Digest – News: New label controversy, Chipotle toots humane horn, FDA still rumored to approve cloned food

star"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)

10 Responsesto “Digest – News: New label controversy, Chipotle toots humane horn, FDA still rumored to approve cloned food”

  1. "We’re sure Monsanto accounted for that in the pre-release trials"

    Monsanto has probably instructed their field inspectors to alert the company's lawyers whenever volunteer plants pop up. Aren't volunteers plants essentially the same thing as seed saving, something that violates Monsanto's patents? Obtaining legal settlements against farmers with volunteer plants could be a promising revenue source for Monsanto in the future, I suppose.

  2. Mark says:

    Not to rain on your parade, but you do know that Chipolte is just the newest rendition from McDonald's. Although I do agree they have a good product -- maybe just way too big on the portion sizes -- but, it is far more a Marketing scheme of McDonald's and any ethical claims are not really worth much given their real source or revenues.

    Sad, but true!

  3. Mark says:

    Additional note to the above comment. To be fair, McDonald's does not own all of Chipolte anymore. They spun off a portion of it in a IPO a few years back. But, this was primarily to help be able to sell a separate stock ticker other than their own. I don't think McDonald's owns more than 50% of the company at this point, but, rest assured, they make the call in terms of marketing, expansion, etc.

    In my opinion, it was a way to get features like the Fox one you sourced to not have to dig to deep and mention who the controlling interest is held by. I give them credit for mudding the water enough to make it a tough thing to research.

  4. Bonnie P. says:

    Hi Mark: I did know that McDonald's owned a controlling share and should have mentioned that, but in the accounts I have read, they bought in (just like Danone bought Stonyfield Yogurt), they didn't start it to capitalize on the trend. The guy who founded it seems very sincere. I don't think we can tar all reasonably progressive food companies with the same brush as their parent companies. Not that I have ever actually eaten at a Chipotles, but as I said, if I were starving in a stripmall desert....

  5. Mark says:

    Bonnie,

    Fair enough... I have eaten there and was actually quite surprised at the quality they have presented.

    But, I do have to wonder, based on past discussions with a couple of advertising friends I know that have worked with Chipolte and McDonald's, if there is really a plan to do a "Phillip Morris" here and redirect people to the good things they do and try to avoid the bigger impact that the base business presents. And, making an educated guess about the profit margins of Chipolte, this money is going back to subsidize McDonald's as much as it is supporting internal needs.

    Agreed a good intention from the founder, just not sure how genuine it is in the end.

  6. Bonnie P. says:

    Mark: That's an interesting point, that even if the subsidiary is (somewhat) chewing the right thing, where are those profits generated by that halo effect going? It seems obvious but frankly I hadn't thought about it. Another reason to steer clear of chains in general and patronize small independent businesses who keep and spend their money in the community.

    Lastly, although I do think that large corporations getting into the "naturally raised" meat and cage-free egg businesses is going to cause a lot of market disruption, by driving down prices and subsequently quality standards, it seems to me it is a necessary growing pain. If we want this food to be accessible to all, it can't remain an expensive niche market. It needs to have the Wal-Mart level as well as the beyond-organic, biodynamic, top-dollar other end of the spectrum.

  7. I tried to post a comment but it didn't go through. I think it had too many links such as where to send comments to the USDA, etc. I've emailed what I wrote to Bonnie P.

    Cheers,

    -Walter
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in the mountains of Vermont
    http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/
    http://HollyGraphicArt.com/
    http://NoNAIS.org

  8. Henwhisperer says:

    "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."

    Interesting to note that McDonald's owns Chipotle.

    Also, in the article about the 'naturally raised' article they mention sodium lactate which they neglect to say is a derivative of GE/GMO corn or beets. When shopping for white sugar in the grocery store, make sure you buy cane sugar as beet sugar is from GE beets.

  9. Guy with a clue says:

    All, McDonald's does not own any of Chipotle.  They completely disposed of their interest in October 2006.  Chipotle is a public company and you can verify all this information in their filings, which are available on their web site or at http://www.sec.gov (use the EDGAR system).

  10. joe says:

    Chiptole's uses 100% local pork from Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm in their Charlottesville VA store.  They have been conducting extensive experiments on how to source local meats on a test case basis for a while now, and I imagine we will see more progress.  They do not advertise anything until it has been tested and proven operable.  They are doing as much as any fast food chain out there, similar to Oregon's Burgerville. 

    McDonalds has nothing to do with them anymore.  There is a lot of misinformation in this thread.