Organic milk sales to skyrocket in Pennsylvania: That's the only silver lining in the news that as of Feb. 1, Pennsylvanian consumers won't be able to tell the difference between milk from farms that inject their cows with rBST and that from those that don't — unless the governor blocks the move by the state's Agriculture Secretary. [Ed. note: Sorry, mistakenly thought there was a change in the situation. No news here. Nothing to see. Move along, folks.] Given the article's careful detailing of all the questions surrounding recombinant bovine somatotropin, one farmer's admission that it boosts his milk production by just 10% — half of which is spent on the hormone and on extra feed needed to fuel the higher milk output — is pretty pathetic. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Grounds for outrage: In a new report requested by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the USDA admits it lacks the know-how to identify the beef processing plants at greatest risk for contamination; that it has not assessed the food safety plans at all processing plants; and in the case of a plant cited several times for sanitation problems, inspectors failed to take further action because they had no guidance on how to treat repeat violations. Note nice graphic showing all the possible contamination points in the cycle. (Washington Post)
Piggly wigglies: A new strain of swine influenza has a molecular twist — it also has avian influenza genes. Apparently this is further evidence that pigs have the potential to serve as a "mixing vessel" for influenza viruses carried by birds, pigs, and humans. (Meatpoultry.com; free registration required)
Who pays the price of our cheap food: A federal judge visited the narrow, muddy streets of a farmworker settlement in Coachella Valley, about 130 miles southeast of Los Angeles, where there is no proper sewage or water. As many as 4,000 migrant workers live there during peak harvest season, picking some of the nearly $1 billion worth of table grapes, dates, chili peppers and other crops. (Associated Press)
Beggars can't be chews-ers: Smithfield and Food Network celebrity cook Paula Deen donated 20,000 pounds of cold cuts to America's Second Harvest, the food bank network. Because it will make a great holiday-time press release? Noooo, you Grinchy cynics (Grynchics?). "Paula was concerned about a shortage at the food bank during the height of the holiday season and called us because she knows that helping hungry families is an ongoing interest of ours," said Joseph W. Luter IV, president of Smithfield. "We're delighted that we could join with Paula and be of help, especially at this time of year" ... when that darn PETA is making us fire people for abusing hogs.
What Oprah won't endorse: The Justice at Smithfield campaign for meatpacking workers' rights is having some effect — just not, alas, on Paula Deen. According to a leaked Smithfield memo, Oprah Winfrey decided not to give out Smithfield hams to audience members, after being contacted by the campaign. (Washington Post)
Milking the slow news week: A pre-chewed story about how the growth in organic dairies is stretching the supply of organic feed, requiring operators to source some of it from China, where gasp! standards aren't as stringent. Despite the misleading headline, no news here about dairies testing their own feed supplies for contaminants. (AP)