Digest – Features: Farmers, dairymen protest govt crackdowns; rare farm-animal breeds; superbugs coming

Note: So many good features since Sunday that we've had to stash half of them after the jump.

Rebels with a cause: This kick-ass feature from the Charlottesville weekly C-Ville looks at the government crackdown on farmer Richard Bean of Double H, who was selling uninspected pork at a Virginia farmers market, along with the greater rebellion embodied by farming messiah Joel Salatin of Polyface. (Fun fact: the local Chipotle is buying Polyface pork for its burritos!) Includes a comment by Elizabeth Van Deventer of Davis Creek Farm, from a letter to the editor she wrote, that we just have to cite the quotation in full:

"The question all consumers should be asking is this: Why is it legal for corporate factory farms to sell meat from livestock that have been fed arsenic as an appetite stimulant, the remains of other animals, urea from natural gas, chicken feathers, hormones and daily doses of antibiotics to keep the animals from dying from their sick surroundings? This factory farmed meat, where animals are packed together by the tens of thousands in disease-ridden environments, is given the stamp of approval by the USDA to appease their powerful corporate clients. Double H's pigs, by contrast, live their lives roaming outside in fresh air, they are given natural, locally produced grains, and are processed by Richard himself, a lifelong butcher."

Amen. (Thanks for the link, Meloukhia!)

starThe raw-milk witch hunt: Ronald Garthwaite, the owner of Claravale, the "other" California raw-milk dairy (only 50 cows compared with the much bigger, more vocal Organic Pastures), talks to David Gumpert about AB 1735 (see Amanda's post) and why the state seems "to want to totally destroy us personally." California readers, please consider contacting Theo Copley at tcop...@ziplink.net about joining the class action suit. (The Complete Patient") Related: The Local Forage blog has assembled 50+ testimonials from raw-milk drinkers.

starOur disappearing heritage: Kim Severson has a top-notch and timely piece on the top breeder of heritage turkeys, Frank Reese, who dislikes the term because he believes it is in danger of losing its meaning, the way organic did. Too many would-be producers are chasing the novelty and failing to do the genetic selection that will make the turkeys taste good. (New York Times) Related: A fourth-generation Massachusetts farmer collects and breeds rare farm animals believed to be on the brink of extinction, including Sumatra chickens, Southdown sheep, royal palm turkeys, and a Friesian horse. (Boston Globe)

starHogs, drugs, and superbugs: The antibiotics fed to the farm animals we eat are very likely helping to create superbugs like the drug-resistant staph bacteria known as MRSA. Traditionally considered a disease picked up in hospitals, MRSA is now showing up more often "in the wild." Though as yet there's no definitive proof fingering livestock as the source of the major new MRSA strains — because corporate farms aren't exactly excited about providing samples — a growing body of evidence suggests animals are, at minimum, harboring other new strains now infecting humans. (Salon) Related: BBC News reports that more cases of a virulent form of E.coli have been found on farms.

That's one reason: Critics of America's food safety system say that it is too fragmented and marked by overlapping authority, and that might be why dangerous foods keep slipping through and why contamination scares are handled in sometimes inconsistent ways. It could also be because our industrial food system is simply going off the rails, but merging food-safety into one agency wouldn't hurt. (AP)

Who's got the best market?: Greenlight magazine highlights what it considers the top 10 farmers markets in the nation. Is yours on there?

Way to go Slugs!: Seven farmers local to UC Santa Cruz are participating in a groundbreaking farm-to-college program, supplying organic produce to the university’s five campus dining rooms and restaurant. The program is running side by side with a 2-year research study on developing institutional market outlets for small and medium-sized growers. (California Agriculture; thanks Aunt Biddy!)

Follow the farm money: A Q&A with Darrin Qualman, director of research for Canada’s National Farmers Union and a former farmer, who has some pithy things to say about how "what we call the 'farm crisis' is simply the predictable outcome of corporate instincts and government policies that combine to bleed farm and rural wealth." (GRAIN)

We'll take allies wherever we find them: The faith community, including on the religious right, is issuing appeals to protect all of God's creatures through farm-animal-welfare initiatives, among other things.. (Los Angeles Times)

Ethical "faux" gras?: England gets excited over "freedom foie gras" from Spanish farmer Eduardo de Sousa, who's not force-feeding his ducks. Money quote: "Happy birds aside, there is clearly big money to be made with an ethical alternative." (Telegraph)

Not the same old salmon: Farm-raised Scottish Loch Duart salmon is gaining fans — and showing up in quite a few Bay Area restaurants — and earning praise for being among the most conscientious practitioners of aquaculture, but most environmentalists would stil throw it back. (Monterey Herald)

The other brown rice: After being essentially chased out of California by rice farmers in 2004 and then stumbling in Missouri the following year, bio-pharma rice grower Ventria has found a home in Junction City, Kansas, to grow its anti-diarrheal rice, spliced with two anti-bacterial ingredients of human breast milk. (Sacramento Bee)

Tap-dancing around the obvious: Fiji — the bottled-water company most beloved by celebs and reviled by those tracking carbon footprint — has announced a plan to become carbon negative, that is, to more than make up for the greenhouse gases released in the creation, transportation and sales of its product. All the initiatives sound pretty impressive, actually, compared to competitors like Coke, who have "increased recycling and reduced the weight of plastic bottles" (whoopee!), but bottom line? Drink tap whenever you can. (New York Times)

Eating can be risky: A reporter felled by salmonella suspects a sushi place, but the culprit turns out to be the Hollandaise sauce at a favorite top-notch restaurant. Interesting look inside the restaurant food-safety system. (Los Angeles Times)

Field trips for adults: Thanks to the aww-some Saxelby Cheesemongers, 40 or so New Yorkers regularly climb aboard a bus for excursions to places like Sprout Creek Farm, where raw-milk cheese is made on 200 pastoral acres on the outskirts of Poughkeepsie. (New York Times)


2 Responsesto “Digest – Features: Farmers, dairymen protest govt crackdowns; rare farm-animal breeds; superbugs coming”

  1. phil says:

    Actually, a centralized food safety system could hurt, see the stories of Richard Bean and Ronald Garthwaite for examples of what an even more massive bureaucracy, and even more susceptible to industry influence, is capable of.

  2. Phil raises a good point. The process of centralizing the food system could be disastrous, as the pieces of the bureaucracy squabble for power like a flock of seagulls going after a dropped hot dog at the beach. The Dept of Homeland Security is a recent example of botched bureaucratic merging.

    In addition, because much of Congress is beholden to big money (e.g., Cargill, ADM, Swift), there would be the real possibility of mischief during the reorganization, perhaps a few lines in the authorizing law exempting certain types of meat from inspection, or denying states the right to regulate food safety.

    Nonetheless, the current system is so broken that discussion is needed to fix it. Perhaps Congress could take a few years to do it properly, or appoint a nonpartisan commission to design the transition to a unified food safety agency.