Ahhh, August -- only 677 new headlines on the RSS reader this morning. However, a briefer Digest means more commentary...
A giant clucking sound: The usually excellent Kim Severson has a weirdly incomplete piece in the New York Times Business Section about how the demand for "cage free" eggs is far outstripping supply. She grants a considerable amount of airtime to the poultry industry's assertions that battery cages are no more inhumane than their crowded, uncaged equivalents. While it's true that "cage free" does not mean hens have access to outdoors, and often entails equally overcrowded conditions, Severson omits any discussion of the nutritional and animal-welfare benefits of true free-range, pasture-based egg operations like the ones Carol Ness recently wrote about. Severson also offers a generous-sounding estimate of battery-cage space requirements, saying "the area allotted to each chicken is about the size of a laptop computer." She must have a tiny Sony Vaio: the United Egg Producers in this PDF (page 6) states it should "be in the range of 67 to 86 square inches of usable space per bird to optimize hen welfare." (And keep in mind that since poultry are exempt from U.S. humane animal-treatment laws, that's just a voluntary guideline.)
Raw oyster warning: TheFDA is telling consumers not to eat raw oysters harvested from an area of the southern tip of Hood Canal in Washington State after an outbreak of illness. Question: Given how much illness results from raw oysters, why are they not subject to the same restrictions and warnings as raw milk and say, hamburger meat are by federal agencies? Just curious.
Legume my GMO: Products made from a new genetically-modified soybean (another of Monsanto's herbicide-tolerant varieties) can start appearing on Australian supermarket shelves unlabeled. (Sydney Morning Herald)
Yoo hoo Paula Deen — are these your "family values"?: The Boston Herald reports that Smithfield Foods must slaughter some 16,000 pigs amid a swine-fever outbreak in Romania, where it has 25 pig farms. The farm in question does not have an animal-health certificate or a certificate attesting to environmental standards, as required by law. As reported in Rolling Stone's ass-kicking December feature, Smithfield has quietly amped up massive, polluting hog operations in Eastern Europe, where no pesky U.S. environmentalists will bug them.
What's the aquatic equivalent of "terroir"?: Thanks to a growing effort to market salmon by region, more may come to appreciate subtle distinctions between Kenai sockeye and a Yukon king salmon. (New York Times Magazine)
Domestic truffles, mon dieu!: A Tennessee scientist has become the first U.S. farmer to harvest black winter truffles similar to France's on a commercial scale. Top U.S. restaurants are paying him about $800 a pound. (Bloomberg; thanks Dr. V!) Note: The Times also covered this in February.
Sent packing by developers: Contemplating the future of the Rancho slaughterhouse in Petaluma, Calif., the only beef processing facility in Northern California. When Rancho closes, as it is expected to within the year, slaughter costs will double for local producers like Marin Sun Farms and Drakes Bay. (MeatPoultry.com; requires free registration)
Hot chickens: Two conventional and a pasture-based poultry producers try to keep their chickens cool in an Alabama heat wave. (Decatur Daily)
The locavore's dilemma: People want farmers' markets in Massachusetts, but few farmers have time to sell at them. (Boston Globe)
Keep preaching, it's working: In the last few months, bottled water has been increasingly portrayed as an environmental villain by New York City leaders, activist groups, and the media, says an article in the Style section. (New York Times)
Salmon, whale blubber and seals lend unique flavor to Native games (Anchorage Daily News)
BLOGSNACKS & COMMENTARy
You had us at "Supermaggot"!: Blogging columnist Lee Klein talks about Archer Daniels Midland's efforts to devolve food into edible product. (Miami New Times blog)
We (heart) Marion Nestle: The newly blogging nutritionist decries nutritionalism and reiterates her “eat less, move more, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and don’t eat too much junk food” approach. (What to Eat)
Fairly up-to-date archives of all the Digest entries can be found here.