Recent Articles About Animal Welfare

Just Because Your Chicken Is Organic Doesn’t Mean It Was Raised Humanely

Do you ever wonder why so much organic food also carries animal welfare labels?

The short answer is that while the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic standards are very precise about pesticides and other growing practices for the crops people and animals eat, it doesn’t include very many specific instructions about the way the animals themselves are raised. Read more

How a Family Farm Opened a Restaurant and Created its Own Supply Chain

When you order a burger in a restaurant, chances are it’s comprised of several grades of ground beef that come from more than one animal raised in completely different locations.

And while more businesses are building brands around the fact that they serve local, pasture-raised, and grassfed burgers, it’s much less common to eat in a restaurant run by a family that raises its own cows. Read more

In Nebraska, a Battle Over Corporate Pork Ownership

A proposed change to livestock rules has put Nebraska hog farmers at the center of a debate that gets to the very core of what it means to be a farmer today.

In the top pork producing states like Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina, many farmers are under contract with giant meatpackers like Tyson or Smithfield Foods – the companies actually own the pigs and pay the farmers to raise them. That arrangement is illegal in Nebraska. Read more

Not Your Grandparents’ 4-H: How a New Generation is Learning to Farm

Kiera Butler’s fascination with 4-H began in 2011 after she attended a county fair for the first time. A senior editor at Mother Jones, Butler grew up in “unleafy” Sommerville, Massachusetts, where country living wasn’t an option. Flush in the middle of a love affair with CSA-boxes, urban chicken coops, and Michael Pollan-inspired farm-to-table food, Butler writes about her first trip to the Alameda County Fair: “You might be wondering why a grown woman was displaying toddler-like delight at the prospect of seeing barnyard animals. The truth is I was going through a livestock phase.” Read more

‘Prayer And Work’ Go Hand In Hand At This Colorado Ranch

Many beer aficionados are familiar with the rare breweries run by Trappist monks. The beer is highly sought after, but it’s not the only food or drink made by a religious order. Many abbeys and convents have deep roots in agriculture, combining farm work with prayer.

Just five miles south of the Colorado-Wyoming border you’ll find one of these places. Idyllic red farm buildings sit in the shadow of the main abbey, all tucked in a stony valley. At the Abbey of St. Walburga, cattle, water buffalo and llamas graze on grass under the watchful eye of Benedictine nuns. Read more

Nicolette Niman: Our Beef Shouldn’t Be With Cows

For years, beef has been Public Enemy Number One for environmentalists and health advocates alike. Headlines warn that livestock production, particularly for cattle, poses the worst environmental risk than anything else in the world, and that eating red meat can substantially increase your chance of dying from heart disease or cancer.

If you’re like most good food advocates, calling for a drastic reduction in beef production is a no-brainer. Right?

Nicolette Hahn Niman, vegetarian rancher, environmental lawyer, and wife of Bill Niman, founder of the eponymous Niman Ranch, lays out a compelling case in her new book Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production. As she sees it, if we want to fight climate change, we may want to actually raise more cattle. Read more

Breaking ‘The Chain': What’s at Stake in the Modern Pork Industry

At first glance, writing an exposé on the pork industry might seem outside Ted Genoways’ wheelhouse. He’s the author of two books of poetry and has  penned a biography of Walt Whitman—not necessarily what one expects from someone writing about modern meat production in the U.S.

But Genoways, who has written on factory farming for Mother Jones and is the grandson of a former packinghouse worker from Omaha, Nebraska, brings his interests together by focusing on working class Midwestern life. His newest book, The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food, is a chilling indictment of today’s pork industry told through the story of one company, Hormel Foods. Essentially, it’s The Jungle for the modern era.

We recently spoke with Genoways about his new book, Hormel, and the fact that much of our food has become less safe over time. Read more