Digest: Pet food shines scary light on food system, CalTech grows olives, organic backlash brewing

Still catching up here at the Digest. We're also, as you can see, playing with the format and delivery of the links: more grouping, slightly less commentary. Squawk at — or stroke — us in the comment section, or drop us an e-mail to t...@ethicurean.com.


The pet food scandal just won't die — but lots of animals are about to.

  • Welcome to our world, America: 6,000 hogs will be slaughtered after possibly consuming the contaminated pet food. The FDA is also looking into chickens. The article says, in classic Rick Weiss understated fashion, that "the disclosures are the latest in a string of recent surprises that have brought home to many Americans how complex and interconnected are the supply chains linking imported pet food ingredients, farm animal chow and food for human consumption." (Washington Post)
  • Melamining the store: Feds search two facilities belonging to Chem Nutra, the Menu Foods supplier tied to tainted pet food. (Houston Chronicle)
  • Forget anthrax, watch for Iams: After the Sept. 11 attacks, the FDA developed a comprehensive plan to guard the U.S. food supply against tainted imports. What happened? (The Register-Guard)
  • Whip it good: Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin will offer an amendment permitting the FDA to order mandatory recalls of tainted food products and fine companies that don’t promptly report spoiled food. (Congressional Quarterly Today)
  • FDA-USDA conference transcipt regarding the pet food recall has officials still sticking to pet deaths "in the teens" (USDA.gov)

Reading their lips: House Ag chair Collin Peterson says that the next farm bill is unlikely to have more money for commodity programs. Senate Ag chair Tom Harkin, meanwhile, suggested that he may be interested in using funds from the direct payment program for other programs, including rural development and green payments that reward farmers for how they grow crops, not what they grow. (Agriculture Online)

Drought crisis down under: Australia will halt irrigation to an area that usually grows over a third of the country's farm produce, if heavy rain does not fall in the next few weeks. (Reuters AlertNet)

Mr. Buffett, tear down these dams: NorCal Indians are road-tripping to a Berkshire Hathaway stockholders' meeting in Nebraska next month to ask it to remove four salmon-killing dams on the Klamath River. (San Francisco Chronicle) Meanwhile, the New York Times reports in a story with beautiful photos that the power company that owns the four hydroelectric dams say they provide a crucial source of so-called clean energy.

DuPont asks EU to approve genetically modified soybean (Delaware News Journal)

Consumer protests over sting lead to settlement permitting Michigan farmer to continue distributing raw milk (BusinessWeek.com)

Activists attack sellers of bottled water: PepsiCo, Nestle (Fortune)

Millennium Seed Bank gets billionth deposit (Independent)

Omni Hotels launches cage-free egg policy (Hotel & Motel Management)


Pressin' lesson: Caltech, the institution better known for rocket science, is launching its own brand of olive oil, produced from the trees on its Pasadena campus. (Los Angeles Times) [Thanks Diana!]

"The Small-Mart Revolution": Local food systems “are going to tear apart the centralized food system we have now,” predicts an economist. (Lancaster Farming)

Eggstra surprising: An article on egg labels points out something that should have been obvious to us. Chickens are natural omnivores that like to spend time outside digging for protein in the form of insects and worms, which means the “vegetarian feed” label is really just another way of saying that the hens can’t go outside. (Culinate)

Toxic Canadians: Three Ontario politicians have donated blood to test for toxic chemicals in their bodies to measure the contamination of Canadians. (CNW Telbec)

The UK's Soil Associations tries to figure out why growers are reluctant to switch to organic (Farmers Guardian)

Delving into how China's huge food export market could be making the world sick (Sydney Morning Herald)


Let the backlash begin: "Let us call this the Twinkie offensive against the farm bill, in which Michael Pollan, who has become a standard bearer for the Willie Nelson Wing of the farm lobby, argues that Americans are fat because wheat is too cheap because farmers get too much money from the government." (AgWeb)

You had us at "Alex Avery": "Truth is, biotechnology offers the best opportunity to enhance soil, water, and environmental quality than any farm production technology in history." Farm & Ranch Guide)

Cox fightin': "Sales of organic produce are booming on the back of alleged benefits to our health and the environment, as well as claims of higher standards of animal welfare. But are we being seduced by 'feel good' claims that don't stand up to scientific scrutiny?" Give you one guess at what "reporter" Simon Cox, who recently had fun with a segment on climate change, concludes. BBC News

COOL spin: Big Meat is gunning for the government to implement the mandatory country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) standard, and using the melamine-fed U.S. hogs as a leverage point. Their argument is a little weak: "This raises the obvious question of how much imported meat is produced from foreign animals fed melamine, thus heightening the need for COOL so consumers, themselves, can determine where they want their food produced." (Cattle Network)

The potential cost of China's rising meat habit (International Herald Tribune)


Disco-era diet: What does the USDA consider fit for schoolkids to eat? Take this new Junk Food in Schools Quiz, offered by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and find out. (Via Rudd Sound Bites) Related feature: Joel Stein of the LA Times eats lunch at L.A. Unified, which is tweaking its cafeteria menus, and asks, Is it worth the effort?

Lowdown on Monsanto: How low can Monsanto go?: Kerry Trueman, who blogs over at Eating Liberally (a favorite of ours), wonders "How low can Monsanto go?" when it comes to forcing recombinant bovine growth hormone on reluctant consumers, and dredges up some past misbehavior. ( Huffington Post)

Amen to all that: Why it's a little hard to go against a group announcing that its Farm Bill proposal is "inspired by Jesus." (DTNAg.com)

Hog farmer's letter to his senator about why meatpacking consolidation is bad (Blog for Rural America)

2 Responsesto “Digest: Pet food shines scary light on food system, CalTech grows olives, organic backlash brewing”

  1. "Big Meat is gunning for the government to implement the mandatory country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) standard."

    Actually, only the "raising" part of Big Meat wants COOL implemented -- ranchers and feedlot operators (e.g. R-CALF). The "killing" part of Big Meat (a powerful oligopoly of four companies slaughtering over 80% of the cows) is intensely opposed to COOL. They claim that it would be too much work to keep track of which country the inputs are coming from. "Ground beef is typically a mixture of parts of many animals, blended to achieve a particular composition of lean meat and fat. Trimmings with higher fat content may come from domestic and imported cows (usually United States, Mexico, and/or (historically) Canada), while lean meat may come from imported beef (usually Australia, New Zealand, and/or Canada)...a label for ground beef may read: "Product of Australia; Imported from Mexico, Raised and Slaughtered in U.S.A.; Product of U.S.A." "

    Source of quote: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/WRS04/jan04/wrs0402/

  2. Lia del Rancho says:

    About the omnivorous nature of the chicken, I find them to be outright predatory, their status as universal prey animal notwithstanding. *Warning: graphic farm descriptions ahead.* My beloved hen Demelsa was particularly fond of small frogs, which she shook vigorously before swallowing. And a mama rat watched in horror as the chickens descended on her nest and ate her babies, again with much shaking, and fighting over pieces. Of course, mama rat and her kin had on previous occasions dined on baby chicks and ducklings.

    The chickens were all somewhat individual when it came to food. When the hens were offered a wide range of eating choices I found some egg yolks to be darker in color than others, which I attributed to some hens being more partial to leaves or other things that affect the color of the eggs.

    Sadly all my chickens are gone now. A month or so back what I think was a bobcat broke into the coop by pulling the wire mesh off a corner wooden post. Most of the bodies were inside in a pile, partially buried.

    My little lifestyle farm is full of real life lessons. It's hard work keeping the animals alive and the plants and trees growing. We've lost so much knowledge that we can never regain by breaking the connection we had to the land when it was passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. Years and years of stupid mistakes I've made here, but I have no way of knowing how it should be done, because there is no one to tell me the unique stories of this place.