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Grass-fed meat still linked to climate change: Grass-fed cattle have a higher carbon footprint than grain-fed, says Nathan Pelletier of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. Yes, you read that right. He says it has to do with “higher volumes of feed throughput and associated methane and nitrous-oxide [GHG] emissions.” (We think this means the cattle need more grass and more time to get fat on it than they do grain, so they live longer and fart more methane.) He added that most pastures were highly managed, and subject to “periodic renovations and also fertilization.” The article doesn’t say whether the carbon footprint of grain-fed cattle takes into account the carbon footprint of the fertilizer-intense grain used to feed it. (Science News)
No stemming stem rust: A scary new version of stem rust, a deadly fungus, is laying waste to Kenya’s wheat fields and beyond, threatening one of the world’s principal food crops. Crop scientists say they are powerless to stop its spread and increasingly frustrated in their efforts to find resistant plants. (Washington Post)
Grandin idea: Temple Grandin, animal handling expert and most famous person with Asberger’s syndrome, has created the “Dr. Temple Grandin Certified, Sustainable & Humane” program, a 21-principle certification in conjunction with Niman Ranch. Niman Ranch (and presumably its new owners) get first dibs, but any processor “who believes in not only proper animal husbandry practices but also in following sustainable agriculture methods” can get certified too. We’re not sure why a “100% vegetarian diet,” regardless of species (pigs and chickens are omnivores), is among the 21 principles, but the other examples look great. (National Provisioner)
Things that really, really, piss us off: Giganto agribusiness multinational Cargill has donated $1 million to the Global FoodBanking Network, supposedly in response to rising food prices and the worldwide economic crisis. How nice! How altruistic! The GFN says it will use it and another $5M Cargill donated previously to feed children in Argentina, Colombia, India and South Africa — wait for it! — “to buy food in those four countries from Cargill and other suppliers.” OK, so Cargill gets a tax writeoff, plus customers it wouldn’t otherwise have, and food producers in those countries get screwed. Wow, altruism and capitalism really do mix! (Chicago Tribune)
USDA gets star visit: Making the rounds of government agencies, Michelle Obama stopped in at the USDA, where she praised the department for planting gardens at its offices nationwide. (Read her remarks.) The Caucus Blog reports that the garden at the USDA’s headquarters “will include fruits and vegetables to be donated to the city’s soup kitchens” — good news that wasn’t in the press release.
Farmers less monocultural: More women and more minorities are getting into farming, this article crows. The fine print: the shift is partly because America’s aging farmers are dying and their surviving spouses are keeping growing, and because USDA officials acknowledge trying harder to track down smaller, immigrant-run farms for the 2007 count. (San Jose Mercury News; thanks Diana). But are they trying too hard? (Gristmill)
Pork producer trimming jobs: Smithfield is closing six pork plants and taking other actions to save money. (Kansas City Business Journal)
Don’t litter: The E. coli 0111 that sickened 300 and killed one in Oklahoma last August likely came from poultry poop. CAFOs operating within a quarter-mile of the restaurant where the outbreak took place generate an estimated 7,000 tons of “litter” annually, much of which is spread on nearby land and may have seeped into the restaurant’s well. Oklahoma’s Attorney General is pursuing a case against the region’s poultry companies for polluting the watershed. (Tulsa World)
Slaughterhouse workers get class: A federal judge has allowed a suit against Tyson to proceed as a class action. The workers think they should be paid for things like, oh, cleaning equipment. (Kansas City Star)
Seed saving supreme: The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has moved seed samples of 20,000 plant varieties to safekeeping in a specially constructed facility in Norway, also known as the Doomsday Vault. (ARS)
Cattle producers be-mooon image: Kansas Cattlemen’s Association convention-goers consider bad press and animal rights. (Salina Journal)
Wonder what they’ll do next?: Interstate Bakeries, the KC-based maker of that all-American squishy bread, Wonder, fresh from bankruptcy, is pulling up stakes and moving its HQ from Kansas City to Dallas (Kansas City Star), having just introduced a line without artificial preservatives or flavors, transfats or high-fructose corn syrup. (AP)
Composting goes uptown… and downtown and all around the town as New Yorkers get the composting bug. Or rather, the composting worm. (New York Times)
It ain’t pretty being piggy: Anna Lappé interviews Brighter Green researcher Mia MacDonald on China’s growing appetite for U.S.-style meat production (Gristmill)
Food politics 101: Ethicurean editor Bonnie Azab Powell chats to a green living-and-business radio host about what SOLE is all about, plus little side trips into foie gras and veal. (LifeTips)