Ever since Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm told Michael Pollan that he was a first and foremost a “grass farmer,” in one of the most well-known chapters of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the term has become commonplace among pasture-based farmers and ranchers working to raise animals on healthy grasslands. But what does it mean to farm grass in the American Southwest? Read more
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With the crisp autumn air and accompanying fall migration already here, nervous poultry owners are keeping a watchful eye on backyard flocks as experts warn that another round of the deadly bird flu—also known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)—is just around the corner. Warm weather kept new outbreaks at bay, but the change in seasons will likely bring the return of the two deadly bird flu strains—H5N2 and H5N8—that wiped out nearly 50 million chickens and turkeys across the country last spring. While this could mean more economic turmoil for the commercial poultry industry, experts are also urging hobby farmers and non-commercial farmers who keep small “backyard” flocks to report any changes in their birds as soon as they occur. Read more
Very few issues have larger implications for public health, animal welfare, and the environment than industrial animal agriculture. Over the past six years, we’ve spent a great deal of time reporting on animals, both about their welfare and also on the larger (and growing) implications around meat production, consolidation, and regulation (or lack thereof). In this month’s editor note, I share some of the stories we’ve covered on this intensely complex, political, and personal issue. Read more
Many in the food world were shocked by this week’s announcement of the sale of Niman Ranch to poultry giant Perdue. As one of the go-to brands behind Chipotle’s antibiotic-free pledge, and a relatively accessible alternative to industrially-produced meat, Niman Ranch has carved out an important niche in a market where demand for antibiotic-free and humanely produced foods are steadily on the rise. Read more
When Massachusetts voters go to the polls next November, they will have the opportunity to decide on a new animal welfare law impacting livestock and chickens raised and sold in the state. The ballot measure’s backers—which include the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—are now setting out to collect the required signatures and tout the benefits of the proposed law, which would require that any animal raised or sold for consumption in Massachusetts be able to lie down, stand up, fully extend its limbs, and turn around freely. Read more
When it comes to raising farm animals, Rebecca Thistlethwaite and Jim Dunlop have been swimming against the tide for years. The husband-and-wife team ran a pasture-based pork and chicken operation called TC Ranch on 20 rented acres in California for six years. Now, they’re raising animals and farming crops on five acres in the Columbia River Gorge, an hour and a half east of Portland, Oregon. They’ve seen the challenges of raising animals responsibly first hand, and they’ve also travelled the country interviewing small producers for Thistlethwaite’s first book, Farms with a Future. Read more
When you buy a pound of hamburger in the grocery store, you’re likely to be bombarded by an incredible assortment of labels. With all-natural, grass-fed, free-range, pastured, sustainably sourced, and certified organic options to choose from, it’s not easy to parse which beef is actually the best. Read more
Food companies the world over are paying close attention to the groundswell of support for food transparency, the “know where your food comes from” movement.
JBS, the largest meat producer in the world, is beginning to take notice as well.
As animal welfare expert Temple Grandin has described it, pregnant pigs housed in gestation crates spend their days living in the equivalent of an airline seat for humans.