Digest: “Naturally raised” defined, Niman merging, mo’ meaty news

Department of Agribusiness fails us again: The USDA has issued voluntary guidelines governing the use of the term “naturally raised” on labels. Having “analyzed over 44,000 comments from producers, processors, consumers, and other interested parties,” the USDA decide to ignore everybody but the big boys and define it as “raised entirely without growth promotants, antibiotics…and have never been fed animal by-products.” (See what we wished the guidelines had covered.)

Who’s afraid of accountability?: The FDA has issued its final regulations governing the approval of genetically engineered animals. They will not have to be labeled. If the agency is so confident that they are safe — in the absence of any long-term or even large-scale studies — why not provide some transparency? (US News and World Report)

Niman overboard: Niman Ranch may merge with Chicago-based Natural Food Holdings, Niman’s largest investor, in a proposal now before shareholders. Shockingly, the company has never been profitable, and is defaulting on loans. (Boston Business Journal; thanks, Twilight!)

Shilling swill makes us ill: The National Pork Board and The Other White Meat have named five “distinguished chefs” as new spokespeople in their Celebrated Chefs program, in order to “connect some of the best chefs in the nation to pork, a top protein they are all passionate about.” (Pork Magazine) Frankly, we’re shocked to see two of the names linked to this CAFO trough: John Sundstrom of Lark in Seattle, and Michael Paley of Proof in Louisville, Ky., a Terra Madre delegate. Both profess their love for local farmers and sustainable agriculture on their websites. Hope they plan to tell the rest of the country not to buy factory pork, either.

Don’t cry for Moo Argentina: The Argentine government is subsidizing the move of cattle from the grasslands to feedlots, so as to increase beef production and plow under the Pampas, Argentina’s vast grasslands, for production of grains. Already there are complaints that the flavor isn’t the same. (Flavor is the least of our concerns.) How do you say “manure lagoon spill” in Spanish? (Reuters India)

Pork producers sue EPA over new emissions notification rule (Chicago Tribune)

Stephen Colbert puts squirrel eaters “On Notice” (Comedy Central)

4 Responsesto “Digest: “Naturally raised” defined, Niman merging, mo’ meaty news”

  1. It is amazing how our government requests comments on things in the Federal Registry and then publishes rules and regulations that obviously totally ignore the majority of the comments. The Naturally Raised issue is a poster child for this. I read the comments. The USDA’s ruling does not fit.

  2. Brian Depew says:

    The news about Niman Ranch is disappointing, but I guess not terribly surprising. An excellent New York Times article last fall was just the latest (before this) in a steady stream of less than good news for the company.
    Having grown up raising hogs for Niman on a family farm in Iowa, I’ve always had a certain affinity for the company. It’s been a long and rocky road for the venture as well, I know.

  3. The USDA has published it’s rule. In summary they are allowing dairy and eggs in pig diets, something many of us asked for but looked like it was missing from the previous text of the rule which held against “animal by-products” – a confusing wording. Unfortunately the rule does not have anything for humane animal handling, access to pasture, etc so factory farms, CAFOs and Big Ag can call their production line meat “Naturally Raised if they make a few small adjustments in their feeding.

    I wrote more about this here:


    which includes links to the relevant documents.

    One step forward and one step back.


    Walter Jeffries
    Sugar Mountain Farm LLC
    Pastured Pigs in Vermont

  4. adina says:

    i can’t believe how much other countries are picking up on our mistakes. the news about argentina is so upsetting. we should be following other nations’ examples, not the other way around. and though the wrong pattern seems to emerge over everything, copying our food production is the WORST. the planet is going to fall to pieces if we don’t all start changing, and sadly, it looks like we’re going to have to set the example. i wish people would ignore us more.
    great blog. depressing, but great.