No, we do want to go down that road: In a House appropriations subcommittee hearing yesterday with Secretary Vilsack on the stand, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) called out industrial livestock operations as "threats to human health" because of their pollution and contribution to antibiotic resistance. (See this post for more background on resistant bugs.) Vilsack sided with Big Meat, claiming the companies are "first and foremost... concerned for the safety of their consumers." Asked if USDA had plans to reform livestock production to avoid some of the negative impacts, Vilsack offered little more than some rhetorical pabulum for reps to chew on. (Des Moines Register)
Congresswoman De Lauro (D-CT) also apparently questioned Vilsack on the CAFO issue, raising a Tulsa, OK news article that fingered local CAFOs for environmental pollution and noted that they were bringing in big subsidy money from the USDA. Why should USDA should continue to reward such behavior? Vilsack's reported response: "You really don't want to go down that road."
For those of us who don't want a side of drug-resistant bacteria with our chicken, more worrisome is the strong rumor that Vilsack will name University of Georgia researcher Mike Doyle as the head of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Doyle is a longtime friend to Big Meat and has argued that feeding healthy livestock low doses of antibiotics helps keep the food system "safe." Can't say that makes us feel better. (Grist via Obama Foodorama)