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
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
The Vermont Packinghouse doesn’t have a single window on the outside, save on the front door of the main office. This is especially ironic, because the slaughterhouse has something unique on the inside: public viewing windows that allow visitors to observe how animals become food. Read more
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
In 1900, the average dairy cow in America produced 424 gallons of milk each year. By 2000, that figure had more than quadrupled, to 2,116 gallons. In this episode of Gastropod, we explore the incredible science that transformed the American cow into a milk machine—but we also uncover the disturbing history of prejudice and animal cruelty that accompanied it. Read more
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
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
Animal rights activists and poultry farmers are often at odds. But, increasingly, the two camps are starting to work together. In the video below, which was released today as part of Compassion in World Farming (CWF)’s Better Chicken Campaign, Leah Garces, the U.S. director of the UK-based organization, gets invited to tour the farm of Craig Watts, a contract poultry producer for Perdue. Read more
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
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