Digest: Whole Foods blocked, lab loins, organic dairy smacked, Coke’s washwashing
The Safeway defense: As previously reported, the FTC is seeking to halt the merger between Whole Foods and Wild Oats, saying it will result in higher food prices in the markets in which the two previously competed. Whole Foods is arguing, quite rightly, that the agency assumes it competes only with natural and organic food stores, when in fact most larger grocery chains, not to mention Trader Joe's, now offer the same or similar products. Interesting the difference in scrutiny applied to Smithfield's recent acquisition of fellow pork processor Premium Standard Farms. Guess Whole Foods has no friends in high places — or else Kroger and Wal-Mart have more. (New York Times)
Meatri dish: Everyone's blogging about this Reuters story reporting on the Dutch researchers who're trying to grow pork meat in a lab, hoping to feed millions without the need to raise and slaughter animals. Apparently they haven't made much progress since their quest was reported last year; we still agree with what our own Miss Steak said about "the Other Whitish Meat" back then.
Dairy decertified: "Organic Inc" author Sam Fromartz breaks the story that Quality Assurance International, a major organic certification agency, has yanked certification for the Case Vander Eyk organic dairy in California, an operation with an estimated 3,500 cows. Though these farms have been criticized for years, the decision marks the first time a certifier has suspended a big confinement dairy. (Chews Wise)
A drier bottle of Coca-Cola: Coca-Cola is pledging to reduce the amount of water it uses to make its drinks. Over half of the water used in bottling plants goes to rinsing, cleaning, and other process uses. It takes about 2.5 liters of water to make a liter of Coke (that estimate probably doesn't include the water used to grow the sugar or corn). And what about Coke's bottled water business? (Reuters)
Here we go again: The FDA is investigating a Texas laboratory's finding of acetaminophen in dog and cat food, which is toxic to the animals. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Bugs in milk: Listeria found in Pennsylvania dairy's raw milk, no illnesses reported but the state's papers are ablaze. Sure enough, David Gumpert has an interesting take on it and the recent Utah raw-milk brouhaha.
Back to surplus fruit cocktail?: The California state legislature proposes to end the "Fresh Start" program, which helps schools buy fresh fruit for their breakfast programs. The cost of the program is a measly $11.1 million. Prisons, in contrast, will get over $10 billion in the budget. (SF Chronicle)
Reasons why the U.S. doesn't push harder on China: The USDA's weekly sales report of agricultural goods shows China buying 68,300 metric tons of soybeans, 109,600 bales of cotton, and 335,100 whole cattle hides (most of the cotton and cattle hide will probably be reexported as finished goods like clothing and shoes). (Cattle Network)
Food stamps vs. crop subsidies in Maine (Maine Today)
ON THE BLOGS, ETC.
Time for the Refarmation: Rural people understand better than anyone that we need reform in the Farm Bill, and that limiting subsidy payments is the place to start. Dan Owens cites the polls to prove it. (Blog for Rural America)
Like shooting ethicureans in a barrel: The Times's Dining section makes fun of foodie dinner parties, at which “It’s become very important to be all Alice Waters ... Everyone wants to know where the poor pig you’re serving came from.” For the record, we like "grocery-case Drunken Goat cheese" and we couldn't care less about your china ... although sorry, we do want to know whether the pork is factory or farm. The article did induce giggles, because the last dinner party DQ and the Potato went to, the host did cure his own olives and bake his own pain de mie for the homemade foie gras. Are we intimidated about reciprocating? A wee bit. (New York Times)
The "Ball Baring"?: Six U.K. farmers perform the Full Monty in front of a packed village hall to raise money for a local hospital. (FarmersWeekly; with video teaser) Is it rude of us to say we'd rather watch certain NorCal farmers in a ho-down?
Embrace and extend: An article for Big Food marketers about what you need to know to win over a locavore is actually not evil, and quotes our local-eating champion and Bay Area blogger Jen Maiser. (Advertising Age)
Farmer-land connection: The Hmong farmers who were being pushed off their rented land by the ethanol craze (as previously Digested), have been connected with local farmers who have available farm land. (KXMB-TV via AP)
No COOL pun this time: R-CALF, which represents members of the cattle industry (but not the slaughterhouse/meatpackers), attacks a letter from the American Meat Institute (AMI) about country of origin labeling (COOL). AMI says that COOL has no relevance to food safety. R-CALF: Oh yeah? Then why does USDA require labeling for beef from Uruguay? And what about that melamine? (Foodconsumer.org press release)
Tastes great, less certified: Does a restaurant being certified organic really matter? (New City Chicago)
Wine's paper vs. plastic equivalent debate: Our e-pal Dr. Vino alerts us to a major kerfuffle in the U.K. over food-miles, or rather, wine-miles. The Times called on readers to boycott New Zealand wine in favour of vintages grown in France as a way of tackling global warming, but the Kiwis are calling foul over shipping versus trucking footprints. Hey, wine lovers: how 'bout instead, you stop drinking bottled water after you spit, like Dr. V's trying, bike instead of drive occasionally, and eat vegetarian one day or more a week? (The Marlborough Express)
Gobbling up the goodwill: A new $200 million Minnesota plant to burn turkey poop is drawing the ire of environmentalists. Check out the article's photo — that "farm" looks rather like a prison yard. (New York Times)
Ticked off about the check off: The Farmer's Notebook connects the check off program — in which the seller of a pig, lamb, or cow is required to pay a fee to a national marketing board (the people who come up with slogans like "The Other White Meat") — to factory farming and tasteless meat. He doesn't want to pay for the national board to "educate" the public that CAFOs are acceptable, or try to create pork without any fat. (Plenty Magazine)
GM food we might be OK with: Washington State University scientists are attempting to breed a perennial wheat seed that will yield grain for several years before being tilled and replanted. (New York Times)
Bill-ions of losers: Viewing the travesties of the current Farm Bill through the lens of Big Chicken, "not the tacky 56-foot high tourist attraction near Marietta, Ga., but the industry that turns out more than 16 million tons of poultry each year." (In These Times; thanks Irene!)
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