Digest – News: New label controversy, Chipotle toots humane horn, FDA still rumored to approve cloned food
"Naturally raised," our confined ass: Both the USDA and the FDA are reviewing and soliciting public comments for a proposed new label, "naturally raised," as distinct from "natural." The former would attest that the meat came from an animal free of antibiotics and growth hormones, which would be a plus (the existing label "natural" is defined only as minimally processed), but it apparently will not extend to diet, living conditions, or ability to reproduce naturally. We know of at least one shy, retiring hog farmer who's opposed to the label's creation, regardless of its stipulations, and we hope we'll hear his side in the comments. (Chicago Tribune)
Slower fast food: Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it expects to increase its use of naturally raised meat 40 percent in 2008. It defines "naturally raised" meat (since the USDA doesn't) as "beef, pork and chicken from naturally, humanely raised animals fed a vegetarian diet and not given antibiotics, added hormones or growth-stimulants." While we'd take an vegetarian industrial chicken or pig over the alternative any day, both animals will "naturally" eat meat when it presents itself. Still, a commendable move, and if we were abandoned in a strip-mall desert, we'd seek out Chipotle. Its founder seems like the real deal. (Fox Business)
Step away from the rubber stamp, FDA: We were excited to see the WashPo's Rick Weiss tackling the FDA's rumored approval of meat and dairy from cloned animals, a bald-faced hustle to make cloning companies happy before Congress passes the Farm Bill, with language asking the FDA to wait until taking additional precautions. Alas, Weiss doesn't quote either of the senators who proposed the delaying amendment, or any other congresspeople. Factoid: New Zealand and Australia have released reports concluding that meat and milk from clones are safe, while Canada and Argentina are about to. Funnily enough, all countries are major meat producers. (Washington Post)
We're sure Monsanto accounted for that in the pre-release trials: A Purdue University entomologist says that "Bt could stand for 'big trouble' in the years ahead if farmers aren't careful in their use of biotech corn." The problem is "volunteer corn," maverick plants that grow from seed produced by the previous year's crop, are fostering rootworm resistance development. (Indiana Ag Connection)
"Pay more, eat less" advice may be problematic: OK, we haven't read this Economic Research report from the USDA, just the summary, but it's interesting to know that for poor households to be willing to allocate additional money to fruits and vegetables, their income needs to be slightly greater than 130 percent of the poverty line. We'll have to find out if the fact that fruits and vegetable are the most expensive foods on a per-calorie basis has anything to do with it. (ERS.USDA.gov)
Or, you could try incentivizing organic farming: A new study by Iowa State University predicts it would cost $613 million per year to cut farm-field phosphorus runoff by 40% and nitrates by 25%. (The Des Moines Register)
Revolving-door chronicles: Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, has been named director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, succeeding Robert Brackett, who left to join the Grocery Manufacturers Association. (Wall Street Journal)
A new McJob title: McDonald's plans to expand into cappuccinos, lattes, and other drinks, challenging Starbucks. It's even added a "barista" position. (Wall Street Journal) Meanwhile, Starbucks chair Howard D. Schultz has became CEO again to fend off MickeyD's and Dunkin Donuts.
Chip butties, mmm: The UK government is studying current and emerging food trends, and found that the British diet has shifted considerably. While the origin of food is becoming a more important factor, people have been eating more pre-prepared foods in the last ten years, to their detriment. (Food Navigator)
Overeating may lead to underbreeding: Researchers are studying whether when eaten in excess, sugars like fructose and glucose can wreak havoc with testosterone and estrogen levels. (Green Valley News & Sun)
Avian flu suspected in the death of hundreds of crows throughout New York (Los Angeles Times)
Behind-the-scenes Farm Bill work continues on Capitol Hill (Brownfield Network)
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