Digest: Smithfield series, market pressure, more bad PR for Menu Foods

Big Pig coverHogging 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

Making the most of seasonal sweet English peas (LA Times)

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)

Almost true: FDA certifies that Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) corn as "excellent" rat poison (TheSpoof.com)

3 Responsesto “Digest: Smithfield series, market pressure, more bad PR for Menu Foods”

  1. Whigsboy says:

    Sorry to go off-topic here, but I'll be in Los Angeles this coming Saturday through Tuesday, and I'm looking for some restaurant recommendations, including those that are committed to serving local produce, meats, etc., but also that just offer great food.

    I've found a few places I'd like to try to hit (A.O.C. and Mario Batali's pizza joint, which I understand is a hard seat to get), but if anybody has any recommendations, I'd love to get them. You can email them to me at thef...@yahoo.com.

    Thanks for entertaining my plea. LOVE this blog.

  2. Anastasia says:

    The Green Revolution editorial was very refreshing. A lot of people have strong misconceptions about agricultural improvement. Of course African soils and climate conditions are different from those in China or South America. Solutions have to be tailored to the situation. There is a lot of research to find drought resistance genes - I certainly hope that people won't be whining about GMOs when drought resistant crops enable Africa to feed herself.

    Just a quick thought on the last link - this blog generally posts insightful information. Using the words "almost true" to describe a spoof is misleading.

  3. DairyQueen says:

    Hi Anastasia: The "almost true" reference was a joke referring to the recent news alleging that rats fed Monsanto's MON863 maize showed "signs of toxicity" in the liver and kidneys. That's clearly what the spoof was based on, too. It was not intended to be misleading, but to show that the spoof was not completely the product of someone's paranoid imagination. we should have provided the link in the first place.