Digest – News: Answer to Alice Waters mystery, Farm Bill stalls again, avian flu back in UK

Umbrellas up, chickens — there's a deluge of catch-up links since last weekend's Digesting. O how we hate it when the RSS-feed headlines top 4,000.

starAlice on the Ameya Preserve: In a Wall Street Journal story titled "Politically Correct Developments: Montana Project Raises Ante for PC Amenities," Alice Waters pretty much answers the question Charlotte asked her in our most-commented blog post ever. (Alas, she never got back to us.) "Waters says she signed onto the project because Mr. Dokken agreed to pledge $500,000 to Slow Food Nation, an organization she founded: 'I wanted the money for Slow Food.'" Later she says: "Whenever you take money you're compromising yourself. Most people who have money have strings attached, but there are definitely better and worse ones." We sincerely hope she is correct that Ameya is the former, and that Dokken's check has cleared. Charlotte will post a response to this when she comes up for air. (Wall Street Journal; free repost here)

Clustercluck in the Senate: The last five-year Farm Bill expired Sept. 30 — and no, we still don't have one as the Senate heads home for Thanksgiving recess. Republicans filibustered over unrelated amendments they wanted regarding the alternative minimum tax, immigration and other nonagricultural issues. (AP) Related: The Center for Rural Affairs gives odds on when we can expect a bill.

Business is great! Now give us a handout: A story about the status of the Farm Bill — sorry, the "Food and Energy Security Act of 2007" — mentions that net farm income is forecast to hit a record $87.1 billion in 2007, up $28.1 billion from a year ago and almost $25 billion more than the average farm income during the past decade. (San Francisco Chronicle)

England can't catch a break: A confirmed case of H5N1 bird flu has hit a free-range turkey farm in England. (Financial Times)

I want my rBST-free!: Pennsylvania is stopping dairies from advertising their milk as hormone-free. State Agriculture Secretary Dennis C. Wolff said it implies that competitors' rBST-hopped-up milk is not safe, and is often priced unjustifiably higher. It is rather tragic that gullible consumers are being forced at gunpoint to pay so much. (AP) Related: Fillippelli the Cook gets on "the Google" for a little homework on rBST, then tears old "Denny" a new nipple. The state's Evening Sun asks, reasonably, Why aren't agriculture regulators instead devising a method to properly certify dairy products as being produced without hormones, to justify those higher prices?

Seriously, Gov, nothing better to do?: David Gumpert, whose raw-milk blog reports we link to in just about every installment of the Digest, has a roundup piece in the Nation titled "Old McDonald Had a Farm...and He Got Arrested?" that covers all the incidents he's been posting about regarding government crackdowns on small farmers. Related: Gumpert blogs about two Austin-area farmers, who have 30 goats they milk to produce their fresh Maid in the Shade cheese. Or at least they did until two weeks ago, when the state’s Department of State Health Services showed up and confiscated $300 worth of the couple’s cheese. (The Complete Patient)

The Daley show: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has enacted a new nickel-a-container tax on bottled water. As part of a "Tap Water Delivers" campaign for January, when the tax takes effect, the Daley administration plans to give away or sell stainless steel tap-water containers. (Chicago Sun-Times)

You had us going there for a second: Five Smithfield Foods facilities received an Environmental Achievement Award. Yeah, those guys. Oh wait — the award, which recognizes environmental stewardship by companies that exceed requirements in five categories. is given out by the American Meat Institute. What's the matter, Cargill won too many times in a row? (Pollution Online; thanks for the tip, Erin C!)

What color is your pair o'steaks?: The food industry is trying to convince a skeptical Congress that using carbon monoxide to preserve meat's color long past its usability date is no big deal. Hormel Foods and Cargill execs told lawmakers they support a label encouraging consumers to depend on a "use by" or "freeze by" date rather than color. Great! Just what we need, another label explaining why what looks safe might not be. (Reuters) Related: Target wants to add a warning to meat treated with carbon monoxide. (Target sells meat?)

The best help money can buy: Monsanto has hired former U.S. Rep. Larry Combest to lobby the federal government on its behalf during Farm Bill negotiations. Combest chaired the House Ag Committee from 1999 to 2003. (Thomson Financial)

starGet inside the belly of the beast: The U.S. EPA is seeking members for a new Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee. Who do they want? From the press release: "Members may represent farmers, ranchers, and rural communities — large and small, crop and livestock, commodity and specialty, regionally balanced--and the rural suppliers, marketers, and processors that serve farmers, ranchers and rural communities…" Sound like anyone you know? (Federal Register)

Stop the clones: Amendment 3524 to the Farm Bill, introduced by Senators Mikulski and Specter, calls for more information on food products from cloned animals, with specific focus on elements that have not been addressed by the FDA's initial risk assessment. (Food Navigator)

But eating them, that's not dangerous at all: Environmentalists think farmers shouldn't compost dead cows and other animals because of pollution concerns about antibiotic- and hormone-filled water runoff. (MSNBC)

I switched cooking oils and all I got was this lousy decal: Los Angeles County has rolled out a program in which local restaurants that stop using trans fats in their cooking get a decal to display in their windows. (Los Angeles Times)

"Operation Hamburger Helper"—oy: Eight cows jumped from a trailer when the driver pulled into a Utah McDonald's. (AP via Boing Boing)

EU subsidies 'shifting away from real farmers' (Telegraph)

Fisherman and crabbers file class-action lawsuit against shipping company that fouled the S.F. Bay and surroundings (San Francisco Chronicle)

starDouble B Foods Inc. recalls 98,000 pounds of frozen sausage roll products for listeria contamination. (Houston Chronicle)

9 Responsesto “Digest – News: Answer to Alice Waters mystery, Farm Bill stalls again, avian flu back in UK”

  1. Kerry says:

    Wow... I look forward to Charlotte's response. It's interesting that in the WSJ article Alice Waters makes no apologies, it's like in her mind the money for her own project was more valuable to her than considering the effects of the Ameya project on the land and people of Livingston. Her ideas about the quality of the strings attached to any money received (Burger King vs. Ameya) may be true, but it seems weird that Alice Effing Waters is willing to compromise herself for cash at all. With her level of fame and success, she should be able to find a source of funding better than a developer catering to the "guilt-free green" market for the rich. I'm sure that Slow Food Nation is beneficial to many people, but the whole concept of doing good should be balanced with the complementary idea of doing no harm. One compromise leads to another; and the downward spiral into Industrial Organic begins. Maybe frozen TV dinners ARE next.

  2. Janet says:

    Are they really looking for people at the EPA? If so, could you post a link for more info? I do know someone.

    Oh, and Target does sell meat -- at Supertarget.

  3. Bonnie P. says:

    Fixed the EPA link, sorry. This info is listed there:

    Submit suggestions for candidates to: Marrietta Haggins, Staff Assistant, U.S. EPA (MC 1601M), 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20460, hagg...@epa.gov, 202-564-3692.

  4. While I realize it is PC to oppose Big Ag, and I do, I must wonder if the CO and CO2 might be userful to actually stop disease and decay. These are not toxic gasses, all thought they are not life sustaining - don't breath them. That is the whole point perhaps. By taking a clean piece of meat and putting it in an atmosphere with no available O2 that might actually preserve the meat longer decreasing waste and increasing quality. But, I don't know, just seems like a possibility... Me, I'm just guessing.

  5. Bonnie P. says:

    Walter: Their purpose is mainly to preserve color and to make the meat look more attractive. I don't think they are harmful in and of themselves, but I object to the fact that they make people think all meat that isn't bright red must be bad and even worse, mislead them that meat that may have actually gone "off" hasn't. How many people do you think would actually take that piece of meat back to the store for a refund? The only waste that's getting decreased is the waste at the supermarket end, where they have to discard brown meat. Why not launch an advertising campaign (and I realize I have entered Fantasyland here) that talks about what happens to meat when it meets oxygen, and how it's not unsafe to eat slightly aged beef?

  6. Following up on what Bonnie wrote...It's certainly worth investigating whether removal or replacement of oxygen from meat packaging will help preserve it. But what we have seen so far for carbon monoxide is that it acts exclusively on the pigments in the meat -- it has no effect on pathogens or the degradation process. In other words, the sole purpose of carbon monoxide treatment is on the appearance of the meat.

    On February 21, 2006 the New York Times' Marian Burros wrote about the carbon monoxide treatment and included a report on an experiment she conducted:

    In a firsthand look at the treated meat, a package of a conventionally wrapped rib steak and one with the carbon monoxide were both red when bought on Feb. 3 near Washington. They were then kept refrigerated. By Feb. 16, when they were photographed for the pictures that appear with this article, the conventional meat was brown, but the treated meat was still rosy. And as of yesterday, other treated meat bought at the same time was still red despite having been left unrefrigerated on a kitchen counter since Feb. 14.

    Consumer Reports also wrote about the practice, and described their own experiment:

    Consumer Reports decided to do limited testing to check whether carbon-monoxide-packaged meat can stay red even when spoiled. Since there’s no requirement that the process be listed on meat labels, we called manufacturers to verify that the brands purchased were packed with carbon monoxide. We tested 10 samples of locally purchased ground beef and steaks from three companies. We found that the meat appeared red even if it was spoiled or had bacterial counts that were close to indicating spoilage.

    Whatever the case, treatments like carbon monoxide should be indicated on the packages.

  7. Wow. In that case the carbon monoxide is a very bad idea because it hides the potentially spoiled food that could cause illness. I vote no on CO. (Hmm... that has a nice ring to it...) We don't need misleading packaging.

  8. I just ran across this MAP link which might be of interest. (MAP = modified atmosphere packaging)

  9. Hmm... Another interesting link. In particular note the last bit about Vitamin E in the diet and the unsaturated fats. Both can be controlled by diet in the animal as in pasturing.