You may have hoped that the national attention paid to organic farming, antibiotics, and other issues affecting the food you eat has resulted in a downturn in the number and size of factory farms over the years.
Unfortunately, you’d be mistaken. National advocacy group Food & Water Watch has been tracking the nation’s factory farms for years now, and the news isn’t good. Read more
Not every writer can speak to both seasoned experts and curious newcomers, but that is precisely what Barry Estabrook can do well. In his 2011 book, Tomatoland, Estabrook took a deep dive in the modern tomato industry, shining a light on labor abuse in Florida, and the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. In addition to telling a riveting and complex story full of pesticides poisoning, escape from slavery, and tense court cases, Estabrook helped bring attention to one of the most important American labor struggles of the last few decades. Read more
Last week, Tyson Foods made major headlines when it announced that it was “striving to eliminate human antibiotics from broiler chicken production by September 2017.” The move garnered a great deal of accolades for one of the biggest chicken producers in the world. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which has been campaigning to stop the overuse of antibiotics in farming for years, has called this “the tipping point for getting the chicken industry off antibiotics.” Read more
This has not been a good week for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides. On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it had classified glyphosate, the United States’ most widely-used pesticide, as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Read more
Doctors–the very people who rely on antibiotics the most to do their jobs–are worried about their efficacy and over-use. And they’re seeing the consequences, right up close and personal. Read more
McDonald’s announced today that it’s making a greater effort at offering transparency and engagement to the public, in a new campaign it’s calling “Our Food, Your Questions.” McDonald’s has a serious image problem and a sagging bottom line, which might explain its sudden willingness to fling the barn door open as a way to shed its reputation for serving mass-produced, unhealthy food. Showing the public how the sausage is made may win favor with some consumers, but a better strategy for the fast food giant would be to make truly meaningful commitments to sustainability. Read more
It’s summer, but that doesn’t mean food news stops. Below, we share some of the top news stories of the week.
1. USDA Overhauls Poultry Inspection Rules (The Hill)
After more than two years of proposals and push-back by advocates, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) moved to put new poultry inspection rules in place yesterday. The voluntary rules would result in companies providing their own inspectors (while keeping one from the USDA in every plant), making it essentially a move to privatize the inspections. It will also mean fewer inspectors per plants, with each inspector looking at 140 birds per minute. Read more
When I heard that Elanco—the global pharmaceutical company behind recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), an artificial growth hormone, and various antibiotics used on livestock farms–was reaching out to dietitians to educate them about farming, my red flag went up. Read more
The new documentary, Resistance opens with the story of Jessie Beam, who contracted an antibiotic-resistant strain of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in his early teens. The infection presented as run-of-the-mill soreness and fever at first, but his condition soon deteriorated until ultimately he fell into a coma. Beam survived the infection but has lasting mobility and health limitations. And he’s not alone.
The film presents other stories similar to his: An active older man loses the use of his legs after contracting a staph infection while surfing. A young family loses their 18-month old son to an antibiotic-resistant infection within 24 hours. Rather than seeming trite or emotionally manipulative, these stories underline the real danger of antibiotic-resistant bacteria: Infection can happen to anyone no matter how old or how healthy. Read more
As comedian John Oliver said last week in his much-watched primer on net neutrality, “If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.” Big Ag has known this strategy for years and perhaps no one does it better than the meatpackers and poultry companies—companies like Tyson, Smithfield, and trade organizations like the American Meat Institute and the National Chicken Council. Read more