Digest: Meaty issues, Gunther on garbage, secrets of seed-free citrus

Not a pig step for mankind, yet: Eliminating sow-gestation crates is just the first tiny step toward humane meat production in this country, says Nicolette Hahn Niman (yes, that Niman) in her op-ed condemning hog factories' typical practices. New York Times

Getting even piggier: Smithfield Foods, the pork overlord featured none too favorably in the December issue of Rolling Stone, will be trying to increase their yearly slaughter quota from 8.5 million to 9.5 million at a public hearing this week in Dublin, NC. The increase is regulated by the state Division of Water Quality, which decides the amounts of pollutants which will be allowed to be poured into the Cape Fear river on a daily basis. Let's hope the public speaks out. Fayetteville Observer

The case against eating meat: Americans and Europeans eat meat because we want to, not because we have to. And we do it at the expense of animals, people, and the environment, says Kathy Freston, who makes the best case we've read in a while — excepting a little quacky-sounding bit at the beginning about arachidonic acid and human health — for why going vegetarian is the only ethical response. AlterNet

Thanks, taxpayers!: Tufts University researchers have published a short paper that looks at how much money industrial meat companies have saved due to the artificially depressed prices of feed corn and soybeans. From 1997 to 2005, they estimate the broiler chicken industry saved $11.25 billion, while industrial hog operations saved an estimated $8.5 billion. Cost to the environment and to public health of these confined animal feeding operations? Priceless. Blog for Rural America

Trash talking: It isn't about food, except indirectly, but Marc Gunther's piece on garbage is inspiring reading for all consumers. He chronicles U.S. attempts to eradicate waste as a concept by changing the way things are made. "From our perspective, waste doesn't need to exist," says a San Francisco rep. "It's a design flaw." Fun fact: Wastepaper is the U.S.'s No. 1 export by volume to China. And another: Wal-Mart is actually doing some good things with trash. Fortune

Dreadful sorry, Clementine: A must-read story for citrus lovers about the contortions citrus growers have put their trees through to produce fewer seeds in the fruit. Among them: spraying hormones and chemicals, and irradiating the stems to rearrange the chromosomes to cause sterility (no seeds). Right now, California citrus growers are lobbying the state legislature for a Seedless Mandarin Protection Act that would establish “no-fly zones,” forbidding bees within two miles of designated orchards; and university scientists are hard at work using gene transfer and other techniques — mysteriously not considered “genetic modification” for regulatory purposes — to reduce seeds. New York Times

Lawmakers on the Farm Bill: Ten senators and representatives from the agriculture committees (and one from the House Ways and Means Committee) give their opinions about farm policy and the Farm Bill. House ag chair Collin Peterson (D-MN) summarizes his general take in this Hill editorial: he's opposed to the Bush Administration's proposed lowering of the income ceiling for subsidies (hiss!), but in favor of increasing funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Reserve Program (yay!). Senate ag chair Tom Harkin is more circumspect, pledging conservation and efforts to fight "food insecurity," also known as hunger. Other opinions can be found here.

Fat and happy: New research suggests that heavy men may be less apt to commit suicide. We're not picking on Reuters, but every day the news cycle barfs up some version of these casual causalities: women who eat fish have smarter kids! vegetarians have higher IQs! cat owners more likely to have sons! ferret owners have better sex lives! It's enough to make your head spin. (Only one of the preceding is not a real "finding," by the way.) Reuters

Data detente: Greenpeace said a study it had commissioned showed rats fed for 90 days on Monsanto's genetically modified maize (approved for human consumption) exhibited "signs of toxicity" in the liver and kidneys; the research was published in a peer-reviewd journal. Reuters Sounds bad, but Reuters is oversimplifying. Greenpeace apparently paid for Monsanto's own research on 400 rats to be run through a new statistical model and reinterpreted. Wouldn't it be nice if a neutral third-party were to conduct a new, larger study of the effects of eating GM food?

Factories vs. farms: Farmers in eastern India angered by government plans to build an industrial park on their land fought police with rocks, machetes and pickaxes. At least six people were killed. Guardian (UK)

Something good is finally growing in the "laboratory of democracy": Impatient with the federal government's lack of concern about GMOs, state legislators across the nation are introducing bills to regulate GMO crops. Bay Area Indy Media

Don't take Grandma's peas away: Despite evidence that every dollar spent on nutrition programs for senior citizens saves $3 in Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans' health care costs, the Bush Administration's budget proposal eliminates a food program for seniors. San Francisco Chronicle

Ode to l'oeuf: An immensely satisfying paean to fresh, farm-raised eggs and the chefs who love them. Los Angeles Times And don't miss the sidebar on a tasting panel's favorite eggs.

The next generation: Profile of a young couple raising cattle, sheep, pork, and chicken in Massachusetts. They've even started a meat CSA program. Boston Globe*

Eco-friendly eateries: More restaurants are seeking to join the Green Restaurant Association. To qualify for green certification, a restaurant must recycle waste, be styrofoam-free, and complete additional steps that can include energy or water conservation measures, elimination of toxic cleaners, sustainable food choices, using clean power, and others. Boston Globe*

Butter lovers unite: Some good reading in the Times' letters section about recent food stories, including a defense of and and ode to butter, despite its trans fats. New York Times

Switching from milk to cheese: Profiles of two cheesemaking families, the Craves from Wisconsin and the Fiscalinis from California (makers of the sublime San Joaquin Gold). Includes a link to a 15-minute audio interview. Brownfield

Frankentreethanol!: The world's most revered business magazine looks at producing ethanol from trees and other cellulosic biomaterials instead of grains. Economist (Thanks, Dr. V)

Bruce, this one's for you: Snowmobilers aren't the only wildlife disrupters — snowboarders and skiers also have measurable effects on the stress levels of nearby animals. New Scientist

Afraid to dye: Why our aversion to artificial coloring makes no sense. Is it so bad? Let's hope not, because it's in a lot more things than you think. Care for an orange? Fun fact: "Tasters used the language of red fruits to describe a rigged-up bottle of white wine spiked with food dye—it had notes of raspberry, black currant, and cherry." Slate

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2 Responsesto “Digest: Meaty issues, Gunther on garbage, secrets of seed-free citrus”

  1. I disagree on the "The case against eating meat: Americans and Europeans eat meat because we want to, not because we have to." A vegetarian, and especially a vegan, diet is not sustainable up in the north country. Yes, you can do it with supplemental pills and foods that are transported long distances but neither of those are sustainable. On the other hand, sheep, cattle, goats, pigs and poultry can all eat foods we can't and graze on low quality pasture that won't produce any crops for us and in turn they'll turn those low quality, to us, forages into high quality protein, lipids and other good wholesome foods. I've been vegetarian several times in my life for various reasons but I would not consider it ever to be a long term sustainable solution.

  2. Something to add to the next edition of the Digest from today's "National Digest" in the Seattle Times:

    Chiquita turned to terrorists for security

    Banana company Chiquita Brands International said Wednesday it has agreed to a $25 million fine after admitting it paid terrorists for protection in a volatile farming region of Colombia.

    The settlement resolves a lengthy Justice Department investigation into the company's financial dealings with right-wing paramilitaries and leftist rebels the U.S. government deems terrorist groups.

    Chiquita sold its Colombian banana operations in June 2004.