.

    I've long thought we needed a Martha Stewart or Julia Child-like figure, with the express purpose of making the sustainable life aspirational. People with limited budgets, in my experience, don't really want to learn how to make their food dollars stretch (read: be poor better) as much as they want to have the good things in life, like everyone else. Nor do affluent people want to be told they can't have meat/out-of-season fruit/CAFO produce/etc.

    The "hundred mile diet", "heritage pork", "grass-fed beef", "slow food" - what are these, but sexy packaging for the way people used to eat? These terms frame a set of choices and make them...well, aspirational. And I think it will trickle down. After all, Wal-mart has gotten in the game, haven't they?

    But that doesn't make it a populist movement.

  7. Tom Philpott says:

    Not to belabor this discussion, but I'd just like to note that there is a very important, woefully undercovered *populist* aspect of the "back-to-the-dirt" movement. It involves inner-city gardening and even farming. Here's an incredibly successful such effort in Chicago/Milwauakee; and here's a piece I did on an effort in LA that thrived until it got crushed under the heel of government cronyism.

    The Community Food Security Coalition is probably the best single source of info on this important trend. Clearly, there's loads of work to be done; but there's no need to buy into the idea that the sustainable-food movement is a purely yuppie phenomenon. That myth plays into he false populism of corporations like McDonalds, etc.

    And thanks again to Ethicurean for having such a robust site.

  8. DairyQueen says:

    Rebecca and Tom P. -- Wal-Mart's entry to me is definitely a sign of mass adoption, and that organic has become "aspirational" in the sense that you describe, Rebecca. I was pretty impressed by the educational effort put into the produce section at the Wal-Mart in Pensacola, Fl. — there were explanations of why organic produce costs more, how to tell when particular items were ripe, how to store them, cook them, etc. They obviously think consumers want these things perhaps more than they know what to do with them.

    Tom, the food justice was the other populist piece of the puzzle swimming around in my brain, only I had local groups like People's Grocery in mind.

    This might be a California thing, but I'm amazed by the farmers I've met who've left office jobs in order to work their asses off for half as much money, if that. Their passion is not to feed yuppie food snobs, but to do something deeply satisfying: grow good clean food that adds to the land, not takes from it.