Digest: Smithfield series, market pressure, more bad PR for Menu Foods
Hogging the issues: Yay for independent media! The Independent Weekly of Research Triangle, NC, had a great cover feature package on Smithfield last week that we missed. The "Big Pig" series examined Smithfield's anti-union labor practices, worker safety, waste management, potential monopoly status, political connections, and more in a succinct, lean manner. The mind boggles at the numbers: At the Tar Heel plant, "two shifts a day, about 2,500 workers in each, working on a maze of assembly lines that herd, pull, split, slice, de-bone, de-fat and otherwise dismember hogs at a rate of up to 32,000 a day, 2,000 an hour, 33 a minute, or one hog every two seconds." And in addition to raiding local aquifers for so much water that it's caused sinkholes, Smithfield is allowed to discharge up to 3 million gallons of treated wastewater a day into the Cape Fear River; records show that on weekends and holidays — when it isn't required to monitor levels of some pollutants, including fecal coliform — it has regularly discharged much more. Independent Weekly
And now for something completely different: The 15-year-old son of a Slow Food member is raising Ossabaw pigs, a heritage breed deposited by Spanish explorers, as a home-schooling project in North Carolina. And yes, he ate them afterward. Charlotte Observer
Future farmerless markets: As much as consumers might like putting a face to their food, selling produce through farmers markets is incredibly inefficient and hard on the farmers — "like a chef having to stop cooking in order to hand-deliver every plate." The next iteration in the buy-fresh, buy-local movement might be more permanent markets like the Ferry Building's, and more farmers moving to the Community Supported Agriculture model. Los Angeles Times
No "dead cat bounce" effect here: Menu Foods pet food announces another recall — and reveals that the CFO of the firm sold half his stock in the weeks before the first recall annoucement. Yahoo News (via Americablog) The Detroit Free Press reports that he feels awful about the "horrible concidence."
Cluck cluck: California's egg production is dropping, thanks to higher operating costs (those pesky concerned consumers) and urban sprawl. Turns out suburbanites in Fresno don't want 900,000-chicken operations next door to them. Record Searchlight
City of angelaterias: Lucky Los Angeles is experiencing a boom in artisanal gelato and American ice cream, made with only the freshest fruit (like raspberries and Ojai cherimoyas from Santa Barbara), the best nuts, and the purest milk. L.A. Times
No pork for urban areas: "Rural development programs should not exist to support pork projects in communities with the resources to build and maintain their own infrastructure," chastises an editorial urging Congress to revamp farm policy. Washington Post
A growing necessity: Cut off from the world economy's oil and food, Cubans are reinventing urban, organic agriculture to feed themselves. Facts of note: During the Soviet period, Cuba used more than 1 million tons of synthetic fertilizers a year, today it uses about 90,000 tons, and herbicides and pesticides are down from 35,000 tons per year to 1,000. PeopleandPlanet.net
The yellow Romano of Texas?: The growing tribe of artisan cheesemakers in Texas stands at 14 and counting. Houston Chronicle
If you grow it, they will come: Farmers markets and fresh local food are promoting economic activity in the downtowns of American cities, as evidenced by the new Public Market in Portland, ME. New York Times
So no free GM seeds will be distributed?: An Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa executive writes to the editor in defense of his organization's strategy. "The original Green Revolution is credited with saving at least one billion people from hunger and starvation in Asia and Latin America, but the high input technologies that doubled and tripled yields on the vast irrigated lands of Asia did not perform well on the highly diverse, rain-fed farms of Africa," he says. "The alliance has learned much from these successes and failures." Embassy
California's green growers, shippers face three strikes rule on food-safety standards (Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital goes with grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs (Chicago Sun-Times)
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